The Financial Life Skills Blog for Families by Nancy Phillips

New Parent Resource: Help Your Teens Learn the Financial Life Skills They Need Now

Posted by Nancy Phillips on Tue, Nov 03, 2015

 I just became the mother of a teen last Thursday, wow. What happened to daily tutu dances and palm tree ponytails decorating the top of her head?

Just kidding, I’ve actually really enjoyed all the various ages and stages - and really tried to take them all in. But time really does "fly by."

 The reality of it is, and it's hard to believe, but there are now only a handful of years before she’s going to be an adult living an independent life. Will she be ready? It’s a question I think most parents ask themselves time and time again, and some parents are really concerned given today’s changing environment for teens.

  You Are The Most Important Financial Teacher Your Child Will Ever Have

  Eight years ago when I started my research to find out what my kids would need to learn about financial life skills to survive and thrive in today’s world, I learned some really interesting facts, many things that other parents Ishared with found interesting and important as well. Things like the fact that our money “wiring” and belief systems are created by the age of seven, and that the characteristic which best predicts financial success and well-being in adulthood is not IQ, school marks or socio-economic background, it’s self-control. Children learn their money beliefs and habits during the formative years in early childhood, so parents (you) are absolutely the most influential financial teacher your child will ever have - powerful concept isn't it?! There were many more insights I learned about how the brain and emotions interact around the topic of money - and how we can best teach our kids the key lessons they need for success and happiness in really simple but effective ways. After people began asking me to share the information I was learning, the stories I wrote for my kids to teach them the key lessons eventually became the Zela Wela Kids storybooks. They have now been successfully piloted in an academic program called Change Matters by Memorial University with over two thousand grade three students.

  During the early research phase when Natasha and Max were five and two years old respectively, I also documented and summarized the key financial life lessons teens needed to learn progressively, and I’m glad I did because now I need that information to share with them!!! These best practices and key life skills became an activity book for teens, starting off with #1: helping them identify their personal values. Identifying key guiding values is essential to help teens (and all of us) make financial decisions based on what’s important to them, not the media or their peers.



 Tasha with her favorite work out towel at the gym today


For the Parents

As soon as the teen guide, Steps to Success for Teens, 25 Financial and Life Lessons to Help you Achieve Your Dreams came out last year, parents, teachers and financial professionals started asking when I was going to create a guide for the parents. So here it is, Steps to Success Parents Guide to Teens and Money – How to Help Your Teens Make Financial and Life Decisions in Today’s World. Both of these guides are accredited by FINRA(the financial industry regulatory authority). The research was based not only on financial best-practices, but also personal success habits, and the neuroscience behind how we learn and make decisions. 

This parents guide helps us:

*Identify what family values we want to pass onto our children

*Understand why there is urgency to teach teens basic financial skills now more than ever before

*How exactly to teach financial life skills

*What to teach – best practices that can impact their overall mental and physical well-being

*Credit and debit tips

*The power and importance of entrepreneurial thinking

*The 12 biggest money mistakes to avoid with your teen


The Sooner You Start, the Better for Your Teen

This parent guide helps make discussing basic money concepts easy, and while money and finances is still the most dreaded topic of conversation in the home (more so than sex and drugs), it is essential you begin to discuss these key life topics with your teens. They will be making financial decisions numerous times per day for the rest of their lives, and they deserve to have a good foundation of information to base those decisions on.

If you're interested in learning more about how to help your teen, click here to get your copy of the new Steps to Success Parents Guide to Teens and Money.

I hope you found this helpful, as always feel free to share your stories or ask questions.

All the best to you and your family,

Nancy Phillips is the creator of the Zela Wela Way Resources for Families, Creating a Life of Meaning and Financial Well-Being.

Nancy has a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology, and a Masters of Business Administration


Tags: teens financial literacy

Tips for Helping Your Teens Spend Money Wisely

Posted by Nancy Phillips on Wed, Jun 19, 2013

Nancy Phillips, Founder DollarSmartKids Enterprises Inc. We're into the sunny, warm days of summer and many parents are wondering how to help their teens learn to manage their money effectively, so it isn't wasted and there's some portion going towards meaningful pursuits.

Jeff and Robin at the are parents and very passionate about helping people become financially and personally successful. They asked me to write a guest post on this topic and I would like to share it with you. In this post I give some straightforward, easy to use tips that can positively change your teens life in the short-term and long-term. 


Click here to read more

I hope you find this information valuable. If you have ideas and experiences to share, we would all love to hear them!

AND, if you have family or friends with teens, please feel free to share this post with them. Our teens need and want guidance on this topic so they can make their goals and dreams come true.

