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NEW YORK (
TheStreet) -- No matter what the age of your school-age child -- elementary, middle school, high school or college -- linking your back-to-school planning with a talk on money management skills is a good idea.
So says Suzanna de Baca, vice president of wealth strategies at
Ameriprise Financial(AMP - Get Report).
"As a parent, the list of lessons you want to instill in your children is likely endless," she says. "Wherever financial values may fall on this list, it's important to keep in mind that developing an understanding of finances and the opportunity to practice managing money from an early age through their teenage years can help your children develop a healthy relationship with money as they grow older.
There's no "silver bullet," de Baca says, but helping educate your children about finances early and often can go a long way in helping them become financially responsible adults.
To educate your kids about money -- no matter what their school age -- de Baca advises taking these steps:
Allow your elementary school-aged child to make a few simple financial decisions. It's not easy lecturing kids about eating vegetables or going to bed early, but teaching the value of money is easier if they have a chance to earn it and spend it, de Baca says. "They'll learn quickly about making trade-offs and saving their money for something they really want. Letting your children earn small amounts of cash in exchange for help around the house, and providing opportunities for them to make their own purchasing choices, is important."
Involve your pre-teen in family money discussions. When your kids approach their teenage years, plug them into family budgeting decisions. "Whether you're planning a family vacation or budgeting for groceries, consider involving your pre-teens," de Baca says. Bringing them into the budget discussion gives kids some skin in the game and teaches them about money and financial responsibility. De Baca advises planning a financial activity within a specific price range and doing some price shopping when planning the trip.
Suggest setting financial goals to your teen. Your teenage kids may already have a job and some money in the bank. If so, give them a few financial goals to reach before they finish high school. "Whether they wish to save for college, a down payment for a used car or a gaming console, learning to establish and track progress toward a financial goal can help them understand the basics of managing money," de Baca adds.
Discuss with your college-bound child the appropriate use of student loans. Once your child graduates high school and heads off to college, teach them the importance of using their student loans judiciously. "For many young adults, cash just seems like cash -- regardless of how they got it," de Baca says. "But using a student loan like a credit card can be very costly to students and the parents who have co-signed loans for them." She advises walking your child through the student loan process to see how they work and which loans work best for them. Have your child figure out what their monthly payments are going to be. That way they'll have a realistic view of their student loan financial obligations, de Baca says.