Help your graduates get off to a financially savvy start

By Monica Padineant, For the reporter

Summer is the season of transition, especially for families of recent high school graduates heading off to college. For 18 years, they have grown and learned together. Now, with new levels of independence, new feelings of anxiety can also arise.

As a family-focused financial advisor, one of the biggest concerns my clients talk about is money. At this point, there is likely to be a plan to cover the costs, whether through savings plans, financial aid or part-time work. But the reality is that many children will be living on their own for the first time, and that comes with new financial responsibilities.

The good news is that you can help your graduates get off to a financially savvy start.

Show them the money

Many teenagers may know that there is money earmarked for education, but fewer know how much it actually costs. Giving them an inside look at the costs of tuition, fees, housing and more can open their eyes to financial reality and maybe even reinforce a sense of responsibility to make the best use of the investment .

Help them create a budget early so they know where the money is coming from and where it’s going. If there’s a way to get them involved in the physical act of paying bills on a regular basis, that’s one more way to get them to take it seriously.

Let’s talk about temptations

Dining out, shopping, entertainment, and the ever-present credit card applications on college campuses are just a few items that can tempt newly independent students to spend beyond their means. One way to reduce impulse buying is to talk about it in advance.

You may already be paying for an on-campus meal plan, for example, and your student should know that off-campus restaurants are not covered. That no-interest credit card might sound great at first, but when the interest kicks in, things change. To avoid student spending that can get out of hand, take the time to discuss what’s reasonable and what responsibilities they have before going out on their own.

Foster real-world experience

Part-time jobs, joining clubs, and volunteering in the community are great ways your student can enhance their college experience, and many offer opportunities to learn financial responsibility as well.

A weekly check can make a monthly budget less intimidating and build a sense of pride. Finding an organization to volunteer with can help students develop a deeper sense of their values. And many clubs offer opportunities to get involved in their own financial operations, which can teach additional money management skills. This kind of real-world experience can enhance a college education with skills that will last a lifetime.

Don’t be afraid to register

Finally, while your student needs space and time to adjust to this new experience, you are much more experienced when it comes to finances. Don’t be afraid to periodically check in on money matters. This can take the form of monthly family finance meetings to review expenses and review budgets, or simply discussions when the kids come home from vacation.

Going to college is an exciting time. It offers a wealth of opportunities and a whole new set of responsibilities. Money is one of them. Discussing it with your student can help them understand its importance. And that’s a lesson well learned.

Monica Padineant is a Kirkland resident, certified financial planner and principal of Laird Norton Wealth Management. She can be reached at

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Jennifer Ahdout

Jennifer Ahdout

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