All around the country, families are loading up their cars for the great exodus back to college. Amazon, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Target, and other retailers are in the midst of one of their busiest times outside of the holidays, and the National Retail Federation is projecting that total back to school (K-12 schools and college) spending will reach almost $83 billion this year. With traditional and digital wallets opening up everywhere, it’s a great time to reinforce the ideas of cyber security and fiscal responsibility with your children. Here are seven tips for you to pass along (and follow):
Keep it to yourself — from a shared dorm room to the library or coffee shop, chances are your kids will be out and about with their devices. Keep track of phones, computers, and other devices and don’t “lend” them out to others. Remember to password-protect access since most devices have information on them that should not be shared.
Be creative (in your passwords) — while it may be easier to remember your password if it’s your birthday, it’s also much easier for cyber thieves to guess. Instead, pick a password that combines upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and special symbols. And shake it up — use different passwords for different sites, so if one password is hacked, the potential damage is contained. Remember to track and store your passwords in a safe place. Using a password manager app can simplify the process, making effective security easier.
When the phish come biting don’t reel them in — this is a prime time for online scams trying to get money or information from you and your children. Don’t respond to emails or “urgent” phone calls asking for sensitive information or claiming you owe money. Banks, credit card companies, the IRS, and other organizations don’t ask for sensitive information in that fashion. If you are not sure, look up the official number for an organization on their official website and initiate the call yourself.
Be discreet — remember (and remind your kids) that once something is posted on the internet, especially a social media site, it lives there forever. This means family, prospective employers, future roommates, you name it, may form their first impression of you by what they see posted. So, unless it’s something you’re okay with the whole world seeing — whether it’s a photo, a joke, or an opinion – don’t post it.
Stick to it, a budget that is — this may be the first time your child has been on his or her own, and it’s a great time to reinforce independence and responsibility. Together, list out sources of income (money you may provide, loans, scholarships, etc.), and projected expenses, so you both have agreed-upon spending expectations. Make it clear that you expect them to be responsible for their budget. This will help your college student understand the value of planning and responsible money management.
Bargain shoppers unite — there are usually plenty of discounts offered to college students in stores, restaurants, and other vendors around campus. Taking advantage of those savings can really add up for your student, helping keep to his or her budget more easily.
Just say no — building up a credit history is important and maintaining a credit card with a prompt payment history can help. But be aware of credit card offers designed to appeal to college students, offering attractive sign up gifts, and what may be seen as “free” money. These offers can sometimes be too tempting and may lead to large credit balances subject to late fees and high interest rates. Make sure your child understands the mechanics of credit cards and the incremental cost of paying over time. Review the different card options and features and help him or her choose one card with a reasonably low spending limit and potential rewards, points, or cash back.