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Can you imagine sitting your teenager behind the wheel of a car and – without any training or guidance whatsoever – sending them off on a trip across the country?

“See you later, honey! I’m sure you’ll figure it all out!”

We wouldn’t dream of it. Yet, when it comes to personal finance, we send them off into the world just as unprepared.

We teach our kids how to brush their teeth, tie their shoes and ride a bike. But when it comes to money, we cross our fingers and hope they’ll just sort of pick it up somewhere along the way, like whistling or the chickenpox.

If we want our kids to understand money, we’re going to have to teach them ourselves.

“Every adult in a child’s life needs to take leadership in helping them build money skills that will last a lifetime,” said Frank Keating, president and CEO of the American Bankers Association.

For 18 years, the ABA’s volunteer bankers have taught savings skills to students with its Teach Children to Save program.

It also offers free tips and resources for parents, teachers and students at TeachChildrentoSave.com.

Here are some pointers to help you teach valuable financial lessons throughout every stage of your child’s life, courtesy of the ABA and the Corporation for Enterprise Development.

Preschool through second grade. Instead of gifting toys for birthdays and other holidays, contribute to a child’s college fund and ask relatives to do the same. Open a 529 plan, which will offer tax advantages when saving for education.

Third grade through fifth grade. Get three piggy banks or savings jars: one designated for saving, one for spending and one for sharing. Use them to teach children the different ways to use and organize money.

You can also take your kids to the bank to get hands on lessons in making basic transactions, such as deposits and withdrawals.

Sixth grade through eighth grade. Bring your kids to the grocery store, and involve them in every step of the process, from planning the list and cutting coupons to comparing prices and staying on budget.

Encourage them to take jobs, such as baby-sitting and dog walking, to learn the value of earning and handling their own money.

Involve them in financial decisions that concern them. They’ll get real-life experience and a lesson that relates to them personally.

Ninth and tenth grade. Work together on a plan to pay for college. Take stock of the money you have already saved and research scholarship opportunities together.

Help your teen come up with a savings and spending plan for money earned from part-time jobs, with a special focus on setting money aside for college living costs, including food, housing and transportation.

Eleventh and twelfth grade. Have a conversation about credit and the dangers of debt. They will soon be flooded with credit card offers which will be hard to resist.

Talk about ways they can protect themselves from identity theft, and help them understand the nightmares that can stem from a stolen identity.

email: schristmann@buffnews.com. “Like” me on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/DiscountDiva or follow me on Twitter, @DiscountDivaSam.