According to Self.com, “Finances is one of the main reasons that students drop out of college.” And that is a statement that hits close to home for me.
My upbringing was one of scarcity. Starting from the age of 15, if I wanted something, I had to figure out a way to pay for it myself. I did odd jobs around my neighborhood like cleaning houses and mowing lawns; I even sold personalized Christmas cards. So, while a college education was something both my parents and I dreamed of…it was up to me to finance it.
Once I was finally on my own, I continued my harsh education in the world of finance. The student loans I’d accrued were a burden and took me many years to pay off. And I’ll never forget receiving my first credit card in the mail and realizing I didn’t have to wait to buy the T.V. I’d always wanted! Needless to say, I learned some hard lessons about the reality of credit.
Now, as a financial planner, I hope to prevent people from learning about finances completely on their own. And that education is most valuable if you start at an early age.
Preparing a Young Adult for the Real World
Ideally, a young person should be managing their own money long before they leave for college and those lessons can be learned over a gradual period of time – which is the best way to incorporate change and master it.
Managing money is like a muscle that needs to be exercised and nourished. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Is your child a spender or a saver? The truth is, that we can identify these patterns at an early age. I knew when my girls were children that one was a spender and one was a saver! Recognizing this will help you create tools that they individually need; not every lesson fits every person.
Use Allowance as a Money Tool
If your child completes his or her chores on time without being asked, reward them with their allowance. If they don’t, have a firm consequence (like not giving it to them). This is a lesson they’ll value long into adulthood (after all, we don’t get paid if we don’t do our work, do we?).
Help your children establish financial goals from an early age and you’ll BOTH learn what matters to each child. Do they want the latest shoes or a new video game? Let them choose what they want and figure out how to achieve it. That will also teach them how badly they really want it.
One of the things I’ve noticed with young adults (teenagers and early 20s) is the ease of the debit card. The debit card doesn’t seem to really represent the hard work behind the actual dollars; it’s all too easy to swipe and spend. Cash is king and I use cash for most transactions because it represents the work I did to earn it. It’s tangible and when it is gone, it is gone.
This is perhaps the most important tool. While your kids are still at home, develop strong communication about money. Yes, it’s hard and sometimes uncomfortable, but it’s also crucial. This also allows them to make little mistakes while they’re still under your watch, rather than big mistakes down the road that could impact them for years.
During your kids’ senior year in high school, start talking about the budget for college. Make sure they understand what you’re able to pay, how much scholarships might help with tuition, and how much the student is expected to pay. Keep in mind that it’s likely that the first year will be a big learning curve and allow a little flexibility. But having these conversations could save your child from incurring a large amount of debt that they weren’t expecting…just as they’re striking out on their own.
If you’re reading this, chances are you know the hard lessons you had to learn as a young adult and know the things you wish you and your parents had done or communicated about before you left the nest. Think about what would be valuable for your own child and do them the favor of being proactive when it comes to learning about money.
Debbie Charpentier has been serving clients since 1989 by using a holistic, comprehensive approach that helps clients create the life they value and the legacy they envision. Charpentier Wealth Strategies is a Bakersfield, CA Financial Planning practice that offers fee-based financial planning services. To contact Debbie, email Debbie.Charpentier@LFG.com. http://charpentierwealth.com/ Debbie Charpentier is a registered representative offering securities and investment advisory services through Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., (Member SIPC). Charpentier Wealth Strategies is a marketing name for registered representatives of Lincoln Financial Advisors. CRN-3630123-061121