High School Money Mistakes

In Tuesday’s post, Childhood Money Mistakes, we looked at financial mistakes kids and their parents make starting even at very early ages. Now think back to high school…

In Tuesday’s post, Childhood Money Mistakes, we looked at financial mistakes kids and their parents make starting even at very early ages. Now think back to high school. How much did you think about money? Friends, football, first loves, and lots of fun, sure, but probably not dollars and sense.

Unfortunately, it’s this lack of thought teenagers give their finances that creates problems as they get older. What are the primary money mistakes we make in high school?

Money Mistake: Not Learning Personal Finance

Nobody taught me personal finance. Sure, my dad was giving me lessons in the “value of a dollar” from a very early age, but when I grew older and held my first full-time summer job and suddenly had decent chunks of money to save or spend, nobody explained to me the importance of saving, the power of compounding interest, or the dangers of debt.

Granted, even if my parents or my school were offering formal lessons, I was still very much a dependent, and real-world lessons of budgets and interests rates wouldn’t have held my interest very long.

But a few personal finance lessons can go a long way, early in life. Financial education programs need to be an important part of public education. Where they’re not, it falls upon parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors to fill the gaps. If you, like me, learned personal finance 101 too late in life, remember that it’s never too late to take a refresher course, and the more you keep the rules of personal finance on your mind, the wealthier you will become.

Money Mistake: Setting Only Short-Term Savings Goals

Teens that start saving early have won only half the battle. Often motivated to save for big ticket purchases like a car or international travel, teens are rarely looking beyond graduation. And who can blame them. The real world doesn’t yet exist.

$1,000 stashed away before the age of 16 in a simple high yield savings account yielding 4.50% would grow nearly ten times before the teen turns fifty. Cars and higher education expenses aside, a teen that saved just $500 a year for four years in high school would have a decent emergency fund available before they even begin work full-time. I don’t know about you, but something so simple would have been helpful!

Money Mistake: Not Studying

When you’re young, there are a million things that seem more attractive than hitting the books. But consider this. U.S. Census Bureau confirms what your guidance counselors told you: stay in school, and go to college. The median annual income for Americans with a bachelor’s degree in 1992 was $32,629, compared to just $18,737 for high school graduates and a paltry $12,809 for high school drop-outs. Put simply, the more education you receive, the more you’ll earn. Partying too hard in high school means you risk having a lackluster transcript, which can weigh you down for the rest of your life.

Published or updated on December 7, 2006

Want FREE help eliminating debt & saving your first (or next) $100,000?

Money Under 30 has everything you need to know about money, written by real people who've been there. Enter your email to receive our free weekly newsletter and MoneySchool, our free 7-day course that will help you make immediate progress on whatever money challenge you're facing right now.

We'll never spam you and offer one-click unsubscribe, always.

About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


  1. Thank you so much for this article! I’m sending it to my niece right now! I wish someone had given me this information when I was her age.

Speak Your Mind