Walking the Fine (Green) Line:
Encouraging Financial Accountability with Your College Student
It can seem like an inevitably awkward conversation--the money talk with your college student. But taking the time to get on the same page about financial expectations is more than a good idea; it can save both you and your student from a heap of heartache (and unnecessary debt) later on.
While most undergraduate college students graduate with an average of $3,262 in credit card debt, your student doesn't have to become a statistic. With a kind but candid heart-to-heart and a plan you form together, your student will be on his/her way to not only avoiding post-college financial regret, but also establishing healthy, lifelong habits.
Step one? Set up an appointment. Avoid the lecture-in-the-kitchen approach, which usually only heightens defenses, defeating the purpose of this communication: to get on the same team. Approach your student not as a recent high school graduate, but as a young adult. This is a great opportunity for him/her to both grow as a person and to practice healthy independence.
Take the stance of a listener. Ask questions that can give you insight into your student's perspective on finances and then--just listen. You'll begin to identify his/her personal spending priorities, potential money pit-falls and perhaps areas where--with a little creativity--money could be stretched to go further. (i.e. make coffee at home and bring it with you instead of stopping at the local coffee shop every morning.)
"Do you know how much money you have to spend each month?" The question may seem too obvious, but many college students away from home for the first time may not know the answer, especially when it comes to regular expenses versus discretionary.
That's why it's important to create a budget together. For a little jump-start in this process, visit Baylor's financial literacy website, CashCourse, which can provide your student with helpful resources such as a student budget calculator and money management tips for "living within your means" along with information on many other related topics.
After you and your student have agreed on a budget, set a time to review and reassess (perhaps a couple months into a new semester). Encourage your student on the goals that were met, and talk through the things that didn't go so well.
And don't forget that you have backup! Baylor's financial aid counselors (254.710.2611 or Financial_Aid@baylor.edu) are a great resource for students taking control of their finances.