It's only a matter of weeks now before a new crop of 18 year-olds leave the nest and head off for college. Now is the time to have some very serious conversations about "money." These conversations should be designed to educate and illuminate your young student about the costs and risks inherent in being a college student.
Here are a few of the topics that should be covered:
How much is college going to cost? What does the budget look like? Who is going to pay for what? If mom and dad are contributing, will those contributions come on the 1st of the month? What about "fall break?" The more comprehensive an understanding the student has about total expenses, the better the conversations should be during the first semester.
Every student needs to understand the dangers of credit cards. Make sure they have a card, even if it is just for emergencies and also so they can learn to use credit responsibly. Even if you contribute to their expenses, THEY should pay the credit card bill so they understand the connection between what they buy and the money needed to pay for those purchases. They will be inundated with offers for "free credit cards." Make sure they understand the risks.
Do they have an account? Do they know how to write a check? Do they know how to reconcile a checkbook? Another necessary tool and necessary skill.
The bottom line is that too many kids head off to college having never had any real financial responsibility in their lives. Schools rarely cover detailed information on fiscal responsibility or financial literacy which means this education is left to the parents. The process should start long before a child plans to move out, but if it hasn't, the summer before "Junior" heads off to college may be your last chance to impart lessons that will last a lifetime. Good luck!
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