Financial guidance for college students from a new empty nester

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal shed light on financial advice for college students.  As a newly designated empty nester who just sent my last child off to college this fall, this article caught my eye.  I’d like to share my own personal experiences with some of the suggestions presented in the article.  I should also disclose that my children are opposites when it comes to money.  One is a saver while the other is a spender, and both present their own challenges.  Here are five suggestions along with my thoughts.

  • Write it down: Write down what you earn and what you spend. I don’t know about your children, but my kids don’t write down anything!  Their lives are consumed in apps and instant data. I’ve suggested that they use Excel or Google Sheets to help but I’m not getting through.  I do have them using a banking app to track their income and their spending.  It’s not perfect but it’s a start.
  • Get a part-time job: I’ll be frank here… colleges will tell you “College is your full-time job.” College doesn’t look like it did 30 years ago. Students are now immersed in their chosen degree from the start to make sure they like what they have chosen. This also usually requires levels of “work” or “internship hours” within the field during the semesters. That can make it really difficult to work part-time. Both of my kids work anywhere between 5-10 hours a week, just enough for some extra money but also not too much to put extra stress on their already tight schedules. There is a balance to find for each one.
  • Needs versus wants: Can I just say that Tik-Tok and I are not on speaking terms right now?  I think I spent at least a full day explaining to one child that her dorm room doesn’t “need” what was on her list for move-in.
  • Live off campus/housing expenses: My first child entered college during a COVID year, so he opted to live at home his first year and then he moved to an apartment his second year.  My second child opted to live on campus her first year.  My children have different personalities, and these choices match up but there are pros and cons to each.  Looking back, I wish we would have pushed harder for our oldest to live on campus his first year so that he had that experience.  I know there is a huge financial difference, but I think the social aspect of dorm life would have benefitted him.
  • Don’t forget to have fun! One never gets this time back in their lives. These young, formative years are where you learn and grow as a human.  My advice is to have solid, strong people in your corner to help along the way.

A college experience significantly shapes a young person both socially and financially, fostering personal growth and learning while also presenting challenges.  If you have a child or children in college or entering soon and would like to discuss the topics above in more detail, please reach out.

Link to original article: 25 Financial Tips for College Students



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