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What College Freshman Don't Know

One of my daughter's babysitters is heading off to college in a few days. I worry that she's like so many 18-year-olds -- a bit naïve with money -- and will graduate with piles of debt. When I asked if her parents had the big "money talk" with her, she said her mother mentioned wanting to discuss budgets but then put off the conversation. (That was a big mistake Mom.)

After hearing that there wasn't going to be a money talk, I found myself a bit conflicted. I desperately wanted to give my babysitter advice, but it's really not my place. Plus, she didn't ask for my help. But this is what she did share with me and what I would have told her if she were my child:

  • She wants to talk to Mom
As I mentioned, my babysitter didn't ask me for advice. But she did give me the impression she wants some counsel from her mother. In fact, she would prefer it over handouts since she's eager to be as independent as possible. She even wants to get a job on campus so she won't feel financially dependent on her parents.

My take: Perhaps my babysitter isn't as naïve as I fear. I like her desire to get a job and not count on Mom for all her spending cash. Too bad her mother doesn't know it.

  • She doesn't want a credit card
Not all college students want credit cards. My babysitter plans to only use a debit card since she doesn't want to be tempted to charge things she can't afford.

My take: Can't fault her for acting conservatively. But what my babysitter doesn't realize is that this is her last chance to qualify on her own for a Visa. Thanks to credit card reform, as of February she'll have to get a parent to co-sign her application. And if she did get some plastic now and use it responsibly, she could get a head start on building up a strong credit history.

  • She's clueless when it comes to credit scores
When I mentioned that she start building up her credit history if she got (and didn't abuse) a credit card now, my babysitter didn't buy it. She figures if all college students are kept from having their own Visa lenders will take that into consideration and not penalize them for lacking a high credit score.

My take: Okay, so she is naïve after all. Lenders are many things, but sympathetic to those with credit challenges is not one of them. That's why I wish colleges would teach a seminar on credit scores at freshman orientation. Otherwise, my poor babysitter and her friends are going to be in for a big surprise once they graduate. Not only will they enter the work force with loads of student education debt, but they will also get charged more when they try to borrow money for other purchases, including a car.

Do you think I should have sat down and explained how credit cards and credit scores work with my babysitter? Or, should I just email this blog post to her mom?

Classic College Campus Scene image by anne.oeldorfhirsch, CC 2.0.

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