Ages 14 to 18

  • When comparing colleges, be sure to consider how much each school would cost you.
  • You should avoid using credit cards to buy things you can't afford to pay for with cash.
  • Your first paycheck may seem smaller than expected, since money is taken out for taxes.
  • A Roth IRA is a great place to save and invest the money you earn.

Here's what we'll teach, in addition:

Retirement savings should be your financial priority. Retirement will cost a lot, and it will take a lifetime of savings to ensure a comfortable one. It's never too early to get started, but it can quickly become too late.

There's a difference between good debt and bad debt. All our sermonizing on the evils of credit card debt could give our daughter the impression she should never borrow a dime. But Mom and Dad are unlikely to buy her a house, and while we hope she won't need loans for college, she may. She'll also likely need lines of credit for that successful business she's going to launch. We want her to understand that some debts can be an investment in her future, as long as they're taken on in moderation.


Budgets are a tool, not a punishment.
A budget can help you get the things you really want without wasting money on stuff you don't.

Age 18 and up

  • You should use a credit card only if you can pay off the money owed in full each month.
  • You need health insurance.
  • It's important to save at least three months' worth of living expenses in case of emergency.
  • When investing, consider the risks and the annual expenses.

In addition, we'll tell our daughter:

Pick the right field of study. Both her dad and I love our jobs, and they pay well. A career that interests you is important, but you want to make sure you'll be paid decently and that there's strong demand for those jobs.

Credit scores matter. Before she heads off to college, we'll talk about the importance of paying bills on time and using only a fraction of her available credit.

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Leave retirement money alone for retirement. She'll have lots of temptations and perhaps some great rationalizations for raiding her nest egg, but it's almost always a bad idea. Not only would she lose one-quarter to one-half of her withdrawal to taxes and penalties, but she'd lose all the future tax-deferred interest the money could have earned. That means every $1,000 withdrawal costs her $10,000 or more in lost future retirement income.

Liz Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy" (find it on Bing). Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. Join the conversation and send in your financial questions on Liz Weston's Facebook fan page.