My youngest graduated from high school last Saturday. It was a celebration of the beginning of his voyage as an adult, growing in independence and responsibility. We hosted a party for his friends, as well as ours, as is the local custom. As expected, many mentioned that we are entering the “empty nest” stage of life and wondered how we were going to adapt. Others interjected with the cry, “I wish ours would empty! (Enter child’s name) moved back after (enter college name) and we cannot get him/her to leave. We want our life back!” I have no doubt that you know one acquaintance that could be either a parent, saying the above, or the child it describes. How can we, as parents, help young people prepare? Or, if we’re young, what can we do to spread our wings and leave the comfort of our parents’ nest?
- Financial independence is a process that begins when the child is young. Rear your children with a sense of independence and self-sufficiency. Have them take a course in personal finance. Involve them in family discussions about money. Empower them to make good decisions.
- Help them establish a credit rating. They need one to sign a lease, contracts with utility companies, and others. Current credit legislation requires parents to co-sign on a credit card, if your child is less than 21 years old. Yes, you will be responsible for their charges, if they do not pay. Moreover, the card cannot be switched to solely the student’s name when they turn 21. They have to apply for their own credit card and the cosigned card needs to be canceled. An alternative is to apply for a college card, using summer or school earnings as evidence of capacity. Finally, have the student authorized as a user of the parents’ card, stipulating they pay their charges. These all help create a credit score.
- Set a deadline for how long they can be on your insurance policies. Health care legislation now allows coverage on the child, through their parents’ policy, until the age of 26. Most automobile policies require the child to be enrolled in school to continue on their parents’ policy. Set a goal for their independence.
- The same goes for cell-phones, except there is no age limit. The parents, therefore, must set a point in time when their beneficence ends. Encourage your child to share a plan with roommates or friends to reduce costs, in order to help the transition.
- Reduce the advantages of your child remaining at home. It may seem harsh to ask them to pay rent, utilities, or part of the food bill. It may be difficult to get them to take on the responsibilities of home; such as cooking, cleaning, and maintenance. Yet, if you have to push them out of the nest, you must. Make sure you live your lives and stop centering your lives on your adult children.
- For gifts, purchase productive durables for them; toasters, microwaves, coffee makers, knife sets, dishes, and other items required to set up a residence. They’ll get the hint, while a barrier is removed.
- Get a job. Get a job. Get a job. Write your resume and share it, in order to improve it. Target your resume toward each job opportunity.
- Do internships in your field, in order to establish a professional identity. Ask the members of your university faculty if there is a course you can enroll in for credit. They may have a list of internship providers that can speed you on your quest.
- Purchase renter’s insurance, if your property and liability loss exposures are not covered under your parents’ homeowners’ policy. This will help establish your credit.
- Establish a budget and a personal net-worth statement to demonstrate the business-like management of your life and to motivate taking control of your life. Being able to demonstrate your business-like character is important when you apply for credit.
- If you are not living on your own, begin saving two- to three-months rent payments. This will provide the liquidity needed to pay your damage deposit, as well as your first and last month’s rent payments.
- Choose your roommates carefully, while making sure you are a quality roommate. The inability for roommates to adequately address financial issues, stemming from a myriad of causes, can create a negative financial situation that is a potential blemish on your record.
- Make sure you learn how to prepare meals, to reduce the costs of living on your own. Eating out is nice, yet it is an expensive way to obtain calories, especially the calories we drink.
- Learn where and how to shop. It may not be where you are accustomed to seeing your parents shop. Check out vintage clothing shops and thrift stores, particularly in well-to-do towns. Use coupons to save money on the things you typically purchase.
In closing, I know that children often need a place to transition between life’s chapters and parents will continue as the residence of choice. Regardless, parents’ sights should be set on creating a generation who have a life of financial success, thus enabling the parents to have a chance to live theirs.