How to Build Your Child’s Credit Score When They Don’t Have One YetJune 3, 2019
From the 2007 Housing Crisis, 2008 Stock Market Crash, and now the student debt crisis there is no surprise parents nationwide are looking to educate and protect their children on finances. Many people during these national events lacked basic financial know-how and self-discipline. Gen-Xers and millennials, starting to have children of their own, worry that a new generation could be seduced by the allure of instant gratification and the digital disconnect between earning and spending money. What as a parent can you do for a young child to teach them finances and help them learn the basics? Here are some basic tips to help your children build healthy credit and learn to use it responsibly.
Start With Basic Financial Life Lessons
Whether your child is 2 or 22, financial education is the key to building good credit and financial independence. Erin Lowry, business blogger and author of Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together, explained in a recent podcast that her parents taught her about delayed gratification early in life. “I was really encouraged from a very young age to start making money, especially if I wanted something,” Lowry said.
Saving for discretionary purchases is a lesson many young children can miss. A growing number of young adults also don’t have realistic expectations of their future earning power. Lowry grew up in a different reality. She explains that her first successful enterprise was at age 7, selling doughnuts at a family garage sale. Before she could feel too excited about her earnings, her father adjusted the amount she made by taking out the cost of the doughnuts and wages for her sister. He explained that the money left was her profit. “He actually took the money,” she remembers. “That is something that has stuck with me forever.”
It’s never too late to teach lessons like these. Resources for financial education are abundant in print and online, and parents can refer adult children to Lowry’s book and her blog, brokemillennial.com. For younger children, check out this post by Dave Baldwin, “The Five Best Apps for Teaching Kids How to Manage Their Money.”
Three Tips for Establishing Good Credit for Your Children
TIP 1: Make your child an authorized credit card user.
There is no minimum age to most credit cards, so you can add your child as an authorized user as early as you like. The best part is you do not have to give the child access to the card, just keep it in a safe place. It’s imperative that you use the credit card wisely and are able to pay the minimum monthly balance on the card. If you are unable to make payments on the card that could negatively affect your child’s credit history too. Try to only use the card for reoccurring balances like gas or food shopping.
When your child comes of age to have their first credit card in adulthood, they will benefit from your history of timely payments and reasonable use of credit. It will also benefit them if they need a loan to attend college and you as a parent may not need to be a cosigner.
TIP 2: Add a FREE credit freeze to your child’s credit report until they reach age 18.
Contact each of the three reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, to request a freeze in your child’s name. In some states, the freeze may need to be renewed every seven years. A credit freeze is fairly simple to implement and will protect your child from identity theft, which in turn will protect their credit history and credit score. You can also lift credit freezes when your child is ready to apply for credit.
It may seem like an extreme to put a credit freeze on your two months old credit but it will only protect them in the long run. Identity theft to children is an unfortunate reality in the United States. According to CNBC, more than 1 million minors were victims of identity theft or fraud in 2017. What may be even more surprising is that data breaches are just as much a problem for minors as for adults, if not more. According to CNBC, only 19% of adults were fraud victims compared to a staggering 39% of minors due to data breaches. This can happen to your child, but it can be prevented. You have the power to protect your children from falling victim to fraud. Not to mention a credit freeze is free thanks to recent laws passed by the federal government, so it won’t even cost you or your family a dime.
To learn more about protecting your child’s credit and preventing identity theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information site.
TIP 3: Set up a secure credit card account for your child to use.
A secure credit card is similar to an unsecured or the “normal” type of credit card. The only major difference is that a deposit is used to open a secured credit card account. The amount of secured credit card deposit is usually the credit limit of that secured credit card. Now, as long as all payments are made on time and in full at the end of the designated period you’ll receive your deposit back. Additionally, that fact that all payments were made on time and in full means that you should see that reflected in your credit report and you may even see that reflected in your credit score. If your child fails to make on-time payments or fails to pay the full amount of the card this could hurt your child’s credit instead of helping it.
If you choose to give your teenager a secured credit card you should be certain that you discuss the responsibilities of card with them. Make sure your child is committed to paying on time, staying within the credit limit, and using the card for only appropriate expenses you have discussed in advance. This is a great responsibility to provide a teenager because it really gives them the ability to start developing good financial habits. Whether that is putting an alert in their cell phone when the payment is due or if that is handwriting it on a calendar. Additionally, your child will have the opportunity to really learn to budget and live within their means. These are fundamental finance lessons and habits that will help to lay the groundwork of what could be a very financially responsible young person.
Regardless of what ways you choose to teach your child about credit or build their credit, know that your outlook on finances can easily become your child’s. If you find yourself scared of money, it’s likely your child will too. So often children learn relationships based on what they see their parents doing, so be sure that you’re laying the right framework for them to be successful. It doesn’t have to be an overly complex and if you aren’t sure that what you are teaching them is correct try looking locally for classes or programs. You should be able to find some financial literacy courses either online or within your local community. These can really help your child to familiarize themselves with common financial terms and create good financial habits. Good financial habits include how to save money, charitable giving, and even what taxes are. No one knows your child better than you and no one wants them to succeed more than you, so be sure to give them the right tools and resources to do so.
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