You taught them how to read and how to ride a bike, but have you taught your children how to manage money?
Many college students and graduates carry a significant amount of student loan debt. Unfortunately, many of them will either default or be delinquent in repaying those loans, which may affect decisions they make for decades.
For current college kids, it may be too late to avoid learning the hard way. But they may be more open to having financial conversations once they get out in the world. And if you still have children at home, save them (and yourself) some heartache by teaching them the basics of smart money management.
Have the conversation. Many everyday transactions can lead to discussions about money. At the grocery store, talk with your kids about comparing prices and staying within a budget. At the bank, teach them that the automated teller machine doesn't just give you money for the asking. Show your kids a credit card statement to help them understand how "swiping the card" actually takes money out of your pocket.
Let them live it. An allowance program, where payments are tied to chores or household responsibilities, can help teach children the relationship between work and money. Your program might even include incentives or bonuses for exceptional work. Aside from allowances, you could create a budget for clothing or other items you provide. Let your kids decide how and when to spend the allotted money. This may help them learn to balance wants and needs at a young age, when the stakes are not too high.
Teach kids about saving, investing, even retirement planning. To encourage teenagers to save, you might offer a match program, say 25 cents for every dollar they put in a savings account. Once they have saved $1,000, consider helping them open a custodial investment account, then teach them to research performance and ratings online.
You might even think about opening an individual retirement account (IRA). With the future of Social Security in question, your kids may be on their own to pay for their retirement. Some parents offer to fund an IRA for their children as long as they're earning a paycheck. Contributions to a traditional IRA may be fully or partially deductible, depending on your child's situation. Distributions from traditional IRAs and most other employer-sponsored retirement plans are taxed as ordinary income and, if taken before age 59 1/2, may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty. However, there are exceptions when a taxpayer can avoid the 10% penalty, such as withdrawing money for a first home purchase, up to $10,000 and paying qualified higher education expenses.
As you teach your children about money, don't get discouraged if they don't take your advice. Mistakes made at this stage in life can leave a lasting impression. Also, resist the temptation to bail them out. We all learn better when we reap the natural consequences of our actions. Your children probably won't be stellar money managers at first, but what they learn now could pay them back later in life — when it really matters.
Find a credit card calculator on the web to give your kids a real-life look at what it actually costs to "buy now, pay later."
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