Right now, you may be experiencing the mixed emotions of sending a child to start their first year of college. And while you’ve probably ensured that they have the basics, such as sheets and towels, one important learning objective you may have not prioritized was to increase their financial responsibility.
Fortunately, even if the semester has already started, or even if they’re in their sophomore or junior year, it’s never too late to start developing a personal financial empowerment plan for your child.
Consider setting up a bank account with ATM access and a debit card. Although electronic banking has eliminated the need for check-writing in most situations, it’s always good to order a couple of books of checks and teach your student how to write and record them (and balance their checkbooks). They probably won’t write checks while living in the dorm but if they move off-campus their landlord may require checks for rent payments and security deposits.
This can be a good time for your child to start building a credit history as he or she learns to manage credit card payments. Be sure to emphasize the importance of paying off credit card bills each month to avoid building up debt or excessive interest expenses. Some credit cards allow monthly balances to be automatically withdrawn from your child’s bank balance, which can reduce the risk of late payments.
Budgeting will help prevent overspending and accumulating credit card debt during college. Review the income and resources your child will have access to, along with potential expenses. Discuss what expenses you may be able to assist him or her with and what costs he or she will be responsible for.
If your child is covered by your health insurance, it should cover any medical situations that may arise at school, although you may need to pay out-of-network costs. To avoid scrambling in an emergency, evaluate the surrounding area for nearby medical facilities, including local urgent care, an emergency department, and a potential primary care doctor to assist with health needs.
If your child will remain on your healthcare plan, and you haven’t yet had them waive their college’s medical insurance plan coverage, see if there’s still time to do this now, since these plans can add several thousand dollars to their yearly tuition bill.
If your child has applied for financial aid, any grants, work study awards or direct and indirect student loans they’re eligible for will usually show up on their online college account before each semester starts. Sometimes these offers have acceptance deadlines so make sure they review and accept the aid they want before the deadline ends. If you already paid for the semester before the financial aid offer was accepted, you may get a refund for what you paid out of pocket, or the excess may be applied to the spring semester.
Chances are, you’ll be paying tuition and living costs not covered by financial aid and scholarships. You may pay these costs all at once or through a monthly payment plan, usually through electronic transfers from your bank account. But rather than you paying for these costs yourself, consider transferring the amount into your child’s bank account and have them make the payments themselves. Doing this will encourage them to take financial responsibility for managing college costs and give them a greater awareness (and appreciation) of how much you personally are contributing to their higher education.
Since your child will be an adult, executing certain legal documents such as a health care proxy or durable power of attorney may help in emergency situations.
HIPAA laws protect the medical privacy of your child. A health care proxy can provide you with authorization to help your child receive medical care in emergency situations. It’s possible the college may have its own medical release form as well. And a durable power of attorney authorizes you to help with financial or legal matters on behalf of your child. An attorney can help draft these documents in compliance with local state laws.
Joelle Spear is a financial advisor located at Canby Financial Advisors, 161 Worcester Road, Framingham, MA 01701. She offers securities and advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. She can be reached at 508.598.1082 or at [email protected]
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