SAN ANTONIO – As kids head off to college, parents give them the usual advice about studying hard, staying safe and eating healthy.
USAA financial planner JJ Montanaro said they should add money advice.
"College is a great time to learn all kinds of things, and not all of them have to do with books and academics," he said.
For freshmen, in particular, college is when they get a real-life lesson in Money 101.
Olivia Duron, now a junior at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said her freshman year was filled with more carefree spending.
"The next year, you figure it out and like, 'Wow, I shopped too much, and ate out too much,'" she said.
Fellow student Kristen Martinez said her parents really didn't sit down to discuss finances when she left for college.
It's been an eye-opener.
"It's definitely different from being at home, because your parents are there to support you," she said.
Most college freshmen never have taken a course in financial planning. So Montanaro said it's up to mom and dad.
Some type of allowance can be a good way to teach budgeting habits.
"Hey, you've got $200. Let's talk about where that money is going to go," Montanaro said. "All of a sudden, you've got a budget mapped out on paper, and as a parent you get to watch and see how they execute that."
A recent USAA survey showed half of parents intended to send their student off with a credit card. Convenience was a big reason, but Montanaro said learning how to manage credit and start building credit can be a big benefit after college.
But, he cautions, credit cards need to come with a serious discussion.
"It should range from, 'Credit cards are not a way to extend your lifestyle, they are a convenience,' to the idea they should be paid off every month," he said.
Students may also find themselves going to the doctor without a parent for the first time in their lives.
Montanaro encourages teaching them basic terminology like co-pay and deductibles. Once they are no longer dependent on a parent's insurance, basic knowledge will help them become smart healthcare consumers.
With the average 2016 graduate leaving college $37,000 in debit, Montanaro said students should understand and appreciate the finances behind their college degree.
"One of our points of view is that you shouldn't graduate with any more than your first year's salary in debt," he said.
All of these discussions should help lay the foundation for making sound money decisions later in life, when they really are out on their own.