Steel Advice: Help children learn good financial habits

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DEAR STEEL ADVICE: What age should a child get a savings account? Checking account? Credit card?


DEAR CURIOUS PARENT: A child should have a savings account when his/her piggy bank gets heavy and the stash of gift money begins to be crammed in the treasure box. A good rule of thumb is about 8 or 9 years old. Scout in advance for a bank in your area that offers passbook savings accounts and get your child in the habit of making deposits. The bank passbook is a tangible reminder that encourages savings. Introduce the checkbook concept in the mid- to later teen years. In a joint checking account you will be the responsible adult on the account, but the younger person's name can be imprinted on the checks. Confidence grows when the checkbook balances. There is no substitute for financial principles and accountability learned at home. The young person should have a credit or debit card when heading off to college. Banks require co-signers and credit limits on this type of plastic, however, most parents believe the cards are necessary to provide a safety net of emergency money. One caveat: Even with a credit or debit card, your son or daughter cannot rent a car until he or she is at least 21.

DEAR STEEL ADVICE: Now that Christmas is over I just want to say, "Please do not give plants (or flowers) for presents unless you know the receiver loves them!" I don't have luck with plants, and they die right away for me.


DEAR PLANT WARY: Consider the other person's feelings if you decide to tell him/her your green thumb has withered and plants die in your care. If the sender asks about the plant say it found a better home. Overwatering is usually the culprit so regift the plant before it dies. Word to the wise to those who send plants as gifts: Not everyone likes them.

Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice.

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