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Financial education for young adults
Northern Trust offers a comprehensive financial literacy curriculum to help families develop essential skills for managing wealth.

College-Bound Planning Checklist

Equip your college-bound student with the necessary financial skills, healthcare designations and insurance coverage.

After years of saving and planning, it is now time to send your child off to college. This transition marks a major milestone for your family and a significant step toward your child’s independence. Going forward, he or she will be considered an adult for most financial and legal purposes. The following serves as a checklist of items to discuss with your college-bound students.



Use this opportunity to further equip your college-bound young adults with critical skills to achieve financial independence.

  • If you have not already, create a budget to manage expected college expenses and discretionary spending, discussing as a family which expenses will be borne by parents and which will be the student’s responsibility.
  • Establish a checking account with a debit card in the student’s name and create a mechanism for you and your student to track spending habits and account balances.
  • Establish a savings account in the student’s name and discuss the importance of saving for emergencies or future purchases.
  • Reinforce prior discussions with your student about the importance of managing credit and the dangers of its misuse.
  • Determine whether to open a credit card account with a spending limit that you and your student determine appropriate, or purchase a prepaid and reloadable debit card. Use of a credit card account will help your student establish a credit history.
  • Discuss the perils of identity theft and how to safeguard personal financial data and documentation.
  • Discuss risks around social media use and how an online presence might impact reputation, future career opportunities and personal safety.
  • Discuss the execution of a durable power of attorney for property, which allows your student to appoint someone your student trusts to manage his or her finances and make financial decisions should your student become incapacitated (unable to make decisions for him or herself). A power of attorney can also allow your student’s trusted agent to make financial decisions and sign documents (such as leases or tax returns) on his or her behalf when your student is away at school. This can be very convenient for both parents and students.
  • Consider whether you want access to your student’s academic and financial records and, if so, determine what authorizations may be required by the school. The school will gladly accept tuition payments from parents, but will not release any bills or account information directly without the proper authorization.
  • Consider voter registration for students who have turned, or will soon turn, 18 years old. Voter registration laws vary by state, but students are often eligible to register either in their home state or their college state. Men also must register with the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthdays.
  • Schedule periodic times during freshman year to track the student’s progress and reevaluate and adjust as needed. Take advantage of any teachable moments as opportunities arise. Remember that the first year away from home is a significant step for young adults, and having access to a parent on a regular basis can make the transition easier for both parents and students.



Parents of adult children do not have the healthcare decision-making power or access to medical information that they used to when their children were minors.

  • Determine whether your student will remain a dependent on the family’s health insurance plan or purchase the health insurance coverage offered through the college or university.
    • If your student will remain a dependent on the family plan, check whether there are in-network doctors near the school.
    • If your student will purchase coverage through the school, make sure you understand the coverage benefits and limitations, deductible or coinsurance requirements and be sure you are comfortable with the policy’s maximum benefit (usually $250,000 for coverage purchased through the school).
  • Discuss the execution of a durable power of attorney for healthcare, incorporating HIPAA- related authorization provisions, which allows your student to appoint someone they trust to be his or her healthcare agent and access your student’s medical records in order to make any necessary healthcare decisions on his or her behalf should your student become incapacitated. It may come as a shock that without proper authorization, a parent will not be given access to their child’s medical records or medical status in the event of the student’s incapacity, which is a time when most students would want their parent’s involvement and oversight.
  • Discuss the execution of a living will or advance directive, which allows your student to determine the type of medical care he or she wants or does not want if your student becomes incapacitated.
  • Discuss what a medical emergency means with your student. For example, when might he or she need to call for an ambulance or go to the emergency room versus visiting the on-campus nurse?
  • Discuss your expectations regarding your student’s responsible behavior (e.g., drugs, alcohol, etc.) and their personal safety. In addition to campus police, many college campuses have downloadable apps for students to receive alerts or to contact emergency assistance in case of on-campus emergencies.



  • Protect your family and your college-bound young adult from the many risks of living away from home and traveling abroad (e.g., spring break).
  • Meet with your trusted financial planner and insurance agent to discuss, review and reevaluate insurance needs for your student and your family.
  • Consider purchasing or increasing your excess liability or “umbrella” coverage.
  • Consider whether your student should purchase his or her own liability insurance coverage.
  • Consider whether it would be prudent to purchase a life insurance policy for your student.
  • Determine whether your homeowner’s insurance policy will provide coverage for personal liability and/or personal property to your student at school.
  • Determine whether renter’s insurance is required or desired.
  • If your student is bringing his or her vehicle to school, determine whether your family’s automobile insurance will provide sufficient coverage to your student at school or whether your student should obtain their own coverage. Consider purchasing roadside assistance coverage designed to assist your student in an emergency.


As a premier financial firm, Northern Trust specializes in Goals Driven Wealth Management, backed by innovative technology and a strong fiduciary heritage. For over 125 years we have remained true to the same key principles – service, expertise and integrity – that continue to guide us today. Our Wealth Planning Advisory Services team leverages our collective experience to provide financial planning, family education and governance, philanthropic advisory services, business owner services, tax strategy and wealth transfer services to our clients. It is our privilege to put our expertise and resources to work for you.

© 2019, Northern Trust Corporation. All rights reserved.

LEGAL, INVESTMENT AND TAX NOTICE: This information is not intended to be and should not be treated as legal advice, investment advice or tax advice. Readers, including professionals, should under no circumstances rely upon this information as a substitute for their own research or for obtaining specific legal or tax advice from their own counsel.

OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION: Opinions expressed and information contained herein are current only as of the date appearing in this material and are subject to change without notice.


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