Most recent American college grads never had a personal finance class yet will soon know the dizzying, dangerous euphoria of a regular paycheck. You still have time to give a grad a priceless gift: tools, tips and words of money wisdom on investing, debt and building real wealth.
Investing: One of the best ways to encourage investing is to give your grad money with a string attached: he or she must invest it. I like Acorns.com, a well-designed app that makes investing easy and automatic.
The recently graduated son or daughter can use your gift to start an Acorns account, then choose to invest in one of five diversified exchange-traded fund portfolios from conservative to aggressive. From there, your grad can continue to invest spare change rounded up from credit or debit card purchases. Balances under $5,000 do incur a $1 monthly fee.
I also like the idea of opening a brokerage account and funding an initial amount to put into companies that interest the young person. Personal involvement encourages increased saving and investing — and the desire to learn more about markets and value companies.
Planning: Nothing beats a personal coach for learning the tips and habits to succeed. This holds especially true in personal finance.
Why not start your grad off with a personal investment coach? The Garret Planning Network, to cite one example, offers a questionnaire to help you choose an adviser.
Last year I also wrote about the best ways millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) can cut debt and save more, tips and links to helpful resources for easy ways to track spending and find good financial advice.
Saving: Set up a savings account with the money that you give your grad and continue to encourage ways to save. That’s the idea behind Digit.co, a relatively new online service that analyzes income and spending habits and determines when a saver has excess money. Digit sets those small amounts aside into a savings account that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. insures.
Digit also has a no-overdraft guarantee and your young adult can request that money be transferred back into a checking account at any time. To offer its service for free, Digit does keep any interest earned; considering that most savings accounts today offer almost no interest, this remains a good deal for now.
Reading to create wealth: To help hone skills needed to handle money, get out of college debt and start on the road to becoming wealthy, give one or more of my favorite financial books:
■“I Will Teach You to Be Rich” by Ramit Sethi. It’s hugely popular with millennials and anyone who wants to learn about personal finance without the boring parts. Sethi’s easy-to-read and approachable work includes chapters with such subtitles as “Open high-interest, low-hassle accounts and negotiate like an Indian” and “How to save hundreds per month (and still buy what you love).”
■“The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko. This book is a great guide to the habits that build wealth, based on the concept that wealthy people don’t become wealthy simply through acting (and spending) that way. Stanley and Danko’s seven simple rules are a must for anyone just starting out and earning a first real paycheck.
■“You’re So Money: Live Rich Even When You’re Not” by Farnoosh Torabi. Weaning from benefactors (if you’re a parent, that’s you) and learning to live on an entry-level income may shock your grad’s preferred lifestyle. But living within one’s means is indispensable to avoiding even more debt on those new credit cards.
Torabi, a savvy financial reporter and 20-something herself, gives grads sensible advice to help adjust to a new level of disposable income, maintain thrift and still enjoy some of the finer things in a new adult life.
Barry Glassman is the founder and president of Glassman Wealth Services, a fee-only investment management, financial planning and wealth management firm in McLean, Virginia.