My oldest child heads off to college this year. What can we do to prepare our kids for the responsibilities they will have in managing their money throughout life?

You’ve asked a really important question. One of the saddest scenarios I’m regularly confronted with is when an elderly person who hasn’t planned adequately for retirement comes to me hoping for some quick fix that will solve serious financial problems.

Unfortunately, there are no simple answers once we reach that stage of our lives. Time is such an important factor when it comes to reaching our financial goals.

So, yes, it’s crucial that we teach our young people both the Catholic principles that should guide their attitudes and the practical tools they need to make sound budget decisions throughout life.

At the request of a number of friends who have children approaching college age, I recently ran a series of classes. Using my 7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free materials (OSV, 2006); we intertwined presentation, discussion and practical exercises. I was very pleased at how these young people seemed to “get it.”

We reviewed key statistics pointing out how poorly Americans are managing their money, with most overspending and relying on consumer credit to make up the difference.

We also reviewed surveys showing that many members of Generation Y are so focused on amassing wealth that they allow little time for other vital life considerations such as building a relationship with God.

We talked about God’s role as creator and owner vis à vis ours as “Stewards of Providence.” This is such a critical point, because recognizing that we have a responsibility to manage the resources the Lord has entrusted to us in ways pleasing to him is truly a revolutionary thought compared to the self-centered approach taken by so much of our consumerist society.

And we discussed the difference between productive and unproductive debt, and how learning to save early makes a world of difference over the long run due to the effect of compound earnings.

There’s much more, and I encourage you to pass along the “7-steps” teachings to the young adults in your life. By doing so, you’ll plant seeds that will germinate and mature over time into true financial freedom. God love you!

Phil Lenahan is online at