All over the country, students are heading off to college, living away from their parents for the first time. The excitement and joy about opportunities awaiting your child are mixed with waves of nostalgia and change. As an advisor with one child in college and a second planning to attend in fall 2017, I would like to share five often overlooked items that you should be thinking about before they embark on this significant rite of passage.  

Health Care Proxy

This estate planning document, more commonly associated with older folks, is also essential for young people. In most states, parents do not have the authority to make health care decisions or manage their kids’ money the moment they turn 18. Even if their child is on their health insurance plan or if they claim them as a dependent on their tax return, parents still cannot legally make critical health care decisions. That means if a young adult is in a car accident and becomes disabled, even temporarily, their parent may need court approval to act on his or her behalf.

Identity Theft

Teaching your kids how to spot common scams such as phishing scams, credit card skimmers and data breaches can greatly reduce their chances of falling victim to identity theft. Using encryption and strong computer passwords, as well as keeping anti-virus software up to date, will also help to keep identity theft at bay. Your insurance company may offer additional ways of protecting identity and may even have a service to help resolve identity theft cases.

Driving a Vehicle

Whether your child is planning on bringing their car or leaving it at home, there are pros and cons to both scenarios. One thing to think about is incurring extra costs, such as purchasing a parking permit and maintenance issues while they’re away at college. Also, some car insurance companies offer extra savings to parents who send their children to college sans vehicle. For example, storing a vehicle may allow you to temporarily drop or reduce coverage. On the other hand, many parents take comfort knowing their kids have a car on campus, making it easier to get around and visit home.


Your child’s college roommates can have a big influence on their actions. Beyond potentially being a negative influence on your child, the actions of your child’s roommates can get your family named in a lawsuit even if your child wasn’t directly involved. Try to make sure you are comfortable with all of their roommates (parents included) before encouraging them to share a residence.

Renting Off-Campus Housing

Living off-campus can give your college student a chance to experience freedom and independence of living on their own. While they may find many positives in renting off-campus, if anyone gets injured on the property, your child may face the potential of being named in a lawsuit. Before they begin this journey, talk to them about how to be a responsible tenant. Ensure they know they should request any building repairs from their landlord in writing and also how they themselves should maintain and take care of the rental so it stays tidy and safe. You can also help to make sure your child has the appropriate liability insurance coverage.

You can help reduce your children’s likelihood of experiencing these financial risks simply by having a conversation about these five key areas. Especially for college freshmen, first-year adjustments often call for a bit of parental support.

Ken Smith

Ken Smith

Senior Vice President, Financial Advisor