Money & Career

How to teach children to avoid debt

How to teach children to avoid debt

Author: Canadian Living

Money & Career

How to teach children to avoid debt

One in three Canadian retirees carries some kind of debt, according to Statistics Canada -- and many of them were certainly helping their kids through education and even the first years of their working lives. After all, no parents want to see their children start their adult lives burdened by thousands -- or tens of thousands -- of dollars of student debt.

But that doesn't mean parents should sacrifice their own financial health for that of their children. Even worse, kids will never learn how to manage money if their parents are paying their way. The best solution? Teach the next generation how to avoid taking on a big debt load in the first place. Here are four ways to encourage your kids to stand on their own by avoiding unnecessary debt and learning the value of money.

1. Prepare your children

Before they start university -- even when they're just starting to consider where they might go -- sit down with your children and explain how you will work together to pay for their education. For instance, you might pay for their first year but expect them to pay for the remainder, or you might offer them free room and board at your home while they cover other costs.

Be clear about what those monthly costs might be and how much money they might earn -- after taxes -- at a part-time job, as well as what student loan payments after graduation will realistically look like compared to their potential salary. These clear discussions will prepare them mentally and encourage them to look for ways to offset any future student loans. Remember: Parents aren't obligated to pay for their children's education.
2. Start an RESP

By creating and contributing to a registered education savings plan (RESP) for your children -- up to $50,000 each -- you become eligible for additional government grants to top up the account and increase your savings for education. Plus, as with RRSPs and unlike regular savings accounts, you don't pay tax on money earned while in the account.

Overloaded with gifts for the kids from family members? Encourage them to contribute to the RESP instead -- and have teenagers put some of their earnings from part-time jobs in the account -- and your children could end up with a significant contribution to their higher education costs.

3. Research financial alternatives

Have a comprehensive look at scholarships, bursaries and financial awards offered by universities, government and other institutions. While some awards are based on grades, others are aimed at students with specific interests, backgrounds or fields of study -- and even an award of just $200 can make a significant dent in textbook costs.

But don't do all the work for your kids -- research financial assistance and fill out applications together. Any money they earn will have that much more value when they did the work themselves to get it.

4. Find part-time work

We know you want your kids to focus on school, but a part-time job provides not just income, but a valuable education in and of itself, both in the reality of the working world and in the value of a dollar.

While you're helping your kids figure out ways to pay for school, you'll be paying down your consumer and household debt (or increasing your retirement savings), setting a great example for your kids -- and leaving yourself open to help out when they have a true emergency.

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How to teach children to avoid debt