By Tina Mason
Now that we’re in the second semester of the school year, the college applications have been submitted and high school seniors are waiting anxiously to receive a response. Soon, they’ll take another step on the the path to their future and before you know it, parents will be be packing up cars to take them to college.
During the past four years, seniors have focused on school work and probably some extracurricular activities – sports, music, drama, or others – to prepare for the next stage of their life journeys. Most likely, worrying about money hasn’t been a huge priority, which means you probably need to make it one now. You don’t want to send your soon-to-be college freshman off to school without a solid financial understanding because, much like the college decision itself, understanding financial basics will have a long-term impact.
Here are a few things to keep in mind that you may want to talk about or do with your senior. (If you don’t have a senior, starting when they’re younger certainly doesn’t hurt. If they’re old enough to have money, they’re old enough to understand banking.)
Savings and Checking Accounts
If you haven’t already opened savings or checking accounts in your child’s name, this is a good time to do it. Your child will want access to funds and you want them to build financial awareness. You can always add yourself to the account so you can stay involved with finances to whatever degree makes you comfortable. Check with your local bank about rates, fees, and other benefits to determine which accounts are best for you. That includes finding out about ATM fees. Some banks charge high fees for using other ATMs, while others don’t.
If you haven’t already, it’s also not a bad idea to open a credit card for your child to start building a credit history. Make sure you explain how and when credit cards are to be used – and set very specific guidelines if you are paying the bills for now. Regardless of who is managing payments, be sure to talk about how late and missed payments, balances, and other variables impact credit scores. You may also want to warn them that college students tend to be heavily targeted with credit card offers claiming to offer unique or exclusive benefits. Make sure they understand that, while credit cards can be valuable financial tools, they also carry risk if not managed properly, leading to debt.
While your child may not be financially independent, going off to college and living away from home does mean unexpected situations can arise. This is a great time to help young adults understand the value of an emergency fund and you might even want to start one for them. If they are working during school, adding just a few dollars from each paycheck, or they could dedicate a portion of birthday or holiday gifts to their funds. It will help them learn at an early age that saving doesn’t have to be difficult, and they’ll have an emergency fund to fall back on if needed.
Budgeting and saving go hand in hand, so this is also a great time to make sure your children – even if they’re not yet heading off to college – about budgeting. Most students have very limited sources of income. The good thing is they also don’t have the same level of expenses they will have when they graduate and head off into the working world. Teaching them to budget appropriately today will build a foundation for their financial stability in the future.
Privacy and Security
Your children have grown up in a digital world and cyber security is probably not a new topic for them. As they enter the world of banking, it’s a good idea to highlight the need to keep all financial information secure and private. They should never share their PINs or credit card numbers with anyone, for instance, even if they are doing it with the best of intentions, such as trying to help a friend in need. There are many digital banking tools that make managing money convenient, but make sure you talk about appropriate password usage, two-factor authentication, which P2P apps are safe to use.
It’s never too early to start teaching children about banking and finances. But, as you get ready to send yours off to college for the first time, they will be exposed to a new level of freedom. Making sure they have a solid financial understanding is important and can help keep them from getting into risky financial situations and high debt.
If you have questions about which accounts are best suited for your children, contact your local bank’s staff for advice and information.