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Be Wise With Money

Before They Head to Campus

Four essential health & finance tips

Your child is going to college. Congratulations! You've sent the deposit, started buying dorm room decor and made a checklist of things to pack.

Time to relax? Not quite. It's just as important to get ready for their health and finances away from home. Before your student heads to campus, make sure you:

1. Find a good health care provider.

Plan ahead for the inevitable and find out what health care services are available on campus. (At the very least, your son should know where the nearest urgent care or emergency room is.) Arm your son with his immunization record and a complete family medical history (including allergies), and make sure he has a copy of your health insurance card. Also, transfer prescriptions to a nearby pharmacy.

2. Plan for the worst-case scenario.

If your child is over 18, she's legally an adult. That means if she gets hurt or sick, you don't automatically have the right to tell doctors what to do. At least not without a medical power of attorney, also called a health care power of attorney. And if your child is unable to communicate for an extended time, you may not be able to move funds from his or her checking or savings accounts. That takes a financial power of attorney.

You can find generic medical and financial power of attorney forms on the Internet. Or you may want to talk with a lawyer to make sure your family's own needs and circumstances are covered.

3. Talk about money.

It's time to talk about who is responsible for what financially. If you're covering college costs, do football season tickets count? What about a spring break trip? And exactly what qualifies for the "emergencies only" credit card? Work with your son to sketch out a budget.

4. Buy renters insurance.

Find out whether your homeowner's insurance covers your college student's possessions. If not, consider adding that coverage or buying renters insurance for your child. It should cost $100 to $300 a year – a bargain compared to the cost of replacing the items, especially if it happens more than once.

"These are things you don't want to think about," says Miriam Luebke, associate vice president for academic services at Concordia University, St. Paul in Minnesota. "But it's better to think about them now, when you're not in a situation where you need to act quickly."

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