BBB Financial Advice for College-Bound Students (and Their Parents)

August 22, 2014

Between packing for college, buying school supplies and recovering from sticker shock, parents may be too bogged down to remember to pass on some pointers regarding finances as their child leaves the nest. To help college-bound students build a foundation of sound financial habits, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers the following advice for parents to bestow on their freshman. 

"College years are the time when many young adults establish habits they will carry with them for the rest of their lives and while it's important that they tackle academics, it's critical that they also learn everyday skills - such as how to manage their money - in order to become fiscally responsible," said Joan Coughlin, vice president of marketing & communications  for the local BBB. 

The BBB recommends that before parents wave goodbye to their college-bound students, they sit down and discuss four key rules for managing personal finances: 

Be responsible with credit cards. 
According to a U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) survey, two out of three college students report having a credit card, of which about two-thirds are responsible for paying their monthly bill. Overall, freshmen responsible for their own cards had average credit card balances of $1301. 

While having a credit card is an important first step for a college student to start building a credit history, parents need to stress the importance of using credit responsibly. This includes having a minimal number of credit cards, paying off the balances every month and keeping a reign on spending. 

Start saving money now, even if it's just a small amount every month. 
Developing good saving habits early on will help a college student reap the benefits throughout his or her life. Aside from the inherent benefits of saving money, starting early means taking advantage of what Albert Einstein described as one of the most powerful forces in the universe: compound interest. 

Pay your bills on time. 
U.S. PIRG found that more that 40 percent of college students who managed their own credit cards had paid bills late or paid at least one over-the-limit fee. Credit card companies often charge late fees as high as $40. Add to that any accruing interest, which can be upwards of 30 percent, and college students will quickly see how much can be lost by not paying a bill on time and in full. 

Aside from the immediate benefits of paying bills on time - specifically, reducing needless spending on fees and interest charges - it is an important way for college students to begin building a healthy credit report. 

Guard your personal information. 
Young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 are one of the groups hit most often by identity theft. An annual survey by Javelin Strategy and Research found that, in cases where the victims knew how their ID was stolen, 79 percent of the time it was stolen by someone they had contact with. Parents should encourage their students to shred unnecessary documents that include personal information such as Social Security or bank account numbers and keep a close watch over credit and debit cards and checkbooks.

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About BBB 
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2013, people turned to BBB more than 132 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.5 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at BBB Serving Central Ohio was founded in 1921 and serving 21 counties in Ohio, is one of 112 local, independent BBBs across North America.