Remember your first “real” job and the exhilaration of (finally) becoming an adult? Coupled with the anxiety and responsibility of, well, becoming an adult?
If you’re a parent, step-parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or mentor with a child embarking on adulthood, here are some suggestions for helping your protégés launch on the right financial foot.
Emphasize the importance of a budget. Brainstorm together the various expenses associated with working and establishing a household, such as rent, utilities, phone, transportation, insurance, outstanding debt, food, clothes, personal care items, haircuts, entertainment, etc. Help them balance those cash outlays with their expected income. Remember to account for savings and, ideally, investing, too.
“Share the wisdom of a ‘pay yourself first’ policy,” says Ann Marie Dingmann, senior marketing manager, PNC Market Activation Team. “Encourage them to build an emergency fund and to take advantage of a retirement savings plan, especially if they’re fortunate enough to work for a company like PNC that offers a match.”
Offer tips for building strong credit. Remember how tempting it was when you got your first credit card to charge everything in sight? Help them curb the temptation to spend more than they can repay each month by explaining the importance of building an excellent credit history. Consider sharing some personal examples from when your own credit history helped or hindered your efforts to borrow for a car, house or other big purchase. Encourage them to visit annualcreditreport.com every 12 months to check their credit report for free.
Remind them to safeguard themselves against fraud and identity theft. “The repercussions of having your identity stolen could haunt you forever,” says Dingmann. “The best weapon is prevention. Protecting passwords and credit card numbers, securing computers and phones, and being aware of the latest cybercrime schemes are commonsense measures everyone can take.”
Managing College Debt
Understand whom you owe. “Often, schools make applying for financial aid so easy that students and parents don’t even realize they’ve borrowed money; they may think all of the funding they’ve received is scholarships and grants,” says PNC National Sales Manager Maurice Benson. “It’s important to identify each outstanding loan, the source(s) of the funds and the repayment terms.”
Tally the total and monthly or quarterly obligation. Chances are your student will have multiple loans from various sources to repay. Add federal and private loans together to see the total amount of debt, along with the frequency and dollar amount of payments.
Create a repayment strategy. Benson generally recommends paying higher-interest loans or your private loans off first. “Federal loans tend to offer more repayment options. You can explore these and also consider consolidating and refinancing the loans, resulting in a single monthly payment plus the potential to extend the standard 10-year loan term,” he adds. “Remember, too, that student loans carry no penalty for prepayment, so paying more toward the principal each month can help pay the debt off sooner.”
Build a relationship with a college financial aid counselor, says Benson. “These experts are a free source of helpful information and advice, and may be able to save you years of repayment,” he notes. “They welcome the opportunity to work with students and parents; consult them early and often.