Quarters for College: Teaching Kids about Money and Higher Education

High school students are likely aware of the academic steps they need to take to get into college and what they can do to help pay for it. But what about younger kids? How much do they know about the financial path to higher education?

As you plan and set aside money for your child's future education, here are some ways to introduce those concepts early on.

"What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?"

The answers will vary from year to year—veterinarian, artist, boat captain, fairy princess, teacher, paleontologist—but this question can spark a conversation about what the child needs to do to make that dream happen.

You can use these ideas as an introduction to specialized schools for different jobs (although we're not sure which colleges offer fairy princess degrees). And as your child gets older, expand the discussion to include career options, college planning and college savings.

Money: Start with the Basics

The majority of teens say their knowledge of money management basics came from their parents.* That knowledge needs time to grow, just like their savings accounts, so get them started with age-appropriate money lessons.


  • You need money to buy things, and you can earn money by working.
  • There's a difference between things you want and things you need.

Elementary School

  • You need to make choices about how to spend your money.
  • Putting your money in a savings account can help you protect it and earn interest.
  • Saving for college takes a long time.

Middle School

  • You should save a percentage of every dollar you earn or receive and set it aside for important goals like higher education.
  • The earlier and more you save, the faster your money can grow from compound interest.
  • College isn't a given; it requires an academic and financial plan.

High School

  • When comparing colleges, be sure to consider how much they cost.
  • Saving as much as possible for college may help you avoid student loan debt.
  • Investing money, rather than just saving, has even more growth potential, but it comes with risks.

Set Specific, Relatable Goals

Whether it's saving up for candy in the checkout line, the latest video game, or college 12 years into the future, your child can practice delaying instant gratification in favor of future rewards. Setting short-term savings goals—and achieving them—can give kids the confidence and assurance that long-term goals are possible.

Additionally, engage your children in the savings process. Together, your family can watch a college account grow over time, and your child will see how regular investments and additional contributions can give college dreams a boost.

If your child receives an allowance or has a part-time job, a portion of those earnings could be added to the college savings account. You can also request that friends or relatives contribute to the account as part of their birthday or holiday gifts.

Is Your College Plan on Track?

Remember, college is a shared dream, so keep your child involved along the way. Find out if you're saving enough, and learn more about available investment options, such as 529 college savings plans. Or call us at 888-345-2441 for help.

Teresa Stewart
Teresa Stewart
529 Business Development Consultant

Is Your College Plan on Track?

Find out if you're saving enough and learn more about available investment options. Call us at 888-345-2441 for help.


* 2015 Junior Achievement Teens and Personal Finance Survey

The opinions expressed are those of American Century Investments (or the portfolio manager) and are no guarantee of the future performance of any American Century Investments' portfolio. This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment, accounting, legal or tax advice.