This post was written by Jana Lynch, author of the wonderful personal finance blog Daily Money Shot, where she discusses money, family, relationships, pop culture, and everything in-between. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.
As a parent, nothing worries me more than what will happen to my child once she leaves my house. Particularly as an adult. All the typical questions—will she eat, will she pay her bills, will she do her laundry, will she get hurt—go through my head. But what really worries me is thinking about her career. What will she do for a living? (Right now she wants to be a mermaid, so you can understand my concern) Will she even find a job? Will she have to move back home and will I have to charge her rent?
Lots of questions. And she’s 6. I may have some issues.
However, as a parent, the only thing I can do is hope that I’ve prepared her enough. That I’ve set a good example with money. That I’ve taught her a work ethic. That I’ve taught her basic life skills to survive outside of the comfortable walls of my house. You know, the typical things that parents do.
But, in addition to that, there are other things that we, as parents, can do to help prepare our children for the future. And they don’t have to cost a lot of money either. For instance:
1. Register a domain name for your child. In the ever increasing online world, it’s going to become more common that instead of having paper resumes, more and more people are going to highlight their professional work on a website or blog (I do this now. I don’t have a personal website but I do have a portfolio on Pinterest. Thanks to Carrie from Careful Cents for that tip). To ensure that your child has the ability to do that, buy a domain name. Preferably in your child’s name, if it’s available. It’s only about $10 or so a year to own the name and this will ensure that, when the time comes, your child will have a professional sounding website to show to potential employers or clients.
2. Create a professional email address. If your kid wants to have an email address like firstname.lastname@example.org to use with her friends and family when she’s in middle and high school, there’s nothing wrong with that. But using that as contact information for an employer or client? A surefire way to ensure that your child does not get that job. However, if you’ve created a backup email account, with a professional sounding name (preferably the child’s name, or a variant of it), then your child can keep the crazy one for friends and employers will take your child seriously. Plus, it’s free to do! Note: make sure that if you’re going to enter the child’s birthday, that he or she is old enough to have their own account.
3. Establish a bank account. You don’t even have to tell the child that the account exists (that’s what we’ve done. We have a secret savings account for our daughter). But having the account allows your child to take part in learning about his or her finances. When you take the child to open up the account, it’s a great teachable moment. And when he starts earning his own money, having his own bank account will open up numerous discussions about being financially responsible. Additionally, having a bank account in his own name from a young age makes it easier for him when he gets his first “real” job since so many employers require direct deposit. This is basically free, except for the money that you use to open the account. Note: when looking into an account for your child, make sure you research and that the account type you select does not have minimum balance requirements and that there’s no annual fee.
4. Encourage a work or volunteer history. These days it seems like it’s not enough anymore to just be a “normal” kid. More and more colleges and employers are looking at extracurricular activities, work histories, and volunteer activities that their applicants engaged in before making a decision. In addition to giving your child a leg up these kinds of activities can help give them perspective they otherwise wouldn’t have. To give your kid an advantage, encourage her to start a business (a la the Babysitters Club) or volunteer at your church or synagogue’s library. Take your son with you on charity walks or give him a part-time job working for you (if you work for yourself). Suggest that your child participate in afterschool activities that are civic minded. Research if there are internship opportunities for high schoolers. While there’s nothing wrong with sports, and I am a huge advocate for them, kids need more than just athletic activities. It broadens their horizons and gives them a more well-rounded resume and makes them more attractive. And in many cases, the cost of these experiences is essentially free, save for the gas it costs to get there.
While none of these are a guarantee that your child’s future will be perfect, they can certainly give them a good head start.
Readers, are there other inexpensive actions to help your child’s future? Which ones do you use?
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