I’m about to start a series of fun financial/parenting posts, and it starts with childhood. I’ve had my struggles in my life, and I’m sharing this article because it matters tremendously to me that my kids learn and have financial stability.
The best way to secure your child’s future is by teaching them how to be financially stable. That, of course, is easier said than done. Educational institutions are not proactively tackling the issue of financial responsibility.
An article published Feb 2018 by CNBC reports that only 17 states require high school students to take personal finance classes. That number hasn’t changed over the last four years. The same article quotes Nam J. Morrison, president and CEO of the Council for Economic Education. She states, “The majority of U.S. states are failing our students by declining to offer these fundamental courses which are critical to their financial stability and security later in life.”
You can’t afford to rely on educational institutions alone. You must train your child to be financially responsible. Below are a few steps you could take to get you on your way.
Open a savings account
Start a savings account for your kid if you can. A joint savings account with your child gives you the opportunity to discuss banking concepts like interest and fees. Having a joint account also means you’re in control of the money until your kid comes of age.
Use this teaching moment to show where to open an account. Online banks and credit unions have a tendency to charge fewer fees while offering higher interest rates. You’d want to steer clear of banks that charge monthly fees. Any bank that offers interest rates of 1% and up is one you’d want to do business with.
Following up on concepts they learn is just as crucial. There are many online resources about finance that are geared toward children.
MyMoney.gov, for example, is a byproduct of the Federal Financial Literacy and Education Commission. The site’s goal is to strengthen the financial capability and increase access to financial services for Americans. It has a dedicated page filled with resources for kids that should introduce them to common investment terminology.
Create money milestones
Being able to visualize their financial progress would keep kids motivated. While you don’t want to overburden your kids with financial talks, you don’t want to be dismissive about it either. Ideally, you should have a conversation about budgeting at least once a year.
The perfect time would be a few days after your kid’s birthday or whenever presents in the form of cash are given. You can mark milestones and tie that in with a lesson about managing money.
At age 5, for example, you can sit down with your kid and discuss wants vs. needs. The following year, you can start giving your kid an allowance in exchange for doing household chores. This teaches your child that money is supposed to be earned and not just handed over.
There are other variations of this principle out there. If your kid wants a new toy or gadget, you can walk your kid through the process of saving money. Show him how saving his allowance adds up as time goes on. It’s important to point out that the more he saves, the faster he’s able to get that thing he wants. Create a calendar showing when he’ll have enough money so there’s continued motivation.
Every kid is different and your milestones may vary. Talk with your partner to discuss what milestones are right for your family.
Prepare your kid for college
You should prepare your kid for college preferably while he/she is still in high school. A survey done by the American Student Assistance, a nonprofit organization that writes about student loans, says high school counselors typically lack the resources and training to give students financial advice as they gear up for college.
On top of your own advice, you and your child should seek out college financial aid offices. These offices are experts at helping families find ways to pay for education. There you should ask what federal and private student aid options are available to you. BigFuture published a list of questions you should ask financial aid officers so you can have a better look at all your options.
You can use a site like Credible to compare options and see which lenders offer the lowest interest rates. Explain to your son or daughter how high-interest rates can make it harder to pay off student debt.
Don’t forget to bring up ways on how to prevent student loans from rising. Some options include having variable rate student loans and student loan refinancing. Student loan refinancing would allow you to merge your existing federal loans with private student loans. Doing so would result in a new, private student loan with a lower interest rate.
It’s never too early to start preparing your child for the future. In fact, the earlier you start, the more he’s likely to retain all the lessons he’s learned over the years. Financial stability is within grasp as long as there’s support from friends and family.