Ask Chuck: How Do I Financially Prepare My Child for College?
I’ve tried to prepare my daughter to handle money responsibly while she’s away at college. But, I’m concerned that peer pressure and the stress of classes will throw her off track. Any tips?
Budget Minded Mom
Dear Budget Minded,
Congratulations are in order for preparing her for this crucial transition. Far too many students leave home without a clue how to manage money and are vulnerable to making life-altering messes.
While most Americans assume that student loan and consumer debt is the only way to get a college education today, this is simply not true, regardless of income. I have a friend who immigrated here from China. She only had $2,000 to help her daughter when she left for college. When her daughter finished her undergraduate and decided to seek a master’s degree, her mother asked if she needed financial help. Turns out that her daughter had been able to graduate without borrowing money and still had cash in the bank. She explained that she had been saving and investing for years and had $70,000 cash in the bank before entering grad school!
Financial preparedness for college students and young adults is crucial today. Demands come from all directions and unless students understand the value of a dollar, they can blow through spending money and quickly rack up consumer debt and long term student loan debt before they ever realize the consequences ahead.
Having raised four sons, we can appreciate your concerns but also want you to know that it is possible for our children to swim against the tide.
Set Clear Boundaries
Make sure there is a clear understanding of what you will pay for and what your student is required to cover. Typically, students are more careful with money they have earned, so avoid robbing them of an important lesson by giving them everything.
For example, if they have a car at college, determine who will pay for gas, insurance, tags, parking, maintenance and repairs. If they’re going to be responsible for those expenses, then they need to find a part-time job. That’s real life! If you plan to cover the expenses, have clear stipulations and terms (e.g. you’ll only cover those costs as long as they remain in school and maintain a decent grade point average). Every family situation is different, but the goal is to grow financially mature adults.
Some Practical Tips
Here are a few additional tips you may want to teach the young people in your life.
- Exercise self-control. Don’t drink, smoke, or binge with money
- Live like you’re poor in college and you won’t be when you graduate!
- The earlier you save and invest, the more you’ll have for your future
- Boundaries now grant freedom later
- Be careful loaning money
- Keep healthy snacks on hand and in a backpack
- Use cash to avoid overspending
- Avoid debt. Period. Set a goal to graduate without student loan or consumer debt.
What They Need to Know
- How to use a checking account and debit card – understand bank fees
- How to make deposits into a savings account – preferably at a different bank to avoid easy withdrawals
- How to use a credit card wisely – pay it off in full each month
- How to make a budget and keep track of expenses
- The importance of good credit and how to establish it
- The joy of giving and saving with intentionality
- Student loans will be offered but try to avoid them
Prevent Medical Expenses
- Cook healthy meals or use a meal plan wisely
- Sleep, exercise, avoid alcohol and drugs
- Seek community of Godly friends
- Take care of mental health: limit social media, join a church, volunteer
- Keep $100 tucked away in wallet for emergencies only
- Guard personal information
- Know how and where to buy/sell used textbooks
- How to study well, apply for scholarships, and work part-time
- Know identity in Christ to withstand peer pressure, FOMO, and comparison traps
- Live at home or with another relative to save dorm/apartment fees
- Know how to make coffee, cook and do laundry
- Get to know the financial aid counselors
- Work on campus: saves time/gas, and opens doors to deeper relationships with staff
Preparing our youth financially will give them a step ahead of most people. Diligence requires purpose, intentionality, and resolve. It requires renewing the mind and working toward specific goals. May they be filled with the understanding who they are in Christ and the knowledge that they are stewards of what He gives.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Colossians 3:17 ESV)
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
(Colossians 3:23-24 ESV)
By discussing your daughter’s financial needs, desires, and habits regularly now, you can help her avoid the mistakes that most make plus prepare her for the next stage of her career without the bondage of debt-driven decisions.
Originally posted on the Christian Post, August 16, 2019