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Managing money a key lesson for students
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Back to basics: A summer School Life series

About this series
Throughout the summer, we will be taking a closer look at life skills new graduates — and, for that matter, everyone else — should know. These could be doing a load of laundry, balancing a checkbook or being organized. Look for these stories every Monday this month.
July 19: Washing clothes
July 26: Taking notes

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As freshman college students leave the nest, parents have one thing on their minds — money.

Though some students take on financial responsibilities in high school, college spending truly tests the pockets.

"One important thing is for young students to learn to manage their own money, and a way I’ve found for that to be effective is to set up a checking account that the parent has access to," said Ron Bracewell, managing partner for Bates, Carter and Company accounting firm in Gainesville. Bracewell talks from experience, having helped his son at the University of Georgia to manage his expenses, and has advised several clients to do the same.

"Sit down, determine what your needs are going to be with the meal plan, rent and fraternity dues and then estimate entertainment money," he said. "Set up the account on a monthly basis, and parents should work with them closely for the first few months to live within those means. That’s the challenge for all of us."

Bracewell also advises students who receive scholarships and grants to pay attention to where the money goes.

"I think it’s important for the student to be involved in that transaction," he said. "It’s important for them to gain an understanding of tuition and the funding source and how that’s paid. They also have to be ready for unusual expenditures, like an expensive textbook at the beginning of the semester."

As students track their spending, free online programs and software can help them organize expenses and find the areas where they’re spending the most.

"Bill pay and various online accounting programs are excellent, but it all comes down to habits and routines," Bracewell said. "You can have all the technology in the world, but unless you have the method for using it and accurate information, it’s hard to make decisions about your spending."

Students entering college also should be careful about credit card offers bombarding their mailboxes. In a poll of 1,000 teens conducted by Junior Achievement and the Allstate Foundation, about 74 percent said they should have a credit card by age 21. However, more than half said they weren’t sure how to effectively use credit, and 25 percent said they didn’t budget their money.

"One of our main focus areas is to teach students about financial literacy," said Rebecca Stoll, Georgia’s Junior Achievement senior manager of marketing. "A lot of misinformation is out there, and it’s a critical life skill that is not necessarily mandated by state education."

Stoll suggested that students take a personal finance class or brief seminar on their campus to learn how to effectively balance their budgets.

In the poll, teens said they don’t have crucial money management skills, and 83 percent said they wished they had learned financial basics before they graduated high school.

"We try to incorporate games and discussions in our lessons to make it interesting," Stoll said. "Take a class or talk to others about their personal experiences with budgeting and credit, and try to see the personal relevance to you."

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