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There are significant benefits for teenagers who set goals. Goals can teach the difference between wants and needs, motivate teens to challenge themselves, and teach them to ask for assistance when necessary.

Goals can also help teenagers learn to plan ahead, own mistakes, improve organizational skills, and instill a sense of achievement. However, not all goals are created equal and proper steps need to be taken to accomplish goals.

Keep reading to learn the most effective goal setting strategies and what types of goals are appropriate for this age group.

Best Investing App + Money App for Teens−Top Pick

Teenage Goal Setting Strategies to Help

Daydreaming comes naturally, but goal setting does not. A difference between goals and dreams is that goals require taking action, while dreams do not.

Setting goals isn’t an inherent skill. It needs to be learned and practiced. The strategies below help teenagers practice setting achievable and worthwhile goals.

1. Focus on Quick Wins to Get Started

pros and cons of teen debit cards

Teens need to get some “quick wins” when they start setting goals. For adults and teenagers alike, sometimes a fear of failure can prevent us from working on a goal.

If you don’t try, you can’t fail, right? These easier goals give teenagers confidence they can accomplish harder ones.

For example, saving a substantial amount of money may seem daunting and unattainable. A quick win would be to sign up for a bank account for teenagers. That one step makes them closer to their goal than they were before.

Checking something off one’s to-do list that can be done in a short amount of time proves a certain level of capability.

Plus, quick goals fight against procrastination. It’s easier to convince yourself to do something that will take only a few minutes than it is to start a long-term project.

2. They Want Freedom to Set Their Own Goals; Provide Suggestions & Structure

woman in mirror

You’ve seen it before. The parent who wanted to be a famous athlete or actress and decided to push that dream onto a child. It’s essential teenagers have the autonomy to create their own goals.

Parents are still valuable in providing goal suggestions as long as they don’t force them. Ask questions, such as, “Why did you choose this goal?” and “What steps do you need to take to reach this goal?” Teaching the components of what makes a strong goal is also useful.

To have the best chance at accomplishing goals, they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART). Vague goals, such as “try harder in school,” aren’t as effective as specific goals, such as “turn in all my assignments on time.”

To test a goal’s measurability, consider asking, “How will you know when you’ve accomplished this goal?” Unrealistic goals, such as getting 100% on every test, can instill a sense of failure if not accomplished. Goals should be more realistic.

Finally, goals work best with a clear timeline, rather than being indefinite. If a goal never ends, you never get a sense of accomplishment from completing it.

Encourage goals to be ones inside a teenager’s control, rather than somebody else’s. For example, replace the goal “get the lead in the school play” with “have my audition monologue completely memorized.”

Once goals are established, teenagers should write them down to increase their chances of success.

3. Help Them Understand Costs & Benefits

teenagers investing medium

Teenagers need to consider possible challenges and benefits of their goals. Some goals require money. For instance, a young adult may want to attend a basketball camp over the summer to improve his or her chance of making the varsity team the following academic year.

If you’ve agreed this is a cost the teenager will be required to cover on their own, you can help them calculate how long it will take to make the money, whether from an allowance or a part-time job.

Costs aren’t all monetary. If a teenager’s goal requires waking up earlier, it may not occur to him that a potential downside may be needing to go to bed earlier and missing out on previously enjoyed late-night activities.

There may also be more benefits to certain goals than originally realized as well. While the primary goal of babysitting may be to earn more money, chasing around young children may also provide physical benefits.

A teenager considering volunteering for a cause she believes in may not realize she could later ask an adult from the charity to write her a college recommendation letter.

Fully understanding the costs and benefits of goals will help teens determine if a goal is worth it, and if so, how to prepare for it.

Example Goals for Teenagers

young woman office secretary notes work job

Many teenagers’ goals fall under the categories of financial, academic, and more general “life goals.” Always having a few goals from each category keeps teens motivated and well-rounded.

→ Teen Money Goals

Many people start their first jobs as teenagers. It’s fun to use disposable income as soon as it hits a bank account, but it’s better to use some of the money towards both short-term and long-term goals.

Popular short-term money goals for teenagers may include:

While short-term goals keep teenagers motivated to earn money and teach valuable financial lessons, it’s never too early to work towards long-term financial goals.

Teenagers should consider saving money for higher education, a home down payment, and even retirement.

Teach teenagers the power of compound returns and how investing even small amounts of money when they are younger can lead to substantial amounts later.

Related: Best Ways to Make Money as a Teenager [Online + Offline]

Start Investing With a Fidelity Youth™ Account

fidelity youth account art 2024

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Price: No account fees¹, no account minimum, no trading commissions*
  • Platforms: Web, mobile app (Apple iOS, Android)

Is your teen interested in jumpstarting their financial future? Do you want them to build smart money habits along the way?

Of course you do! Learning early about saving, spending and investing can pay off big when you start on the right foot. And one tool that can help your teen get that jump is the Fidelity Youth Account—an account for teens 13 to 17 that’s designed to help them start their money journey. Teens own the account themselves and can start investing in most U.S. stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and Fidelity mutual funds for as little as $1!³

Your teen will also get a free debit card with no subscription fees, no account fees, no minimum balances, and no domestic ATM fees². And they can use this free debit card for teens to manage their cash and spend it whenever they need.

And as for building smart money habits? You and your teen can access the account through the Fidelity Youth™ app, which has a dedicated Learn tab packed with materials developed specifically to help teens develop good financial habits. Not only will Fidelity’s interactive lessons, videos, articles, tools, and calculators accelerate their learning—but for every level they complete, reward dollars will be deposited into their account to use however they want.

