When should you start teaching kids about money? Is it ever too early or too late? Is there an ideal age for teaching financial literacy to kids?
Easy lessons for younger learners
The key to effectively teaching kids about money is to choose lessons and learning tactics that work for their age level. For example, the average toddler can’t understand why that big shiny nickel is actually worth less than the dinky little dime, but by tracing the outline of each on a piece of paper, she can begin learning the names of coins. And a game of backyard supermarket can help her begin to understand that there are prices associated with the things she wants.Decorating piggy banks together or engaging in some other fun financial literacy craft can teach your pre-schooler that saving can be fun. Financial literacy games can help elementary school children learn about making change and why we use money instead of trading for what we want. Middle school is a great time to begin giving kids an allowance and requiring them to portion their money into three “envelopes” — save, spend, and donate. This way they learn about budgeting, saving, and paying it forward.
Stepping up the game for older kids
By the time your child enters high school, you’re more seriously thinking about college savings. Hopefully, you’ve been building his savings fund all along. It’s time to show your college-bound teenager how much money you’ve already amassed toward college, and discuss their part in contributing to their education fund. This can be a great time to talk about investing and how it can help money grow. Older teens may even take on a part-time job to help them understand just how earning and taxes work.Teaching kids about money takes time and patience — and if your own money management habits haven’t always been great, you may need a shot of self-confidence. However, it’s critical that you help your kids learn how to manage money, just as you guide them in gaining other important life skills. Good money management habits learned in childhood can set the stage for children to become successful, financially secure adults.
Young adults starting out on their own often bump into a cold fact of financial life: Having no credit history can limit your options just as much as having bad credit does. Lenders, rental offices and insurance companies use your financial track record to judge how likely you are to pay debts and bills — and if you're a blank slate, you're generally considered a risk.
Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to quickly establish your credit record.
Start with a credit card
One of the quickest ways to develop a positive credit history is with a credit card, which lets you show that you handle small amounts of debt responsibly month after month. Even if you can't qualify for a card on your own, there are ways to take advantage of this credit-building tool:
- Recruit a co-signer. You might be able to get a card if someone with good credit — such as a parent — is willing to co-sign the application with you. You and your co-signer will be equally responsible for the charges you make, along with any late-payment fees or other penalties if you don't make payments on time. Also, late or missed payments can damage your credit score and your co-signer's, too. But every time you make a payment on time, it will shore up your credit history.
- Become an authorized user. Another option is to ask a family member or significant other to add you to their credit account. First, though, make sure their bank reports activity by authorized users to the major credit bureaus — otherwise, this won't help your credit score. And remember that here, too, your activity with the card can affect someone other than yourself.
Once you have a card, your behavior with it will determine how high, and quickly, your credit score rises. To keep moving in the right direction:
- Make on-time payments. The most common credit-scoring model is the FICO score, and it is based on a combination of factors. The biggest, making up 35% of your score, is your payment history. Pay all of your bills (not just your credit card) on time to keep your score rising.
- Keep balances low. Try not to use your card up to or near your credit limit; it looks bad to creditors if your cards are maxed out. A good rule of thumb is to keep your balances at or below 30% of your total credit limit.
- Don't over-apply for cards. According to a NerdWallet study that included an analysis of millennials' credit scores, many young adults are applying for the wrong credit cards and getting rejected — and that's hurting their credit, since excessive inquiries can make someone look like a bad credit risk. Apply only for cards you really want, and space out those applications.
- Check your credit reports. You have the right to get a copy of your credit report from each of the three major reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — once a year for free. Review yours and report any errors that might hurt your score.
It can be easier to build up good credit if you have a professional helping you. Consider consulting with a financial institution to help figure out the best way to establish credit and make other important financial decisions.
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It’s easy to blow your travel budget on full-price lodging. But these tips can help you save money on your hotel room so you can spend your hard-earned cash on something more memorable.
1. Focus your research
Start with sites like Kayak, Expedia or Priceline.com to get an overview of hotels in your desired area, but don’t rely on them to give you the full picture. Go on to research those hotels on your own. Search for promotion codes and perks such as free parking, breakfast or WiFi. And don’t neglect a hotel’s own website. Some chains promise the best rate when you book via their site.
2. Negotiate your rate
Once you know the lay of the land, select a few favorites and pick up the phone. Tell the hotel the price you found via other sites and see if they can beat it. Bargaining directly with the hotel yielded a better room or rate nearly 80% of the time, according to a survey by Consumer Reports.
3. Look for last-minute deals
Apps like HotelTonight can help last-minute travelers score low rates on quality hotel rooms. A recent search on the app turned up The Swissotel Chicago for $314 for two nights, with taxes and fees. That was more than $100 cheaper than the prices listed on other popular sites for booking hotels.
You can book up to a week in advance with HotelTonight. Other apps for last-minute deals include One:Night, which is currently available in six cities, and Priceline.com, which offers “tonight only” deals at 11 a.m. each day.
Last-minute bookings don’t work in every circumstance, though.
“If you’re traveling to a city for a conference with thousands of other people or to an area with limited hotel options, you’ll want to lock in a room well in advance,” says Flavie Lemarchand-Wood, a spokesperson for Priceline.com.
» MORE: The cheapest way to rent a car
4. Bid on a room
Bidding on a room can yield solid savings, but you need to be OK with leaving things a little to chance. Priceline.com’s “name your own price” feature lets you select neighborhoods and star levels when you bid, but doesn’t reveal the name of the hotel until your bid is accepted.
Priceline.com’s Lemarchand-Wood suggests using the site’s regular listings to get a sense of hotels available in your desired area and star level. Then, she says, be flexible.
“When you’re ready to make a bid, start where you are comfortable and try again” if your bid is rejected, Lemarchand-Wood says. “Don’t get discouraged.”
The downside of bidding: Your credit card is charged as soon as your bid is accepted and you cannot change or cancel your reservation.
5. Think outside the box
Hotels aren’t your only lodging option. You can rent a room, apartment or entire house via sites like Airbnb and HomeAway. And hostels are a great option for budget travelers, especially those venturing outside of the U.S. Don’t worry — you don’t need to share a dorm-style room with a mass of 19-year-olds (unless you want to). Most hostels offer a handful of private rooms with ensuite bathrooms.
6. Pick a different neighborhood
Staying in the heart of the city typically costs more. Save a few bucks by staying away from the city center, but near public transportation for easy downtown access. In Chicago, for example, you can book the Hyatt Regency O’Hare for $79 per night, according to a recent search on Kayak. The hotel is just a few minutes’ walk from the Chicago Transit Authority’s Blue Line, giving you easy access to the airport and downtown Chicago. By comparison, staying at the Hyatt Regency downtown will run you $125 per night.
7. Use your affiliations
Seniors, government employees, students, members of the military and AAA members may qualify for discounted hotel rates when traveling. Ask the hotel before booking or look for deals via websites such as AARP, Military.com and AAA.com.
Updated May 10, 2017.