For me and many others, the end of summer means helping our children pack up and head off to college. My youngest children, who are twins, are leaving this month for their first year of college. This is such a major step into adulthood for our children, and we parents find ourselves overflowing with advice, rules and warnings for our kids because, naturally, we want them to succeed in their newfound independence.
One “warning” we often hear from friends revolves around the “Freshman 15”, the typical weight gain many students experience in their first year of college, away from their normal routine of high school exercise and healthier home-cooking.
But before they leave for college, young adults need to understand that managing their money is just as important as staying physically fit and mentally healthy. And much like the “Freshman 15” that sometimes come with all of the other stresses of college life, the added weight of money mistakes can stay with them for a long time – and can be hard to shed. But luckily, such mistakes can be avoided with the help of common sense and added knowledge.
Here are some tips to share with your college-bound children on how to avoid the financial freshman 15:
- Finding a bank is like finding a gym. It has to be convenient. Look for a bank with an on- or near-campus presence and online and mobile banking.
- Seek qualified instruction. Take advantage of any financial education courses offered by your bank and school. Include your parents on your account for at least a year. Think of it as hiring a personal trainer for your finances, only cheaper.
- Always use a spotter. Protect yourself from unnecessary fees. Sign up for any alerts offered by your bank so that you know ahead of time when your funds are running low.
- Wear protective gear where necessary. Protect your identity by signing your card and protecting your PIN information.
- Count calories. Take advantage of online banking tools that help you track and record every dollar that comes in or goes out. Don’t spend more than you make!
- Budgeting is like dieting. Nobody wants to do it, but you have to stick with it to make it work. Thinking about an upcoming purchase, determine if it is a need or a want. Too many times, we find that our desire for an item impacts our ability to purchase things we actually need.
- And saving money is like lifting weights. Establish a regular program, and always set a goal. Consider putting away $1 for every $10 coming in. This will add up for future purchases or unexpected emergencies.
- Free t-shirts are the late night burrito of finances. They look good now, but you might pay later. Think twice before signing up for that new high-interest credit card just to score some cool swag.
- Start today. Waiting until after college to take control of your finances could cost you. And like any good fitness regimen, getting started is half the battle.
- By paying now, it will pay off later. If you have a student loan, making payments every month and on time is an easy way to establish credit early. When you need loans down the road, the good credit you establish now may pay dividends with better rates later.
With the advanced mobile and online banking technology available today, it is easier than ever for your children to set up a manageable budget and avoid mistakes. It just takes finding a bank that makes it easy for them to manage their day-to-day spending, coupled with their own good habits and common sense.
Chris George is senior vice president at PNC Bank and longtime Wilmington resident. He has served PNC and its predecessors for more than 20 years in various leadership roles. PNC Bank, N.A., a member of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., is one of the United States’ largest diversified financial services organizations, providing retail and business banking; residential mortgage banking; specialized services for corporations and government entities, including corporate banking, real estate finance and asset-based lending; wealth management and asset management.
These articles are for general information purposes only and are not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting or financial advice. PNC urges its customers to do independent research and to consult with financial and legal professionals before making any financial decisions.