By: Coleman Fox
My parents opened a checking account for me the day after I went on my first date. They wanted to make sure I learned how to manage my finances wisely if I was going to be spending money more frequently and filling up a gas tank in the coming years. Until I was 17, I sat down with my Dad at the end of every month and balanced my checkbook. It took two years to convince him this was unnecessary because of online banking. However, by the time I went to college, my parents (and I!) were confident that I learned how to manage my money properly. For some teenagers, this may take a few weeks. For others, it may take years.
So, when should you open a checking account for your child?
There is no right answer. Every parent has a different opinion, and you, of course, know your child best. When you think they’re ready to handle the responsibility of budgeting, open them an account, and be prepared to help guide them.
Budgeting is the cornerstone of any financial plan. If you can’t budget, you can’t save and invest. There is a myriad of apps you can download to help your child plan their budget, but often, experience is the most effective teacher. There is a level of humility that comes with spending more money than you have, and for some people, this is the only way they’ll learn. Start small when the stakes are not high. Use the checking account as a teaching tool, and watch your child develop an appreciation for handling money responsibly. Learning this skill early will allow your child to be ahead of the curve as a young adult.
Opportunity cost is the intangible value of something that is lost when you choose another path. It’s one of the first lessons your child will learn once they’ve created a budget. Your child may decide that a video game they can play with their friends is worth more than a shopping trip. The opportunity cost is the loss of a day out and the feeling that a new outfit can bring. They’ll have to prioritize what they want to spend their money on if they want to stick to their budget. It can be a really great way to check in with your child and see what they value.
Managing personal finances is a big responsibility. It’s likely one of the first steps your child will take on their path to independence and adulthood. The purpose of opening a checking account for your child is to let them develop the ability and confidence in their personal finances, and depending on your child’s lifestyle and personality, you can set certain restrictions to act as a safety net.
Most banks have online apps that make it easy to monitor where your child is spending money. Banks will also allow you to set restrictions on their account limiting the number of withdrawals they can make or how much they can spend at one time. Think of these restrictions as training wheels, they’re only there to prevent a hard fall, they don’t stop the bike.
Whenever you decide to open a checking account for your child, your encouragement and guidance will be crucial. Building their confidence and learning these lessons will help them grow into financially responsible adults, and it will give you peace of mind when they’re ready to leave the nest!
If you have any questions about setting your child up for success, don’t hesitate to reach out!