I remember my first job: babysitting. It was pretty good money, but most of it went toward things like clothes and activities. None of it went into savings, because I was still young and had all of my adult life to worry about that. Right? When I got my first real job working in a clothing store, I spent a pretty good share of my earnings on other frivolous things, like movies, and loaned money out (read gave it away since teenagers don’t usually pay back what they borrow). How much did I save? Not nearly as much as I should have. Still, I lived in a time where student loans and tuition weren’t huge problems. Because I had good grades in high school, I never worried about getting scholarships and grants that would take care of the cost of a college education.

It is a whole different story for my kids. One of the things that I am trying to impress upon my son is just how difficult paying for college is going to be, and with the lower rates of getting a good job within the first six months of graduation, I want him to have the money he needs to make it. My son is fiercely independent, emphasis on fiercely. While he would always be welcome to move back into our house after college, I don’t think he would, no matter how bad things were. He has his own PIMYU account, checking, and savings, but now I am trying to get him to think about the first step of saving for after college.

Kids these days have the option of opening either a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k). No matter how young they are, getting kids to taking saving seriously is a huge obstacle because they are not accustomed to having to think about their financial future. It is difficult to think about something that far in the future. It’s even harder to believe that putting $5 into an account every week is going to make a difference. If your kid is only 17 and already putting money into an account, $5 can actually make a huge difference by the time they get out of college.

First it establishes a pattern for saving. They can adjust the amount that they save as they earn more, but the goal is to never have it be less than that initial amount. If the student starts that account as a babysitter, dog walker, pet sitter, lawn care worker, or any other odd job at 13 or 14 years old, that $5 a week earns interest for the next decade. When they get out of college it is enough to help them through those first months.

Take the time to help your child research the IRA options. There are many brokers out there who will be happy to open an account with no minimum because it is assumed that money will increase over time. It’s a very important lesson and helps teach kids about the importance of saving for the long term.

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