Going off to university is an exciting milestone, and for many, it’s the first real step into adulthood.
In addition to choosing classes and buying supplies, preparing your child for life as a post-secondary student should include a discussion of the financial responsibilities that will accompany their newfound freedom.
Set your frosh up with a budget, the right bank accounts and perhaps a credit card to help them build healthy spending habits and a solid credit profile.
1. Have the money talk
Money might be an awkward topic, but when it comes to preparing your child for university and beyond, it’s essential. Teaching your child about money and saving may start at a young age but when university is around the corner, it’s time to get into the bigger aspects of personal finance — loans, interest, credit scores and history — and their impact on future financial health.
The money talk is especially important if your child will have student loans — be candid with them about what it means to carry that kind of debt as a young adult. And if family money is paying the tuition, discuss that privilege in frank terms as well.
2. Help them create a budget
A key step in being financially savvy is learning how to create a budget and stay within it. Sit down with your child and show them how a budget works. Help them estimate non-negotiable expenses and compare those to the income at their disposal. Talk about how important it is to plan for both spending and saving, and how credit cards, loans and lines of credit can make it harder to stick to that plan.
3. Share your best money-saving tips
Many of us have a handful of money-saving tips that we have learned over time to make those dollars stretch even further. Be sure to share these with your children to help in their day-to-day financial lives, especially if they are going away to school. It doesn’t have to be heavy or complicated. Even the simple things like price matching, sale shopping, and maximizing student discounts on things like movie theatres and museums, can help them spend smarter.
4. Open the right bank accounts
Getting your student set up with their own bank account provides a chance to explain the pros and cons of different products, and why having multiple accounts can be useful.
For example, a chequing account is necessary but they often have fees and/or limits on the number of free transactions, so they’re not the best place to stash cash. A high-interest savings account offers competitive interest rates, making it an advantageous place for your student to start an emergency fund or save for a car.
As you shop around for the best account, keep an eye out for special offers. Some banks have student bank accounts that offer lower fees, rewards or even sign on bonuses to jump start savings.
5. Consider a credit card
Yes, most (not all) credit cards open the door to debt, and that’s scary for parents and students alike. But used responsibly, credit cards are tools that can help students build a strong credit profile, earn valuable rewards, and provide financial flexibility in a pinch. Getting the most out of a credit card starts with choosing the right one.
Depending on cash flow, credit score and level of comfort, your child may want to consider:
- A student credit card: Student cards work the same way as many other credit cards, but with more relaxed qualification requirements and lower credit limits.
- A secured credit card: Because they require a security deposit, secured cards present no debt risk and are handy tools to help build credit history.
- A prepaid credit card: If you plan to give your child an allowance, consider loading it on a prepaid card. Some allow cardholders to earn rewards and may even help build their credit.
- A joint credit card: These are an option if your child can’t qualify for a credit card on their own. But keep in mind that the primary cardholder (probably you, the parent) is ultimately responsible for all charges. And while it can be helpful for making purchases, a joint credit card will not help your child build their credit history.