by Anthony ONeal

Oneal HeadShotWhen it comes to debt, student loans and credit cards can be detrimental to the financial success of young adults. The devastating mistakes students make in college can haunt them for years and keep them from stepping into the next phase of life with confidence. Share these five tips with the students in your life to help them build smart money habits and start off their college career on the right foot.

  1. Graduate college debt-free. Graduates leave school with an average of nearly $40,000 in student loan debt, which means payments of $444 per month for ten years. Being saddled with these payments can keep your child from fully taking the leap into adulthood after graduation. Consider applying for scholarships, grants, work-study programs, financial aid, and even community college. Employers won’t care where they started; it’s where they finish that counts.
  2. Avoid credit cards. College students are bombarded with free t-shirts and pizza in exchange for credit cards, but all the free stuff is never worth the interest they’ll pay. And let’s face it, credit cards make it easy to buy what we want, when we want it. But this can ruin your child’s financial future. Instead, talk to your child about the importance of paying cash and only buying what they can afford.
  3. Make smart choices. The decisions your child makes today, good or bad, can affect them for years to come. Their choices can either move them closer to their dreams or deep into debt. From social media posts and purchasing habits, to choosing a major and the friends they make, your child will be faced with small and large decisions daily. Encourage them to take all their choices seriously and not give into impulse.
  4. Have a plan. Before going to college, it’s important for your child to have two written plans — one for their life and one for their money. Have them start by setting goals for the semester, and make sure those goals align with their budget. For example, if your student’s goal is to buy a new laptop, their budget needs to reflect that goal. These plans will evolve over time, so your child should revisit them every semester, before the semester begins.
  5. Focus on saving money. A recent survey showed that 70 percent of college students feel stressed about personal finances. That’s why saving is so important. The first thing they should save for is a $500 emergency fund. Because we all know, it’s not a matter of if an emergency will happen, but when it will happen. Next they should save for big purchases like a car, spring break or even a new cell phone. If your child wants to have money, they need to learn to save money.  

With the ever-increasing debt crisis in America, it’s never been more important for teens to learn the dangers of debt and how to manage money properly. By applying these tips, your child will be equipped with the knowledge they need to make smart decisions in college and beyond!

*Since 2003, Anthony ONeal has helped thousands of students make good decisions with their money, relationships and education to live a well-balanced life. Now Anthony has joined Ramsey Solutions to spread this encouraging message to students nationwide as a Ramsey Personality. His national best-selling book, The Graduate Survival Guide: 5 Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make in College, released April 2023. You can follow Anthony on Twitter and Instagram @AnthonyONeal and online at or