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Parents: When Your Kids Are College Bound, Don't Forget…

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Often, college marks the beginning of young adults' independence. For the first time, "home" and "where sleeping takes place" are not the same location. Meals are completely up to the person who needs to eat, not someone else in the household. Laundry becomes more than a chore and saunters right on into the necessity category. While bill paying may not be the norm, the concept of being fiscally responsible for actions (from textbook costs to housing, food to fun, clothing to cell phone plans) beings to take on a shade more solidity.

While many teens gain degrees of independence before college and do in fact know how to load the laundry without ruining anything, college inevitably signifies the severing of those apron strings in a more tangible way than any number of chores under a parent's roof could.

However, once it is time to pack them up and ship them off to their higher academia mecca, the oh-so-close-to-being-independent young adults shrink before your eyes into those little children struggling to carry oversized backpacks in squeaky clean white tennis shoes rushing out the door to catch the bus on the first day of school.

There's no level of readiness that can adequately prepare you for that moment emotionally. However, there are things that can be done to gear up and brace yourself and your fledglings for their inevitable responsibility changes.

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Get Ready Mentally

College may be that point where a child becomes an adult, but the changes don't just affect the college-bound. Parents might go through separation anxiety. Younger siblings are likely to experience an emotional upheaval as well. All of these feelings are completely natural and 100 percent normal.

Take precautions against breakdowns and talk as a family about what is happening. Be open about expectations (how often should parent-child calls take place, how frequent should you keep in touch, when can you expect to see each other, what dates are too important to miss). Make sure that everyone is on the same page and keep the lines of communication always accessible and open.

Get Ready Physically

Prepping for college is more involved than packing 101. Yes, those blossoming scholars will need to remember socks, towels, toothbrushes, forms of identification and school supplies. But, there are other things that can be organized prior to the move that can prepare both parents and older children.

Write out and keep copies of shifting responsibilities. Below are a few areas of discussion that frequently come up:

  • Dentist Appointments
  • Doctor Appointments
  • Eye Doctor Appointments
  • Banking
  • Savings Accounts
  • Chump Change
  • Cost Of Tuition
  • Cost Of Textbooks
  • Cost Of Recreational Activities
  • Car Insurance
  • Car Payments
  • Phone Plans
  • Food Expenses
  • Clothing Expenses
  • Medical Emergencies
  • Minor Medical Expenses

If the responsibility of payments are being taken over by the child, discuss whether payments are to be made directly to the company (if so, switch the affiliated names on the accounts) or to the parent (who will then still be the primary account holder).

It is often helpful to keep a list of important contact information easily accessible for both parties, and kind reminders may be necessary as your child begins shouldering so many changes (things like annual physicals and dental appointments may be pushed aside for more immediately pressing matters like cramming for a final; however, they should not be ignored and put off for four years).

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Get Ready Financially

Perhaps one of the most underprepared areas of this transitional stage for both parents and college-bound children is financing.

Beyond touching on the topics mentioned above, the reality becomes that in a brief amount of time, the parent may go from complete financial control to financial unpredictability at the mercy of their semi-independent child. Cutting off financial support could leave the child embarrassingly unprepared, but letting them have free rein over shared accounts could leave you high and dry without any warning.

Banking Concerns: One possibility for easing this particular concern would be to open a student checking account, but keeping the parent on as a secondary account holder. Another version of this option would be to maintain the banking situation that existed prior to college, but encourage the child to open an account at a local bank that would be completely under the responsibility of the child.

Building Credit From Nothing: Another hotly contended area is credit. Very few high school students have any sort of credit history, but in the four short years it takes to receive a college degree, those same no-credit-history kids will be faced with decisions that necessitate credit checks. That being said, credit card handling can quickly get out of hand and too-good-to-be-true sales tactics can easily hoodwink unprepared young adults. Discuss how credit works and if the decision is made to open a line of credit, suggest some reputable names and highlight what sets those cards apart from others.

Budget, Budget, Budget: Above all else, discuss ad nauseam how to budget. Demonstrate how the household budget currently works and run through scenarios of how it will change and what a college-student's budget might look like. Outline scenarios for monetary crunches and overview steps that can be taken by the student before the parent intervenes financially.

Teaching your children financial responsibility is one of the greatest lessons you can pass on. Not only will it ensure your own financial security, but it can embed healthy habits for the next generation. If you need assistance with preparing your finances or those of your college-bound child, speak up; go talk with your financial advisor or a personal finance expert.

It does take a lot of organization and considerable time to establish a sound financial foundation, but the results are well worth the effort. Take the time today to ensure the financial future of your family for tomorrow.

Posted-In: banking college college readiness credit cardsEducation Entrepreneurship Personal Finance General

 

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