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The high cost of raising a teenager

If you thought raising a baby was expensive, just wait until those bundles of joy hit their teenage years. Diapers and baby food may have added significantly to your monthly grocery bill, but providing clothing and food for your growing adolescent will set you back even more.

But it's more than just their growing bodies and expanding interests that burn up the green. Increasingly, spending on and by teens is driven by the pressure to have what everyone else has and do what everyone else is doing.

"With the increased affluence of our society today, that [pressure] means that name-brand clothes, exotic vacations and the latest technological gadgets are much more common, expensive and in demand among teens than ever before," says Ellen Rogin, CPA, CFP, and president of Strategic Financial Designs Inc.

John K. Bacci, a certified financial planner in Linthicum, Md., believes that children can be a financial cancer to parents and are often the No. 1 danger to the long-term plans of his clients.

"I've had more than one client sow the seeds of their own financial destruction by catering to the ever-expanding financial needs of their children, and I've learned that it all starts with that first bike, the first iPod or the first car," Bacci says.

Of course, discretionary spending can be reined in with a little financial discipline. However, there is a lot of spending you can't control. You might be able to buy cheaper clothes and do without the horseback-riding and guitar lessons, but you have to buy food, pay school fees and take teens to the dentist. Some expenses are just unavoidable. Here are a handful of the top teenage expenses.

Financial costs of a teen
Every parent knows that raising a child is an expensive job. And when the child is a teenager, it gets very expensive indeed. Teenagers eat a lot, wear a lot and just plain spend a lot. Here's a look at some of the costs the parents of a teenager face.
7 costs of raising a teenager
1. College
2. Sports
3. Extracurricular activities
4. Food
5. Dental and orthodontic care
6. Clothes
7. Senior year

1. College
The most significant, and often the most crippling, expense looming over parents of teens is a college education. The 2005-2006 average cost of tuition at a four-year public university will set you back $5,491, according to the College Board. Include all of the nontuition expenses (room and board, books, fees, etc.) and that figure climbs to $12,127.

Tuition at a four-year private institution averages $21,235, with total charges increasing that figure to $29,026. Think you're escaping unscathed because your teen isn't planning to pursue a full four-year degree? Well, think again. The price tag on a two-year associate's degree including tuition and fees will still cost you $2,191 and your teen may still be living under your roof and eating your groceries.

Financial experts advise parents to start saving as early as possible. Setting up the college savings funds while Junior is still in diapers is the best way to get that compound interest to work for you to maximize your savings. The number of options and products available to help you save for college has exploded in recent years. A consultation with a financial planning professional can get you going down the right path.

2. Sports
It's not just the uniform and the registration fees that make sports costly. Some parents, whether trying to develop the next Andre Agassi or give their kids an edge in college admissions, spend thousands of dollars each year on private coaching and personalized training programs for their teens. Training facilities like Athletes Advantage, a 24,000-square-foot training center in Wellington, Fla., offer high school kids the opportunity to work with a private trainer for $65 per hour, spend an hour in the batting cages for $45 or hire a baseball pitcher for $32 per hour.

 
 
Next: "A scorched-Earth eating style ... leaves nothing behind."
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