Money Lesson No. 4: Take credit seriously.
This lesson is a vital one to learn before kids get to college, where many 20-somethings begin to get into trouble with credit card debt. According to a 2009 study by Sallie Mae, the average senior graduates from college with about $4,000 of plastic debt.
"Only take out the amount of debt you can afford to pay back," McLean cautions. "Credit cards can be an evil because it's easy to accumulate balances you can't pay off monthly."
Money Lesson No. 5: Get comfortable with the idea of trade-offs.
Unless you were born with a diamond-encrusted spoon in your mouth, you won't always get everything you want. Learn to be OK with sacrificing today for something greater tomorrow. When you trim your vacation from two weeks to one, do it knowing that the money saved will go toward the down payment on that condo you're going to buy. Trade-offs help us appreciate what we eventually get and ultimately make us happier people, Demmissie says.
Money Lesson No. 6: Accept responsibility for your financial future.
Some things may come awfully easy to the younger generation today — instant fluency with a new tablet computer, say — but the promise of a plum job right out of college may not.
Visions of retiring comfortably — even early — sound sweet, but they will generally require more than faithfully putting a bit of money into a 401(k) plan each month. As many boomers are learning the hard way, a single retirement account and Social Security may not be enough.
To this, experts say: Plan for no help. "If you hit the lottery or get an inheritance, that's great," says Pagliarini. "But plan like you won't."
Assume that as you go through life you won't get help from anybody. That way, you'll find yourself making sacrifices to make sure you stay on keel. If you take control by saving with IRAs, mutual funds and other accounts beyond the 401(k), then guess what —- down the road you'll be OK.
Also of interest: Smart moves to make in a scary economy.