Your child is on the verge of moving out and living on their own. Are they prepared?
Arming them with the right personal finance knowledge will give them a strong foundation to go and achieve many of their life goals. If their understanding of personal finance is lacking, they could begin their independent life on the wrong foot (and they may even come back home).
Consider these ways that you can help your child build a base of financial knowledge before they move out.
1. Show them how to budget
Perhaps the most important personal finance skill is consistently spending less than you earn. There are a million different ways to budget, and whatever works for you may not work for your child. But encourage them to develop a system to track and categorize spending and then compare those expenses to their income. Of course they’ll need to account for housing, food, and utilities but also let them know it’s OK to include “fun money” in their budget. It will help them stay motivated to stick to their budget. (See also: How to Help Your Kid Build Their First Budget)
2. Teach them how retirement plans work
If your child is moving out, they likely have some earned income. That means they can start contributing to a Roth individual retirement account. They may scoff at the notion of saving for retirement so early, but if you help them open a Roth IRA and demonstrate how much money they can accrue over time, they’ll get on board. Urge them to save as much as they can each month, invest in simple things like index funds, and simply watch their account balance grow over time through compounding.
If they have a 401(k) plan through an employer, take time to review the plan document with them and encourage them to contribute as much as they can. Be sure to explain the advantages of getting a company match on contributions, if one is offered. (See also: 11 Basic Questions About Retirement Saving Everyone Should Ask)
3. Explain bank interest rates
Chances are, your child already has a savings account. But it’s still helpful to explain that they don’t necessarily need to put their money in the first bank they see. Show them how interest rates can vary, and that it’s OK to shop around for the best rates so they can earn a little extra money. Explain terms like APR and APY, and the factors that impact whether rates go up or down.
Also outline the pros and cons of placing money in certificates of deposit. These days, it’s also helpful to explain that while interest rates are rising, they’re still quite low, and that it might make sense to invest some funds in ways that generate a higher return than savings account interest. (See also: 12 Places to Keep Your Money Safe — And Growing)
4. Tell them about bank fees
Once your child understands how bank interest rates work, they’ll need to know about the tendency banks have to charge fees to account holders. These fees could be for anything from low balances to the use of paper checks. Tell your child how they can avoid these fees by researching the best bank accounts and reading the fine print. Let your kids know that if a bank is charging too many fees, it’s OK to switch to another bank that doesn’t. (See also: Are You Paying These 6 Unfair Banking Fees?)
5. Teach them the pros and cons of credit cards
Credit cards can help a person establish credit, and that’s important when you are starting out. And some credit cards offer nice benefits, such as cash back on purchases or travel rewards miles.
You can help your kid apply for a card, but it should come with a series of warnings. Young people must know that credit card balances should be paid off in full each month whenever possible. Show your child that credit card interest rates can be exorbitant, and that high balances can lead to a debt spiral from which they may never escape. (See also: How to Get Your First Credit Card and Build Credit)
6. Outline the pain of debt
Arguably the most important lesson you can teach your children before they leave the nest is that debt is not a good thing. Take time to explain the basics of borrowing so they understand how expenses can continue to increase if debt is not paid off. Show them calculations with interest rates for credit cards, auto loans, student loans, personal loans, and mortgages. Give them an understanding of debt-to-income ratios, and what that means in the context of their financial well-being. (See also: 8 Common Causes of Debt — And How to Avoid Them)
7. Explain the concept of net worth
When your child leaves home, they may be focused on finding a job that pays a high income. That’s fine, but it’s important for them to understand that income alone is not what generates financial security. It’s more crucial to acquire assets that increase in value, while eschewing things that will decrease in value or be a drain on your finances.
This means saving money and investing it. It means avoiding debt. It means purchasing a home instead of renting, if possible. Your net worth — that is, the total value of your assets minus your debts — is the true indicator of your financial well-being. (See also: 6 Money Moves to Make If Your Net Worth Is Negative)
8. Urge them to shop for value
Saving money isn’t always about spending as little as possible. It’s also about spending your money wisely and getting the most bang for your buck. For example, if your child needs to purchase a refrigerator for their apartment, convey to them that they should seek out the best quality model at a price that fits their budget.
Shopping for value involves understanding quality and longevity of products, and knowing what features matter and which don’t. It also involves doing extensive research of products and prices before you buy. Shopping for value is a skill that can be learned, and one that could save your child a considerable amount of money over time. (See also: How to Shop With Purpose — And Save More Money)
9. Teach them basic car maintenance
You don’t need to teach your child how to replace a catalytic converter, but it helps if they have a decent foundation of car knowledge. Teach them how to put air in a tire and change the tire. Demonstrate how to swap out a headlight bulb and replace a hubcap. Urge them to read the car’s manual and learn what all of those warning lights mean. Get them in the habit of changing the oil every few thousand miles.
Finally, teach them how to research the cost of car repairs, so they don’t get ripped off at the mechanic. Your child won’t be able to avoid car repair expenses, but they’ll know enough to avoid getting stranded on the side of the road. Moreover, these basic maintenance efforts could help prevent the need for a major repair later.