Developing Money Handling Skills

As you become more confident in your son or daughter’s ability to handle the responsibility and he or she becomes more confident in their ability to handle the transactions, decrease your involvement.

Many parents of young adults with learning disabilities are concerned about their son or daughter’s weak skills in
money handling. They are rightfully concerned about their ability to handle purchases in stores – having enough money at the register to pay for purchases, being able to count out appropriate amounts of cash, knowing whether or not they’ve been given the correct amount of change. For some young people with learning disabilities,  accomplishing these skills may not be possible. Poor working memory, processing delays, anxiety, and motor difficulties are some of the disabilities that may make successfully handling cash an unattainable goal.

Fortunately, with training, careful use of a debit card can make money handling a much less stressful life skill. With the use of a debit card, there is no anxiety about having enough money at the register, no worry about counting out money or getting correct change. If you have determined that handling cash is too difficult for your son or daughter, here are some methods to use to help your young adult adapt to using a debit card to successfully handle their money.
1. Open a checking account with a debit card for your son or daughter. Deposit an amount equal to expected expenses your son or daughter will have during the week. Explain the rules of using the debit card – keeping the card and the PIN safe; using the card only as you have approved; checking the balance before all purchases. Your son or
daughter should also learn how debit cards work (any money spent comes right out of the account) and how debit cards differ from credit cards. Talk to them about the adult responsibility they will have as a result of your trusting them with the debit card.

2. Next, teach your son or daughter how to use the bank’s mobile app to access their account information and
impress upon them that before every use of the debit card, they must check the balance in the account. Let them use the card for small purchases you had previously made for them. Start by taking them shopping for a particular item. They should locate the price of the item, compare the price to their account balance by checking the mobile app,
then decide if there is enough money in the account to make the purchase. If so, with your guidance, they can practice using the card at the register. They should practice at several stores, since every terminal uses a different interface.

In time, your son or daughter should see that the basic information asked for at the terminal is the same from store to store; there are just different ways of presenting the same questions.

3. Continue to take your son or daughter shopping and progress to having them locate several items, using their
smart phone calculator to add up the cost of all items. Then they will follow the same procedure, checking their balance on the mobile app on their smart phone and comparing their balance to the total cost of the items in order to answer the question–do they have enough money in the account to make the purchase? As you become more confident in your son or daughter’s ability to handle the responsibility and he or she becomes more confident in their ability to handle the transactions, decrease your involvement. Let them shop on their own. If they make a mistake,
help them learn from it.

Hopefully, in time, they will be able to successfully use the debit card for almost all of their money handling needs.
Parents also worry that their son or daughter hasn’t learned the “value” of money. Try some “real life” training to
make this point. Set up an “economy” with your son or daughter – determine some task that will earn your son or
daughter $20 or some other amount that would allow them to purchase something they want. Make sure the task is something that will require real effort on their part but will not take too much time. Have them work at the task to completion, pay them the agreed upon amount right away, take them to the store to purchase the item. Repeat this exercise as often as needed. In time, the immediate result to their labors should help them experience the intrinsic value of money– how much labor is involved in earning money. Hopefully, the next time you have to say “no,” they will have gained some insight into why. Although these processes may take some time to effect change, it will be
time well spent if your son or daughter learns how to manage this most important aspect of independence.•
Patricia Cappellino is the Director of Independent Living, at New York Institute of Technology Vocational Independence Program (VIP). The Vocational Independence Program is a U.S. Department of Education approved
Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary (CTP) program. . Ms. Cappellino also directs independent living services in Introduction to Independence (I to I), a seven week summer college preview program for students ages 16 and up. The Vocational Independence Program is a proud partner of e-Works™ Electronic Services Incorporated

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