Tips for setting up children for financial success
It’s the time of year when many parents are sending kids off to college to start newly independent lives full of exciting opportunities – new classes, new friends and many new opportunities. It may also be one of the first times some parents realize their children will face real-world decisions that may affect their future financial standings.
The truth is, parents should be preparing their children for financial success long before college. The time to teach kids about financial responsibility and decision making should start when they are young and be cultivated all the way through their childhood.
Here are four important tips for raising children to be financially successful:
- 1. Help your child connect with trusted resources to learn from professionals. Rather than telling your child what they should do, help them learn important financial skills from the experts. Find a trusted banker, lender or financial advisor and introduce them. Encourage your child to ask questions or, if they’re young, ask questions for them. When your child enters high school, student loan advisors are an excellent resource for learning about options for financial aid.
- 2. The internet can be helpful for research, but make sure any online research is done through trusted sources. Financial professionals can help you find good resources. Online calculators are helpful to show how student loans, or any loans, are not “free.” Understanding the total interest paid over the term of the loan can empower your student to make more informed decisions. We recommend www.finaid.org for resources on student financial aid.
- 3. Be an example of what financial health looks like. Our thoughts and attitude toward finances are often reflected in our personal financial health. How we manage our money depends on how we prioritize it. The number one indication of financial health that leads to financial wealth is the ability to spend less than what is earned. Talk to your child about the choices he/she makes and how those decisions affect spending and saving. Show them your own budget or help them create a spending plan as they start their first job as a teenager. Take them with you to your own financial planning session and allow them to ask questions of your trusted advisor.
- 4. Practice makes perfect – and this includes the practice of finance! If you have a credit card, talk with your child about how it is used and paid off each month. Discuss also when it’s appropriate to use debit cards as opposed to credit cards. When they reach the age of 21, they are authorized to apply for credit cards. Instead, let your child be an authorized user on one of your credit cards – consider using it as a “practice” or emergency card. If they charge anything, they are expected to pay it off within the next billing period.
- 5. Discuss the power of choices with your child. Tap into what they want for their future and what drives them. Talk about how life circumstances can change, and how planning and choices made now can affect how they weather certain life storms. Help them to ask themselves about the “what ifs” of life and be financially armored to stop changes from becoming crises. My youngest daughter (how old?) loves to have fun. If it isn’t fun or leading to fun, it isn’t worth her effort. So, I like to talk to her about spending her money for fun – but also how NOT fun it can be when bad choices lead to negative consequences.
When my first child was born, one of my clients wisely told me, “You are raising an adult not a child.” Most of us dream that our children will always come to us for our wisdom and sage advice. The reality is, they may not. We have limited years to emulate our knowledge, set them up with mentors, and introduce them to professionals who will foster their independence and responsibility. Start now. Set your child up to be healthy with financial abundance to contribute to a better world.