Thursday, Sep. 16, 2010

Twenty-three years old

By now your child is pretty much what she will be when it comes to financial know-how. She should understand career choices and how hers will determine her near- and possibly her long-term earnings potential, and understand the consequences of living beyond her means. She should know how to access her credit report, make corrections to it and what actions will boost her score. She'll be coming off of your insurance policies soon and should have an understanding of the various types of life and property policies she'll have to choose from. "Teens think they'll never get sick and live forever," says Levine. She should be able to estimate future annual returns from a stock and bond portfolio (6% to 10%) and inflation rates (2% to 4%). She should be keeping financial records; paying bills online and contributing to a 401(k) plan and know how to dispute a bill or charge. She should understand the advantages of owning versus renting and what types of loans and expenses are tax deductible. In short, she should be an adult.

Advice: The good news is that most college graduates either get this stuff now or soon will. A college education correlates highly with financial literacy, Mandell says. The bad news is that only 27% of the population graduates from a four-year college, which leaves a lot of folks in financial peril. So, yeah, get her through college if you can. Otherwise, the most important thing you can do for your child at this age is cut her off from financial support. That will force her to come to grips with issues she'll be dealing with long after you're gone. Besides, research shows that kids who get taken off their parents' dole in a timely fashion, on average, pull in 20% more lifetime earnings.