Soon, thousands of New Jersey teenagers will participate in an important rite of passage: they will head off to college and leave home for the first time. Their parents, in addition to adjusting to an emptier nest, will also have to face another major hurdle. They will have to decide whether and how to financially support their children through their college years.
Some parents feel it is better to have their children manage their own finances, usually by getting a debit or credit card. Others prefer to keep stricter control over their children’s spending.
Each option has its own pros and cons, and at the end of the day, it really comes down to a family decision. However, it is important to note that credit cards can be risky if they are not used properly. It is easy for students to quickly rack up unmanageable debts if they don’t understand how to use credit responsibly.
Students should be taught never to charge more than they can afford to pay off in a single month, except for in emergencies. They also need to remember to live like the poor college student they are – fancy clothes, nice electronics and regular dinners out should be considered out of the question.
Students cannot qualify for credit cards on their own until they are at least 21 years old. However, they can get a credit card if they have a qualified co-signer who can prove that they have sufficient income to pay the balance. It’s important for co-signers – who are usually the parents – to understand that they will be on the hook if the student fails to make the required payments.
The college years often set the track for the rest of a person’s life. By focusing on good financial habits now, parents can help their children avoid problems later in life.
Source: Daily Reporter, “Credit, debit or no card at all? Parents face choice as they prepare to send kids to college,” Dave Carpenter, July 11, 2012.
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