2023 Hawai‘i College Guide: Financial Wellness
(Sponsored) Experts at HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union offer some tips as you send your child to college.
If college is in your child’s future, planning is key. And, after the past three years of a pandemic in which many of us lost jobs or experienced unexpected financial setbacks, it’s especially important for you to make smart money choices. Here’s what the experts at HawaiiUSA FCU have to say about starting off on the right financial foot, for your child’s education and your family’s financial well-being.
Sit Down and Talk Finances as an ‘Ohana
It’s never too late to have a transparent conversation about finances with your children. Involving them, even at a young age, makes it a team effort. Talk about basic financial literacy skills and be open about your general financial picture, as this will guide their day-to-day living when they go to college. Make sure your children understand how credit cards work—if that’s a tool your family would like to utilize—and why it’s important to have a good credit score. If they’re planning to work through college to help with expenses, talk about the differences between a checking and savings account and how to use them. Follow up with a quick visit to HawaiiUSA FCU to open up accounts for your children.
Brainstorm Ways to Save Money in College
Your conversation with keiki should focus on setting financial priorities for when they actually start college. You can do this by creating a college-life budget together with your kids. A financial coach at HawaiiUSA FCU can help with that. Creating weekly meal plans and researching student discounts are good places to start. Other money-saving ideas include carpooling, using the bus instead of driving a car and borrowing books from the library instead of buying from the college bookstore. Also, splitting family memberships for things like Costco, Disney Plus, Netflix and Amazon Prime can help as well.
Keep Track of Your Money
You’ll need to keep track of your kids’ spending to make sure they’re meeting their monthly budgets. HawaiiUSA FCU and other financial institutions have digital banking, which gives real-time updates on your accounts, including your debit and credit cards. And the HawaiiUSA mobile app connects to other bank and credit card accounts so you can see all of your finances in one place.
Research College Scholarships & Grants
This should be an obvious step. The coronavirus rescue package that passed in 2020 included emergency relief for higher education to help ensure learning continues during the pandemic. By March 11, 2021, $39.6 billion had been distributed. You can stay up to date by visiting www2.ed.gov.
Another option to look into is HawaiiUSA FCU’s $2,000 college scholarship. You’ll need to be a primary HawaiiUSA member for at least 12 consecutive months prior to applying, be in good standing, and be enrolled as a full-time student during the upcoming academic school year. Prior recipients of the scholarship can reapply. The application period is from December through February.
To increase your child’s chances of earning college scholarships, make sure they have a professional online presence as colleges may look them up online. Start early and get involved with the community, apply for scholarships that are only available to local students rather than the whole country, and don’t ignore scholarships with smaller financial awards as they often have smaller pools of applicants.
Explore Alternate Options
Even after federal assistance, scholarships and grants, college tuition can still be a lot to take on. If you’re an eligible homeowner, opening a home equity line of credit, or HELOC, can be an option to help with tuition and other college-related expenses. Here’s how it works:
With a HELOC, you can borrow against the equity in your home. The home serves as collateral for the loan and approved borrowers can withdraw funds from a predetermined credit line to pay for expenses like college tuition, books and more. Pros of a HELOC include lower interest rates, repayment on the amount borrowed (not the entire credit line at once), a one-time application and a manageable payment schedule.
Partner With Your Local Bank
Let’s face it—it’s easy to worry when you’re a parent, especially if your child is moving away from Hawai‘i for college. Using a trusted local institution like HawaiiUSA FCU allows you to continue your credit union membership on the mainland through shared branching, other credit union branches, ATMs and co-op ATMs.
Financial Checklist for Families
1. Start a joint bank account with your child. If you’re still supporting your keiki financially, it’s a good idea to have a joint account so you can deposit money easily and monitor spending activity and balances.
2. Get a debit card. This way, your child will have convenient access to his or her checking account and can utilize tools like spending alerts and budgets.
3. Set up digital banking. Keeping a budget requires tracking and managing your money. With digital banking, you can get online statements, easily transfer money and keep a close eye on your child’s spending. Your child can also deposit checks online (think birthday money, part-time work or graduation checks) and utilize security features such as blocking and reporting a card if it’s lost or stolen.
4. Load your children’s debit cards to payment apps. Make it easier for them to shop at the college bookstore, eat at the cafeteria or hail a ride via a mobile wallet.
5. Consider a credit card. If you feel your kids are ready and have a good grasp of how finances work, you can get them each a credit card to start building their own credit now.
6. Leverage available resources to help your child monitor and understand the factors that impact their credit score, such as My Credit Score powered by SavvyMoney® and available as part of HawaiiUSA’s digital banking and mobile banking app.