The road to and through college is lined with excellent opportunities for you to teach your child about personal finances.

The same road is also filled with plenty of financial pitfalls, and it is important for you to provide your child a roadmap on how he or she might stay on the straight and narrow path to financial success.

College Parents of America is committed to supporting you in all aspects of your parenting; helping you to help your child become money savvy is one of our key goals as an organization.

Like many aspects of parenting, it is never too soon to start to teach fiscal responsibility. Building a foundation for reading literacy begins, for many families, in the pre-school years. We recommend that the laying of a similar foundation for financial literacy should begin no later than middle school.

Learning about money is comparable to learning a foreign language or to training in a new sport, such as skiing. The earlier one starts, the better the learning sticks, and the more natural a child will feel when he or she returns to a concept that has already been established.

Introducing savings, budgeting and comparative pricing models to an 11- through 13-year-old is probably going to be much more effective than introducing those same ideas to a 14- through 16-year-old, and it is certainly going to be better than trying to teach the concepts to a student who is about to leave or who has already left for college.

But financial literacy learning should stop at middle school. High school students are fully capable of understanding more advanced notions of banking, financing and investing. Since the teaching of these concepts is often lacking at school, this is where you as a parents can play a critical role in helping your child to develop a comprehensive personal financial plan, to read financial news or stock reports in the newspaper or on the Web and even to explore college financing options.

If you are looking for resources to assist you with this effort, the FIRM program, offered through College Parents of America partner Ecount, might come in handy. FIRM stands for Financial Independence, Responsibility and Management, and it features a free, self-directed educational curriculum to help teens practice and develop smart money management and spending skills for life.

While many of you are already parents of current college students, it is never too late to start to learn important financial habits. Throwing in the towel is not an option, especially when you and the young adult in your family have housing leases to negotiate, insurance policies to compare, taxes to file, loans to take out or consolidate, good credit to establish and maintain, and a post-graduate savings plan to develop.

Here also, a College Parents of America partner might be able to help. We offer families discounted access to College DreamCard, a parentally supervised, prepaid Debit Mastercard that enables students to purchase food, gas, textbooks and other necessary items, all with a piece of plastic that you provide, load and monitor. With plenty of weighty financial decisions to make, it might be a comfort for you as a family to know that the essentials are budgeted for and covered.

Here’s wishing good luck, and good fortune.

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