Schooling College Students about Financial Responsibility

Classrooms at universities and colleges across the nation will open for fall semester in the next couple of months. You might have a child, grandchild, niece or nephew who is all set to spend their semester studying, socializing, and living on their own. You have prepared them for college life by teaching them how to grocery shop, prepare simple meals, and do laundry. Often, however, college students head to school with little knowledge about making a budget and managing money.

A National Student Financial Wellness Study, the first of its kind released in 2015 by Ohio State University, showed college students’ biggest worries were not exams or terrible roommates. Their biggest worries revolved around money. A little more than 72% of the students surveyed said they felt stressed about personal finances, monthly expenses, or whether they would be able to pay for college at all.

A 2016 survey found that among college students surveyed, 71% said they learned about money management from their parents. So take a few minutes and sit down with your college student today and share these tips. Your advice could help them not only during their college days but throughout their lives.

Financial Advice for Your College-Bound Students

  1. Help your college student set up necessary accounts. College students likely will need at least checking and savings accounts. Start teaching them good habits now and ask them to research banking institutions that would be convenient for them to get to from campus or their residence.
  2. Establish clear financial responsibilities. Determine who will be responsible for which expenses. If you are planning to take care of bills such as auto and health insurance, or cell service, be clear with your student that he or she is responsible for living expenses including rent, utilities, groceries, and other household costs.
  3. Wean them off your bank accounts. It might be tempting to continue paying your child’s, grandchild’s or niece’s or nephew’s expenses to help them get a strong start, but that does not teach them to be self-sufficient; it is likely to make them more dependent on you.
  4. Decide whether a credit card is appropriate. Credit cards often give college students the most trouble. Credit cards are an effective way to establish early credit history, but it is common for students to run up balances without fully understanding how credit cards work. If your student gets a credit card, be sure they understand how credit cards work and how important it is to pay off the balance every month.
  5. Will your college-bound student work during college? Holding down a part-time job while going to school has plenty of advantages. It helps cover living expenses or it gives them a chunk of money to save each month. It also makes it easier for them to manage money and gain valuable work experience. And finally, it looks great on their resume after they graduate and go looking for a job in their field.

It is never too late to sit down with your college-bound child, grandchild, niece or nephew and talk frankly with them about the importance of being financially responsible.

We are here to help you each step of the way, so please let us know if you have any questions about these tips or the bigger strategies that are helping guide you to your financial future.

 

How Should I Start Saving for My Kids Education

The other day, I (Tony) got an email from a long lost friend of mine that I hadn’t chatted with in years.  He knows I’m in the industry and he reached out to me with an email question that I thought our blog readers might find of interest.  Turns out, he and his wife had a daughter about a year ago and they were thinking through what type of account would be the best way for them to save for her college education.  Below is my abridged reply.

“It’s great to hear your desire of being a good steward of your family and finances.  Unfortunately, your question isn’t as easy as one might think.  We typically look at a variety of ‘first steps’ that we believe should be in place before beginning to fund a college goal.  First, do you have a Will in place?  A Will should be developed that would name an Executor of your Estate and your desired caretaker of your kids in the unfortunate event of you and your wife’s death.  It would be a travesty to allow the courts to decide who would care for your daughter.  You should have a Will fully executed before beginning to fund your college goal.  These aren’t outrageously expensive, but they aren’t cheap either.  You’ll need to seek and find a qualified attorney to draft a Will for you and your wife.

Next, you should have adequate life insurance in place.  In the unfortunate circumstance of your death, you’ll want to leave your wife and daughter adequate income to survive.  Future college costs can be worked in to the equation of adequate life insurance amount.  Further, if you and your wife should both die at the same time, your chosen care-takers of your daughter will be grateful that money is available to help raise your daughter over the long term.

Third, you should establish and fully fund an Emergency Fund.  We recommend 3-6 months of your living expenses to be set aside in this account to be used for emergencies.  While saving for your daughter’s college is a noble cause, if you lose your job or some catastrophic event causes you to have a large outlay of cash, you’ll want to make sure your family’s needs are met first for the here and now…in which an Emergency Fund could be used.  Once money is in a college savings type account, you will be unable to take the funds back out of it without penalty.

Fourth, it is to your advantage as well to ensure that you and your wife’s retirement is a primary consideration above college contributions.  The main reason is that you may put your own retirement at risk by not funding it fully, only to find out your daughter receives a hefty scholarship or perhaps doesn’t even go to college for various reasons.  I’ve dealt with too many clients who have put their own retirement in jeopardy to send their kids to college and are now living with regret and having to work for longer than they had ever anticipated.

Next, it is to your advantage to make sure you’ve dealt with any consumer debt that is outstanding.  High interest rate student loans, auto loans or credit cards will kill you financially over time.  It is recommended that you extinguish most, if not all, consumer debt (not mortgage) before considering funding a child’s college education.

Last, but not leastJ, if these other financial considerations are in order, you could consider college contributions.  We typically steer clients to CollegeAmerica which is Virginia’s 529 Plan managed by American Funds.  This Plan is only available through advisors.  American Funds has a robust line-up of target date offerings and has had stellar performance.

For those living in Ohio and not working with an advisor, consider Ohio’s 529 Plan.  www.collegeadvantage.com  Choose the Do-It Yourself Direct Plan.  You can sign up everything online and do your contributions via EFT from your bank account.  Choose an age-based option that will vary in risk as the child gets older.  The closer they get to college, the less risk the model will take.  Also, Ohio’s plan allows for a small tax credit that many find helpful in tax planning considerations.

For more information of which I pretty much agree with, visit www.daveramsey.com  He lays out many of the principles I’ve written above in book form.  Also, a lot of times there are live classes in the area in which you can attend.  You can search for those and you and your wife can learn more.”