Tips for Physicians: Raising Money-Smart Young Adults

February 2, 2015

Physician parents must continue to foster smart money skills in their children through the college years. Here are some tips.

I believe that all parents seek to have their children become financially independent as young adults. I have learned from both personal experience and from many others that there are some things that might help and some that might hurt.

This blog will focus on young adults, in college and beyond.

A previous blog discussed shaping both the parents’ and the child’s expectations about what type of college they would attend.  The next decision is often what course of study to focus on.

Here I think parents can help.  We gave our own children guidance on those courses of study that we thought would lead to trouble getting employed.  Although often joked about, many course of study that end in “studies” fall among these problem degrees.  Like it or not, a classic liberal arts degree in today’s economy has lost much value.  Many children with “good” degrees from “good” schools are doing work that never required any college education.

There are nonacademic reasons to go to college in the U.S.  It is a place of social maturation (perhaps) and a social cue/achievement by itself.  But not getting a practical degree may lead to much sorrow and financial hardship.  

Help your children to research the job markets for the various interests they have.  Explain the level of income and lifestyle they can expect, as well as how likely they are to get hired.  They may or may not be ready to hear it, but you can try. 

If your child insists on a course of study that you feel is a waste of time, perhaps you can choose to reduce your level of financial support as an early consequence.

I see some kids and families that then choose to use school as a job equivalent after college. 

Since there are “no good jobs”, the young adult may then choose to attend graduate school as a way to extend their time not working.  I’d be wary of this, and suggest that the child without a passion for a particular subject of study should instead go out and work in the real world for a while, even in the “wrong” job.  Work itself is a fine education.

I’ll close with a two book recommendations. The first is Charles Murray's "The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead." Written for his own young adult children, Murray is full of wisdom in how to succeed in life.  I highly recommend it for anyone over age 12. 

The second is Cal Newport's "So Good They Can't Ignore You."  Newport successfully argues that "following your dream" is a recipe for unhappiness and a lack of success.  He discusses that it is more important to develop skills and an occupation in which you excel.  This leads to success, satisfaction, and new opportunities. 

What are some ways you teach your children to be financially responsible?