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Teaching kids the importance of money isn’t normally on the top of the to do list. I get it. I’m a parent. You have a job, soccer practices, your own personal finances, homework, 5 a.m. workouts, needy in laws. We want to instill the importance of financial independence to our children, but somehow it slips through the cracks and gets lost in the chaos of your everyday. High school doesn’t prepare them. Neither does college. It is time to make it a priority before it comes back to bite you in the derriere.

First, some facts you should know:

It is becoming increasingly common for young adults to move back home. According to recent US Census Data, one in three Americans between 18 and 34 are living with family.

Among the Class of 2018, 69 percent of students took out student loans, according to recent student loan debt statistics.

A study conducted in 2016 noted 60 percent of masters students felt stressed about their finances.

Yikes, right?

For a subject so overwhelming important to the daily lives of our kids, we need to make education of basic finance and banking a priority. Here are five topics you must discuss before they graduate.

1. Credit

Did you know no credit is sometimes just as bad as bad credit in a creditor’s eyes? On the flip side, did you know using over 30 percent of your credit balances could lower your credit score? Believe me, there should be an entire high school course in credit. It is confusing! But, necessary. Bad, or non-existent credit history, can be the difference between getting approved or declined for that new apartment, or even getting that dream job   — yes, many employers check credit history!

I suggest setting an appointment, or two, with a local banker to go through: what credit is, what it isn’t, how it can help you, and how it can sometimes destroy you if you don’t use it correctly.

There is a reason I put this first on the list.

Recent graduates often have the urge to sign up for that store credit card when they turn 18. Why not? They are going to save 30 percent off this purchase! They don’t realize the damage until they see the statement and realize they have reached their credit card max in just a few months.

Who do they run to?


Or, they ignore it and it gets sent to a collection agency.

Have the conversation with your kids and set expectations.

 2. Student loan debt

Yes, this is part of the credit conversation, but it deserves its own section for a reason. Kids don’t understand the implications of having student loans. Sometimes they don’t even know how much they have applied for. We can’t expect our kids to understand this process. They are excited about going to college, after all! Some might even expect their parents are going to pay, when, in fact, they have no plans to.

Be transparent. Write the numbers down. Make sure they understand this comes with a monthly payment after they graduate. Estimate how much that will be. Explain how many hours of work it will take to pay it. Explain that they have to have a job!

Maybe a traditional four-year college isn’t the answer. Give them options about what is available. Local community college might be perfect for their situation and be much more affordable.

Also, I can not stress enough the importance of scholarships! Have them apply for scholarships!

3.  How a checking account works

You spend $13.96 and $13.96 comes out of your account. It isn’t as easy as this. Keep going… Tommy checks his balance first thing in the morning. It’s $150.00. He spends $60.00 on a new physics textbook. Then he sees a sweet pair of sneakers for $65.00. Basic math tells Tommy he should have $25 left right? He checks his balance and it shows -$25. A gas station charge of $50 shows up. Wait, Tommy got that gas yesterday! Sometimes it can take vendors days to process payments. Not only are you -$25, you are going to get a $35 overdraft fee because you don’t have overdraft protection set up.

Don’t just teach your kids how to write a check. To be honest, checks are dead. Teach them how to keep a register! And, how to make smart purchasing decisions, which leads us to our next topic.

4.  Budgeting

Often times, kids live in the moment, day by day. Future planning isn’t their forte. It’s not their fault. It’s biology. The prefrontal cortex just hasn’t finished developing! So, we teach them and hope it sticks. Then, we teach them again.

A budget is a financial plan. It considers what you earn and how you spend that income on bills, food, clothing, etc. This way, you don’t overspend and have to pay overdraft fees, which are $35 a pop by the way!

You can find tons of free budgeting worksheets online.

5.  Saving money

Hopefully you were able to carve out a smidgen of savings from that budget you created with your kid because  — emergencies happen. Your tire blows, you break your ankle while jogging the dangerously broken sidewalks in Charleston, SC, or God forbid, you break your phone screen, and you didn’t think the insurance plan was worth it.


  • Starting off with just 10 percent of each paycheck will add up quickly if you actually SAVE it.
  • Have the deduction to savings happen automatically from payroll during direct deposit so you never see it hit your checking account.
  • Hide your savings account from your online banking view so it doesn’t entice you to spend.
  • Nickname it something you are saving for —  New House Account, New Car Account, Financial Freedom Account to encourage the savings.

Nothing beats learning from experience and observation. Your kids watch you. Are you living by these simple rules? If not, start.

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Either way, set aside some time to talk to your kids about these five simple steps before they graduate because it will get much more complicated very fast. Taxes, anyone? Understanding money basics makes it a whole heck of a lot easier.

So, pull out a pen and write down these five items. Grab your phone and set aside some time with your kids, print resources for each topic and add to a folder. Be a teacher. Be a parent. Be their very best advocate, so they can live their best life!

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More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis


  • Laura E Baize

    Financial Consultant, Analyst, author of "Sons of God, Daughters of Men." A writer with an obsession with travel, wellness, and financial freedom.

    Laura has over a decade of experience in the financial industry, leading teams in areas of client experience, risk, and compliance. She received her Master's degree in Social Sciences from the Citadel where her coursework focus was Intelligence Analysis. Writing, capturing moments, traveling, and creating is what she loves to do. Her goal is to help you navigate this chaotic world, love your space, get lost in a book, love your body, and love where you are in your life.