Chances are if you have a child graduating from college, they’re excitedly planning for the next phase of their life: career. As a parent (or grandparent), you want to help them succeed, and you know that much of their success will come down to the foundation they lay now.
This truth is especially accurate when it comes to finances. Unfortunately, the snowball effect of poor money decisions can last decades. Here are five financial tips that you can pass on to your child or grandchild. By following these tips, they’ll be on firmer footing than a lot of people their age and more able to focus on their burgeoning career.
Live Within One’s Means
People shouldn’t spend more than they make—it’s really as simple as that. Young professionals are often inundated with credit card offers. While credit cards have their use, it’s easy to get in trouble with them. Suggest to your graduate that they use credit cards wisely, or not at all.
There’s no shame in being thrifty, especially when we’re starting out. Your kid or grandkid can take the bus, or they can carpool. They can pack a lunch instead of buying one. They can find lower-cost options to spend time with friends and family—hikes, for example, don’t cost anything but some time in Mother Nature.
Lean On Technology
Your graduate’s generation is the most tech savvy of all. They can download their bank’s app to keep track of their checking and savings accounts, and if they get a credit card, they can add that app too.
Now’s the time to start a budget. There are some great programs that can help them, including YNAB (You Need a Budget), Mint.com, and Personal Capital. If they’re more of a hands-on person, you can suggest that they create a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Whatever works for them, they should go for it!
Let Values Guide Financial Decisions
This tip goes back to the one about living within one’s means. We all have unlimited wants but limited resources. So tell your graduate to let their values be their guide in determining how they want to spend their limited resources.
Do they love music but feel lukewarm about the latest comic-strip movie spinoff? Then they can skip the theater and head to the concert instead. As you probably know from your own experience, they won’t even miss the stuff they didn’t do when they pick the activities they wanted most.
Be Charitable, but Have a Plan
When young people are just starting out, they often want to help others who are struggling. Although we should help where we can, we shouldn’t put ourselves in financial straits to do it.
Your graduate doesn’t have to respond to every GoFundMe request that they get. Instead, you can suggest that they add a “giving” category to their budget and figure out how much of their paycheck they can allocate. Then they can responsibly donate to their favorite causes as they have the money.
Keep Debt Low, and Watch for Recurring Expenses
We already mentioned the dangers of credit cards, but debt in general can sink a graduate. The more debt that burdens them, the less money (and freedom) they have to pay for the things they really want.
Talk to your graduate about recurring expenses—those expenses that pop up like clockwork, like a gym membership or cellphone bill. Tell them how these expenses reduce spending power—and how they’re sneaky about it. Your child or grandchild should watch these costs closely, and delete the ones that suck the life out of their budget.
Ultimately, as a young adult, your child or grandchild is going to pass or fail on their own merit. But with some guidance like the five tips above, you can help them stay on the road to success while avoiding the financial potholes.