Question: What do you recommend I get for my grandson who is in his third year of college and has no idea of how to manage his meager funds? William, Amherst, MA
Answer: It's a wonderful thought. He'll also be graduating before you know it, and a grasp of personal finance basics could really pay off. His meager funds will hopefully grow.
One thought is to encourage him to take a financial literacy class, if his college or university offers one. I think it should be a required class before graduating, but at least it's a course offered on more college campuses these days. The career development center on most campuses is another useful resource. He can download college-based budget templates there, too.
I would also think about how your grandson learns best. I had a friend who could absorb lectures and conversation with ease but always struggled with learning from books. In that case, talking with finance professional could be useful. I would ask around and find a certified financial planner (CFP) who has or had college-age youngsters. I would set up an appointment or two for the CFP to go over the financial basics with your grandson, from student loan repayment to budgeting to savings. I assume there would be a charge, but it would be well worth it if it gets your grandson off to a good financial start. Most professionals I know enjoy passing on their knowledge to the younger generation.
If your grandson does better with books or you want to supplement an appointment with some reading material, I would consider The Random Walk Guide to Investing by Burton Malkiel. It's a short, simple book with advice that will hold him in good stead, especially once he has a 401(k) or similar retirement savings plan at work. My book, The New Frugality, deals with everything from a thoughtful approach to finances to the basics of budgeting.
The online world is useful, of course. Perhaps he could spend some time at Mint.com, a money management site with an orientation toward budgeting and debt reduction.
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