Promising to boost your kids’ financial IQ may not be your standard New Year’s resolution. But a successful outcome could pay dividends for years to come.
Need some ideas for resolution making? I asked four financial education experts what one goal they would recommend for parents — or their children — to accomplish in the coming year. Their picks:
• Don’t make money a taboo subject — Elisabeth Donati, creator of The Money Game.
“There are three important things that all parents need to pay attention to when raising financially astute and happy adults. First, set the best example possible so your children can see what financial responsibility looks like.
“Second, give your children money with which to practice managing, saving and investing — otherwise they’ll never have the opportunity to learn by doing.
“The third and final thing is to talk to your children about money so they don’t grow up with no clue about what to do with it or worse, believe that there is something inherently wrong with talking about money. The more open and honest conversations you can have with your children about the economy, family bills and budgets, credit card debt, purchases and investments, the better prepared your children will be as adults to handle their own money wisely.”
• Don’t drag your feet when applying for college financial aid — Mark Kantrowitz, senior vice president and publisher, Edvisors.com.
“The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, should be completed as soon as possible after Jan. 1 of the senior year in high school and each subsequent year in college. Do not wait until the student has been admitted by a college or federal income tax returns have been filed.
“Several states have very early deadlines for state grants, some as early as Feb. 1. Other states and some colleges award grants on a first-come, first-served basis until the money runs out. Filing the FAFSA earlier will help you avoid missing deadlines, thereby maximizing the amount of aid for which you are eligible.”
• Set up a bill-paying routine — Ben Woolsey, director of marketing and consumer research, CreditCards.com.
“This advice isn’t always taken to heart by young credit card holders, and that is to have laser-like focus on always paying your bills on time or before the due date. Paying card balances in full is an important habit to develop while young to optimize financial health and avoid debt, but even that admirable behavior will be for naught if the bills are paid late.
“Paying late even once on a credit card can have an immediate and lasting impact in terms of fees and loss of promotional rates. Multiple late payment behavior can establish a negative credit profile, degrading credit scores — reducing available credit lines and increasing rates on future accounts. It’s also important for young people to pay their rent, electric and cable bills on time as well.
“In the digital age, this task has been made much simpler with calendar reminders, financial management apps and online bill pay, but even if paper checks and snail mail are used, it’s critical to become very familiar with the due dates for all of one’s monthly obligations and take them very literally.”
• Manage inheritance expectations — Richard Orlando, author of “Legacy: The Hidden Keys to Optimizing Your Family Wealth Decisions.”
“Resolve to discuss with your children how your core values, purpose and faith align with your financial legacy. Explain how you hope your family’s resources will be used by future generations, and ask your kids to contribute their thoughts and ideas.
“Ask questions to get the conversation started: Does money bring happiness? What positive things can we, as a family, do with our money, while still growing our assets?”
Finally, here’s my resolution suggestion for the coming year: Use everyday activities with your children as an opportunity to talk about money, such as when watching television commercials, grocery shopping or buying new basketball shoes. You would be surprised how many learning opportunities about money come from ordinary experiences.