With gratitude,


Tags: teens and money, teen success, GISS Method of Money Management, teens and spending, teens financial literacy, teens financial education, teen spending, teen money success, wise spending, smart spending

10 Ways to Help Your Teens Spend Money Wisely

Posted by Nancy Phillips on Mon, Jul 18, 2011

Nancy Phillips, Zela Wela Kids authorCreating good spending habits is a very valuable skill for anyone. Did you have good habits before you left home? If not, what kind of difference would it have made in your life? Here are a few powerful concepts that can make a huge difference in the way your teens manage their money:

1.      Cash is still king – why? Because your brain has a harder time handing it over. People have been shown to regularly pay up to 20% more for an item when they use plastic as demonstrated in a study by MIT. Help ensure your children get experience using cash so they learn to make good buying decisions before going to plastic. If they have a certain cash amount for spending each week, they are less likely to go overboard on lattes and chips. Bottom line – people spend less and tend to make wiser buying decisions when they use cash. 

2.       Cut the temptation - help your children learn the old (but good) idea of only going shopping when they need specific items. If they have free time, it will be much more beneficial for them to hang out with their friends outdoors, especially if they can do some type of sport or physical activity. The more they go shopping and see items they desire, the more they will want them, whether they need them or not. Because of the way the human brain is wired, the excitement over desiring something is actually a more powerful feeling than the emotion of acquiring the object of desire. This is what helped us catch our food in ancient times, the motivation had to be powerful.

3.      Help them set goals and save for the items they really want – this will help prevent your teends from blowing money on items that are discarded a short time later. Self control has been shown to be the major trait in children which predicts financial success in adults. It is more influential than IQ, school grades or socio-economic status. The “GISS” (Give*Invest*Save*Spend) method of managing money is a simple, powerful way for people of any age to manage their money and build their way to personal and financial success. Saving is a fabulous way to enhance your self-control, so if your teen doesn't have a savings account now, encourage them to go and open one.

Financial literacy - wise shopping

4.   Create a Spending Plan (way more fun than a “budget”) - this provides your teen the opportunity to look at their income and expenses and begin to learn how to manage their cash flow (another essential financial skill they should learn before they leave home.) This should be incorporated into their GISS method of managing their money so they are able to save for important items and not spend all their income. A good budget app works great as a money management tool. 

5.     File and track it – one way to become more responsible with money is to understand where it’s going and if you’re happy with your decisions. Encourage your child to keep their receipts in a file so they can return an item if needed. The simple exercise of keeping their receipts and writing down what they spend will give them an opportunity to reflect on their decision, and how they feel about it. This is a major step in learning how to make good decisions in the future. 

6.      Decrease Shopping Peer Pressure – people have been shown to buy more expensive items if other shoppers are in close proximity. It is a major cause of overspending and something most people don’t even realize. Let your child know that they may be better off shopping alone or with you when they need to purchase items, it could save them a lot of money in the long run.

7.      Discuss the cost of things - I often have people in the financial and teaching professions tell me that the teens they work with do not have any idea what the cost of things are, outside of their tech toys, and maybe clothes. This is one of the reasons young adults go into such deep debt when they move out on their own, they have never been exposed to the reality of what life costs, or managed their own financial decisions. It is critically important that your child begin to be involved in the discussion and purchasing of various items like food, clothing, personal toiletries, car related expenses, insurance, sports activities and cell phones. The National Endowment for Financial Education released results that showed a shocking 59% of adult children aged 18-39 not attending school were being subsidized by their parents for living expenses like rent, mortgage, transportation and food, as well as medical bills and spending money.

8.      Ask "How many hours of work is this item worth?" - this is a great exercise if your teen has started working. When I was in University I used to do this whenever I went shopping and it really made me think before purchasing anything. I knew my time was valuable and didn’t want waste it on something I might have to work eight or ten hours to pay for. Have your child figure out the full cost of the item plus taxes and then how many hours they would have to work to pay for it with their after-tax income.

9.     Help Others – giving time and money to charitable organizations changes the perspective of a person forever. When a teen takes the time to see how others live, they appreciate their own lives more and are less likely to waste money. They also become aware of how much impact they can have on their world, how they can truly make a difference. It’s hard to complain about not having a new iPod if they just spent three hours with someone who just lost the ability to walk. Helping others brings out the best in people and is one of the greatest joys in life. Teens can benefit greatly from this type of opportunity.

10.   Read through the contracts – whether it is their first cell phone contract or a credit card contract, show your teens the importance of reading, and understanding, the fine print in these legal contracts. They should understand the interest rates, and the implications of paying late or only paying the minimum amount. Also be sure they understand the payment terms. It’s not uncommon for teens to initially rack up $500+ bills when they first get phones, simply due to the fact that they didn’t understand what was covered in the contract.

Teens that focus their energy on achieving life goals (athletic, academic, charitable etc.) are shown to be much happier and more fulfilled than teens that spend large amounts of time focusing on material items they want to own. When your teens do want to purchase items, help ensure they think the decision through. The process of learning how to make good decisions comes with practice and thoughtful consideration of previous outcomes!


photo courtesy of

Tags: teens and spending, teens financial literacy, teens financial education, personal finance software, popular finance blogs