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Parenting College Students: Teaching Financial Responsibility - A Parents Toughest Task

Jun 14, 2008
Parenting college students is a never ending responsibility. While there are many areas in which parents can assist these emerging adults, it is in the arena of finances that parents can often make a huge difference in the lives of their children.

As you parent your college student consider what responsibility your child has in the pursuit of their college education. This responsibility should be discussed. After college graduation, who pays this debt? During the college years, will the student have any financial obligation? Parenting a college student is a golden opportunity to teach financial responsibility.

Financial lessons should begin before the child leaves for college. Middle School and High School is when the lessons should begin. Parents tend to worry about a student's expenditures and this is an appropriate worry. If parents don't teach financial lessons to their children while they are still living at home, disaster is waiting in the wings during the college years.

Lessons Taught in the Launching Years

Before leaving for college, parents need to discuss financial expectations with their college student, including the plan for how many years they expect to be in college. This affects the number of credits they will need to carry each semester/term. The usual is 15 credits. Students taking 9 credits are taking up to 6 years to get an undergraduate degree. So it is important to talk about this so there are no surprises.

Prior to that first semester in college, parents and children need to discuss money management and the budgeting of funds. What are the expectations? Will they have a parents credit card? Do they have their own credit card? I personally suggest that only debit cards be used. No credit cards.

The discussion of finances prevents any surprises on either side, and it encourages open communication. Money management is very difficult initially. A parent might consider a weekly allowance until the student learns to manage their money. If they get their allowance monthly, it is often spent the first week or two. The last 2 weeks is when the whining begins... So, it is imperative for parents to set boundaries and to provide clear guidance. It is nice to set the student up for success, too. Do everything you can think of to help the student be successful. Adapting to college and being responsible for yourself is a big transition.

In order for the college student to establish independence they need to learn to handle their finances proficiently. So much is learned during the college years that is not taught in a class room. College Students need to be reminded of what their goal is. The goal is a college degree, independence and a career that they enjoy.

Spending money foolishly increases their college debt and does nothing to build their resume. It only postpones financial freedom.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Parents must remind the college student to keep their eye on the prize, which is graduation. At times, 4 years, seems like an eternity but it flies by. It is so easy to forget that student loans are just that. Loans. Students need to be reminded of this and when possible they should limit their college debt.

Credit cards are fools gold. The credit card companies send college students credit cards constantly. My recommendation is to forbid the use of credit cards. Period. To a young person, there is no reality to a credit card. Adults have problems with credit cards so why would we expect a young adult to have a good handle on using a credit card. It is a very difficult concept to learn because you cannot see the debt. The student only sees the minimum payment.

A debit card has a monetary limit to withdrawals. If the student receives an allowance, the parent can make a deposit, and the student can make the withdrawal. Parents can consider placing some financial responsibility on the students by making them responsible for their spending money. If you ask them to pay for the books, I am afraid books will not be purchased because text books are over priced and hard to resell.

Somehow, parents need to teach their young that difficult lesson, "there are no free rides in life." This applies to a college education. Especially during the summer, a student can be expected to earn their spending money for the following year. When they are responsible for earning their own spending money, there's a good chance they will be more careful how they spend it.

When parenting a college student, one of the best lessons a parent can give their child is a sense of financial responsibility. It's one of the best winning strategies for success in life.
About the Author
Dr. Debi Yohn, http://CollegeWorks101.com, is an International Speaker with an elite private practice and a revolutionary parent mentor program. She has authored 4 books helping parents and their college students find success and joy in the college experience.
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