In order for your child to save a successful future, it’s important they learn crucial life skills now while they’re young — and that’s particularly true of financial skills. Opening a checking and/or savings account for your young one is an excellent way to guide them through real-world practices and can start them on a path toward controlling their finances independently and competently.
When should you open an account?
Many parents wait too long to help their child open a checking or savings account, often delaying until the person is a young adult with a part-time job. But by that point, your child should already have a solid grasp on the necessary financial skills to manage their money.
That’s why financial experts like G. Brian Davis of Money Crashers recommend opening an account much earlier to start gradually training them. “Aim to open a checking account with your child between the ages of 8 and 10,” Davis advises. “Start simple, tying their income to chores and charging them mock real-world expenses. As they grow older, you can teach them more complex financial lessons like entrepreneurship.”
While the age for your specific child can vary based on their maturity, ability to learn, and eligibility, they should at least have an account by the age of 13.
What features should the account offer?
It’s important to open a financial account that provides the necessary opportunities for your child to learn financial skills. Spencer Tierney of NerdWallet recommends opening an account that offers in-person and online access, an interest-bearing rate, an ATM or debit card, and no or low maintenance fees/minimum balance requirement.
According to Tierney, it’s important that your child’s experience be a positive one. Earning interest will reinforce that saving money is a good thing, and avoiding ones that could easily lead to penalties will help avoid conveying the opposite.
What does opening an account involve?
Because minors cannot legally sign documents and open financial accounts on their own, you’ll have to be a joint account holder. This will give you access to deposit and withdraw, too, as well as monitor your child’s transactions.
On the day you wish to open the account, visit the location in person and bring the necessary documentation. According to Madison DuPaix of The Balance, “The institution will want some confirmation of legal responsibility for the child. You should plan on showing your baby's birth certificate, and you will need both of your Social Security numbers to open the account.”
Have your child bring along some money they’ve saved so they put money in the account that day. Once they’ve opened the account, give them the means to add more money to the account while also allowing them to spend their money on occasion and simulate paying bills.
Opening a savings or checking account can teach your child the importance of planning ahead, wise spending habits, basic math skills, and navigating the systems of money management. Don’t wait too long to begin this journey with your young learner.