Controls parents want and need

A parent or guardian must have or open a brokerage account with Fidelity® to open a Fidelity Youth Account. For new Fidelity® customers, opening an account is easy, and there are no minimums and no account fees.

Having a Fidelity account gives parents and guardians access to plenty of tools they can use to monitor their teen’s activity: They have online account access, can follow monthly statements and trade confirmations, and can view debit card transactions made in the account.

To make it even easier, you can set up alerts to notify you of your teen’s trades, transactions, and cash management activity, keeping you firmly in the loop on actions your teen takes across the Fidelity Youth Account’s suite of products.

If your teen has an interest in learning about investing, becoming smarter about money, and taking their first steps toward building their financial journey, you should consider downloading the Fidelity Youth app and opening a Fidelity Youth Account. The account comes custom-built for their needs, which will help them become financially independent and start investing for their future.

Read more in our Fidelity Youth Account review.

Related: Best Investments for Teenagers

→ Teen Life Goals

Life goals for teenagers will vary broadly based on their current interests. Some examples of these life goals may include:

  • Getting a driver’s license
  • Traveling abroad
  • Trying a new sport
  • Acting in a play
  • Learning to cook a favorite dish
  • Keeping a journal
  • Writing a novel

Encourage teenagers to develop skills they will need when they live on their own, such as cooking, cleaning, setting their own schedules, budgeting, and car maintenance.

Also, remind them of other steps that may need to be taken prior to achieving a life goal. For example, traveling to a new country requires saving money. Depending on the country, immunizations may be needed and it might be helpful to know the basics of another language.

→ Teen Academic Goals

Academics are a significant part of a teenager’s life in high school and it continues to be so for those who attend college or a trade school. There are many beneficial academic goals teens may make, such as:

  • Making honor roll
  • Graduating high school
  • Visiting college campuses
  • Applying for financial aid
  • Getting accepted into college
  • Earning a scholarship
  • Securing an internship

Some teenagers love creating academic goals, while others consider everything academic-related to be a necessary evil they must get through until they are hired for their dream jobs. Either way, it’s essential teenagers identify as lifelong learners.

A study conducted by professor Gary McPherson aimed to determine what helps children progress faster than their peers when learning an instrument. Before their first music lesson, students were asked how long they thought they would play their instruments. They could answer:

  1. Until the end of the year (short-term commitment)
  2. Through elementary school (medium-term commitment)
  3. For the rest of your life (long-term commitment)

The children that progressed faster weren’t necessarily the ones that practiced the most. It was the ones who rated their commitment levels as longer term. These students saw themselves as life-long musicians.

Even if a teenager doesn’t think higher education is the best option, he should still consider himself a lifelong learner to help achieve current academic goals.

Final Thoughts

Setting and accomplishing goals is extremely beneficial for teenagers. Setting your own goals is a way of taking command of your life and learning about yourself in the process. If not every goal is completed, or not completed within the original timeframe, that’s ok.

Goals can be adjusted. Sometimes the act of working towards a goal is more important than accomplishing the goal itself.


Terms and Conditions for Fidelity Youth™ Account

The Fidelity Youth Account can only be opened by a parent/guardian. Account eligibility limited to teens aged 13-17.

* $0.00 commission applies to online U.S. equity trades and Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) in a Fidelity retail account only for Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC retail clients. Sell orders are subject to an activity assessment fee (from $0.01 to $0.03 per $1,000 of principal). Other exclusions and conditions may apply. See Fidelity.com/commissions for details. Employee equity compensation transactions and accounts managed by advisors or intermediaries through Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions® are subject to different commission schedules. 

¹ Zero account minimums and zero account fees apply to retail brokerage accounts only.  Expenses charged by investments (e.g., funds, managed accounts, and certain HSAs) and commissions, interest charges, or other expenses for transactions may still apply. See Fidelity.com/commissions for further details.

² Your Youth Account will automatically be reimbursed for all ATM fees charged by other institutions while using the Fidelity® Debit Card at any ATM displaying the Visa®, Plus®, or Star® logos. The reimbursement will be credited to the account the same day the ATM fee is debited. Please note, for foreign transactions, there may be a 1% fee included in the amount charged to  your account. The Fidelity® Debit Card is issued by PNC Bank, N.A, and the debit card program is administered by BNY Mellon Investment Servicing Trust Company. These entities are not affiliated with each other, and Fidelity is not affiliated with PNC Bank or BNY Mellon. Visa is a registered trademark of Visa International Service Association, and is used by PNC Bank pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc.

³ Fractional shares quantities can be entered out to 3 decimal places (.001) as long as the value of the order is at least $0.01.  Dollar-based trades can be entered out to 2 decimal places (e.g. $250.00)

Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC 900 Salem Street, Smithfield, RI 02917

About the Author

Riley Adams is the Founder and CEO of Young and the Invested. He is a licensed CPA who worked at Google as a Senior Financial Analyst overseeing advertising incentive programs for the company’s largest advertising partners and agencies. Previously, he worked as a utility regulatory strategy analyst at Entergy Corporation for six years in New Orleans.

His work has appeared in major publications like Kiplinger, MarketWatch, MSN, TurboTax, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, The Globe and Mail, and CNBC’s Acorns. Riley currently holds areas of expertise in investing, taxes, real estate, cryptocurrencies and personal finance where he has been cited as an authoritative source in outlets like CNBC, Time, NBC News, APM’s Marketplace, HuffPost, Business Insider, Slate, NerdWallet, Investopedia, The Balance and Fast Company.

Riley holds a Masters of Science in Applied Economics and Demography from Pennsylvania State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Finance from Centenary College of Louisiana.