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Having a bank account is one of the basic access points to society. If you have income this is where it goes and, if you’re like most people, your expenses come directly out of your account either through bank transfers or chip and pin/contactless purchases. Many children get a bank account early in their lives for pocket money or for that birthday money from generous relatives. Often though children with additional needs don’t end up with a bank account, in part because maybe we feel they don’t have the skills to manage their own money.
I think this is a mistake because even if your child is not ready to manage a bank account they still need one. Call it insurance or planning ahead but if they are ever to have any degree of independence they will need a bank account. The reason I’m thinking about this just now is that my daughter is transitioning from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments in the UK. In short, she’s moving from one type of benefit that was paid directly to us to a benefit that will be paid directly to her so she needs her own bank account.
Also as she gets older, over 16 years in the UK, the need for her to have a bank account and separate financial identity will grow. In the not too distant future, she will be issued with a National Insurance Number and a Unique Tax Reference Number (the equivalent to a tax file number or IRS number in some countries). These will be linked to her taxable income, and she will need a bank account if she receives any government benefits.
She will also need a bank account when she gains employment – yes I am an optimist and I am holding out for her to do proper paid employment. Salaries are nearly always paid directly in to bank accounts. She will need a bank account to access her money, as well as pay for her living expenses.
So let’s start this process now. Let’s get ready for adult life. Let’s make sure our children have their own bank accounts before they reach 16. The process isn’t hard, and in many cases it can be done online, but for us it was a quick visit to a local bank.
Since then we have discovered other benefits to her having a bank account with a card. She has seen, like most children she is always more observant than we give her credit for, how adults use cards to pay for things. She has seen her big sister use her card. And now, because she too has a card, she feels more grown up as she pays contactless for purchases she wants. Of course, we still need to help her with deciding if something is really essential but she is beginning to understand the idea if she spends on one thing that limits what she can buy another day.
Sometimes if she forgets her card and wants to buy something, she will ask us to pay and then transfer the money back to one of us via the banking app. This, very slowly, is teaching her how to use her bank account in a way we would expect her to use it when she gets older and has to pay bills.
Opening a bank account, I think, is helping my daughter to become more mature. At the moment it is the access point to small purchases, but in time it will be vital for her to live independently from us. A bank account is a necessity for her future without us.