It’s graduation season! Many college graduations have already taken place, high schools are finalizing the details of their commencement ceremonies and I’m getting ready to get on a plane to go celebrate my youngest son’s college graduation. It’s a very exciting time!
What will I give my son? I’ll probably take him shopping for a few things for his new apartment or clothes for his new job. I may give him a little cash so he can go out and celebrate with his friends. Nothing formal — just some help getting him started on this next chapter in his life. A few family members will probably send him a check. That’s quick, easy and always appreciated.
When you’re starting out on your own, money is probably the biggest thing you’re worried about. A gift that helps alleviate those worries is likely to be both needed and appreciated the most. But if you’re afraid that cash will be spent on frivolous things instead of things they truly need, here are some alternative ideas that will surely be appreciated:
- Purchase gift cards to Bed Bath & Beyond, Target or Walmart so they can buy furnishings, kitchen items and more. They can pick out exactly what they like and need.
- Pay their cell phone or car insurance bills for a month (or more if you’re feeling generous!)
- Give them gas or grocery store gift cards because these are the two biggest expenses they’re likely to have.
- Help out with a college loan payment for a month or two.
- Update their wardrobes with a Macy’s, Kohl’s or other department store gift card because they’re likely to need interview or work clothes. The jeans they’ve been wearing to their classes probably won’t be appropriate any longer.
- Invest in an IRA in their name to jump start their retirement savings. It’s never too early to start saving for retirement! You can continue to contribute for birthdays and holidays.
- Start them out with a few shares of stock. This can be a fun (and profitable!) lesson in the world of investing. Encourage them to pick a brand they know and love so they’ll be more likely to follow how well the stock does.
Take advantage of this important milestone event to impart some advice on smart, responsible financial habits and the need to make saving a priority. As parents, if financially able, it’s nice to ease your children into adulthood by encouraging them to pay for as many things as possible. Taking on everything all at once — rent, car payment, car insurance, food, gas, clothing, health insurance, cell phone, cable, etc. — may be too much for some new graduates and their paychecks. Sit with them and discuss what’s realistic. (I’m planning to pay for my son’s car insurance and cell phone bill for a few months to ease his transition away from parental support!)
Whatever you decide to give, know that it will be greatly appreciated!