Sunday, May 5

Picking a bank account for your kid

Picking a bank account for your kid
| By Debbie Dragon, U.S. News & World Report

If you want your child to learn the value of a dollar, their first bank account is a good place to start.

There have been quite a few complaints from both parents and the personal finance industry concerning the lack of education children receive about basic financial matters throughout elementary school, high school and even in college. Parents are responsible for everything their children learn about money issues. While that is a reasonable and expected part of parenting, financial education can be difficult to teach if parents themselves are unsure of how to manage their finances.

One of the cornerstones of a child's personal financial education is a bank account. A child taught the value of saving rather than spending has a good early foundation in smart money management. As a responsible parent, you should consider what matters in a child’s account just as you would consider which bank provides the best options and most benefits for your family finances.

When looking for the right bank and account type for your child, do a little research before making a decision. It's tempting to just sign up for another account at your present bank, but it may not be the best option. You owe it to your child and to yourself to compare what else is out there.

Here are the factors to think about:

Nearby branches: You may not consider this factor as important in the grand scheme of things, but having a brick-and-mortar location to bring your child can make a world of difference in the lessons you are trying to reinforce. A child may initially have some difficulties parting with their birthday cash or allowance money, but getting to take a special trip to the bank to deposit his or her money can help cement the money principles you are trying to teach and create an excitement about savings that online banks cannot provide.

Account fees: Teaching your child about saving will also involve teaching about the cost of different services people need to pay for, but it is better to find an account that has no or low fees for account maintenance. It’s not fair to have all of your child’s savings wasted on exorbitant fees. With so many changes in the banking industry, a free bank account is getting much harder to find, but it is worth the time to seek out reasonable fees.

Interest earning potential: Child accounts established for savings may offer a higher interest rate than other types of accounts. Consider that even a little bit more in interest can be well worth it in the long run as your child continues to save. Interest should not be the only factor you consider, but it should be one of the priorities.

Encourage the act of saving: Kids may be thrilled with the idea of starting a savings account or they may roll their eyes and complain about losing their cash. No matter what their initial reaction is, it is important for parents to keep reinforcing the value of saving money. Help a child to first realize that all of the money does not have to go into the bank by establishing a percentage that should be saved from each allowance or monetary gift.

Let your child have access to some of their own money for purchases they want. It will help them learn the value of a dollar and gain a better understanding of how the money system actually works. At the same time, you should be reviewing monthly statements with your child to show them how, in addition to the interest they are earning, their money is beginning to add up.

Establishing good financial practices: Young children tend to enjoy the perks of a lollipop or other treat with each visit to the bank, but as a child gets older they can continue to learn age-appropriate lessons concerning personal financial matters. Throughout adulthood, these early lessons will be the foundation for your child’s overall financial life.

As a parent tasked with teaching children about the importance of careful financial management, keep in mind that another key lesson kids will take away is their own parents’ personal financial strategies. It is important for parents to provide the education and real-world experience with financial matters, but it is also important to give your kids a good example to follow. Parents who do not maintain their own finances and who do not make savings and budgeting a priority may be teaching lessons that fall on deaf ears.

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