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Do Your Kids Know How To Manage Their Own Money?


Philip Laube is a CPA in Ohio and the current Asst Vice President for Business and Finance for Muskingum University. He has a Masters in Information Strategy, Systems and Technology and publishes information on personal finance, technology and other issues both on Muskingum’s website and via twitter as phillaube. We are pleased to have him as a Contributor on

It’s time…  You’ve read about how to save for college, borrow for college, pay for college and more. But graduation parties are winding down and this fall… they start college.

Are they ready to be on their own? One thing many parents don’t think about is whether their kids know enough about their own money and how to manage it. It’s enough to be looking at some level of student loan debt, but good habits on finance can avoid the problems so many have. Too many teeter at the edge of bankruptcy. While some were caused by the housing crisis, many were pushed to the brink by bad spending habits and misuse of other personal debt.

So what can a parent do? Well talking to them about debt is always best. But what to say? Preaching the equivalent of financial abstinence is not likely to sink in. While many don’t think they are qualified, this isn’t rocket science. It follows some pretty basic common sense ideas. The basic principle: Don’t spend what you don’t have.

We should not be completely debt adverse, which I’ll talk about later. But this is a good starting thought. How do they get there?

  1. Know how much money they have – understand how checking accounts work. Know how to avoid fees. Never overdraw a checking account. Know that the online balance at the bank doesn’t always include everything.
  2. Spend smart – While we try to cover a lot of our students’ necessities, there is plenty of opportunity to spend on a campus or off. Things like buying your student a coffee pot and a nice mug can save a lot. Brewing your own coffee costs about 1/8th the price of that cup they buy at the coffee stand on the way to class.
  3. Credit cards can help with convenience or maybe emergencies, but are not a good debt vehicle. While it’s harder now for students to get a credit card, this is still an important rule to know.

There is good debt and bad debt. This article from the Christian Science Monitor sums it up nicely. I’ve seen too many students get in serious trouble or even leave college because they worked up a big credit card debt.

Approaching the conversation with some understanding and moderation may help. Also, see if their college offers sessions on personal finance and encourage them to attend. There are other sites such as the Feed the Pig project that have good information. Here’s to good spending…

Some useful links you may find helpful:

Feed the Pig

360 Degrees of Financial Literacy

Financial Fitness Ohio

Sallie Mae report on credit card use

New credit card act brings changes for students

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One Response to “Do Your Kids Know How To Manage Their Own Money?”

  1. I think there is also an element of ingenuity that college students must have to stay clear of overwhelming debt. Living at home, they can get used to replacing items that wear out or break. But living on a student budget requires more creativity to “survive” when money is tight. Learning how to share resources and take care of their belongings is also an important lesson in managing money.