A Crash Course in Financial Maturity: 4 Lessons for Children Going off to College
As a certified public accountant, I enjoy being organized and find it helps maximize my productivity during the day. Not only does organization benefit my professional life, but it also helps in my personal life, particularly when it comes to discussing financial readiness with my children. As I think back on the financial maturity fundamentals I imparted on my two daughters – one who completed law school and the other who’s completing her graduate degree – I find myself in a familiar position as I focus on my son who is a junior in high school and will be leaving for college in two short years. Below are some of the items on my financial maturity list that may help cover the basics as others face a similar situation.
1. Use resources wisely
As simple as it sounds, insist that your child knows and makes good use of the resources at his or her disposal. For example, if you’ve bought a dining plan there should be limited spending on food outside the dining plan. Your child should regard credit at the campus store or library/print center as limited resources that only get replenished when wisely used.
2. Be choosy with checking
Encourage your child to do some research and find the best banking option. According to NerdWallet, a student-focused checking account can save students an average of $110 or more in fees each year, when compared to the most basic account available to the general public. Your child should pay attention to the conditions that allow for the waiver of such fees. For example, some college checking accounts will waive the monthly fee as long as the student maintains a minimum balance, receives regular deposits, or links to a parent’s checking account. Have your child take notice of the banks which are most prominent on campus and those that have easy-to-access branch locations. If your child chooses a bank that does not have a local presence, make sure he or she is aware of how quickly service charges for out of network ATMs can eat into their account.
3. Credit scores matter
Your child needs to know the importance of building good credit, as future landlords, employers, and banks will use that score to determine eligibility for housing, jobs, and loans. Building good credit is a process that often starts in college.
Students with little or no credit history can often obtain credit if they are able to provide proof of capacity to repay debt, or if they have a co-signer, who can bear the financial responsibility for the debt.
If your child is going to get a credit card, make sure he or she knows to pay the full balance each month, and on time. They should also be advised only to make a purchase on credit if they know how to pay for it when the bill comes due. You should have a conversation about the importance of building a positive credit history to pave the way for future financial transactions. Additionally, they should understand that your credit score, as a co-signer, is at risk if they abuse the card privileges.
4. Know where it’s going
Set the expectation with your child that when you ask where all the money is going, they have an answer. Encourage your child to download a free app, like Mint, to easily track and monitor spending and stay on top of account balances. Explain that tools such as Mint help increase awareness and lead to better financial decision-making.
There are only 940 Saturday’s between a child’s birth and leaving for college so enjoy the last few days, months, or years before they start the next chapter of their lives.
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The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a registered investment advisor.