collage of money, charts, student working and graduating

Mrs. Weaver’s Wise Ones

Many of our readers are students that are in either college or high school.  Others are teachers that work with those students.  One such teacher in our Columbia Public School system works to teach personal finance to IEP students.  They are today’s Wise Ones.  This semester they wrote a book entitled, A Teenager’s Guide to Our Financial Institutions.  According to the preface, “We are writing this book in order to teach teens about banking, the economy, the benefits of saving, and the structure of the Federal Reserve.”  (Nothing like a good challenge.)

I attended the book signing and I even purchased three copies of the book: one for me, one for the journalist from the local paper, and one for a financial planner friend who left his wallet in the car. (Like I’d never hear that one before!)   There were several local financial professionals that gave up their time to reward these students with some attention – mostly in the form of questions.  The students had sections of the book that they were responsible for writing and responding to questions, when asked.  My most common remark, at the conclusion of my interrogation of each student, was, “You know more about this subject than 90% of the people on the street.”  It was clear that the pride instilled by this project was bursting forth among these kids and, yes, my heart told me that there was no better place for me to have spent the hour, as IEP students are especially endearing to me.

One of my favorite sections was entitled, “How to be Financially Successful”.  It read:

What does it mean to be financially successful?  Well, in the words of Tennessee Williams, from his play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, “You can be young without money, but you can’t be old without it.”  To me, that means that your parents can buy your necessities, or they can give you an allowance when you’re young.  However, when you get older and start living on your own, you can’t live without your own money because you have bills to pay.

I bet you are wondering “well, why do I need to know about being financially successful?”  I will tell you.  If you start saving while you’re young, you can get ahead in things like saving for college or saving for a dream home that you want.  What I am trying to say is that you can be more financially successful if you set a goal.

All of this made me begin to wonder about why we make the choices we make and how they can change our chances for financial success.  Particularly, since some choices greatly reduce our ability to succeed.  Perhaps, you’d like to ask yourself the following questions and discuss your answers with your friends.  The correct answers are at the end.

The main reason for being in school is to ________

  1. Get a degree
  2. Get an education
  3. Get a job to pay for my car
  4. Party hearty

It is okay to go into debt for an education, as it is an investment in ourselves that has a greater return than many others and we can control it by our choices.  Along the way, however, be sure you ___________

  1. Have nice clothes while in school
  2. Join the hippest clubs and groups
  3. Go on a costly trip for spring break
  4. Finish your degree before you leave

The main reason college students leave school before they graduate is ___________

  1. Bad grades
  2. Legal problems
  3. Financial problems
  4. Health problems

It is ok to borrow money to go to college and, if I go bankrupt, I won’t have to pay the money back.

True or false

In order to have enough money to make it through the semester without getting into financial problems, I can’t go out and have any fun.

True or false

Answers:

  1.  A.  Get a degree.  Five to six years of college without a degree, while you learned a lot, indicates only one thing to most people: You did not finish.  Employers want to hire finishers – not quitters.  DO NOT LEAVE until you have earned your degree.  An “education” is not enough.  You want the degree and, the more you do learn in the process, the better will be your return on the time it takes.
  2.  D.  Finish your degree.  DO NOT LEAVE until you have earned your degree.  (There is an echo in here.)  College debt must be paid back whether you finish your degree or not.  Leaving school with debt, but without a degree, is a disaster waiting to happen.
  3. C.  Getting into financial problems can derail your plans to finish a degree – in fact; it is the main reason students are forced to leave school before earning a degree.
  4. False!  Student loans are not able to be discharged through bankruptcy.  You have to pay them back – unless you die.  (The “death” solution is not recommended.)  If you envision difficulty, get help through credit counseling – NOW!
  5. False!  You may not be able to go out four nights a week or buy every CD you want; but if you don’t go out occasionally or pay to purchase or download a CD, you will get burned out really fast.  It is ok to enjoy yourself.  Do not forget that.

PS  I owe a thank you that sent me a response indicating resources that you would recommend to teachers.  Some of you told me about arrangements you have with local colleges and some of you even invited us to come to your school.  We thank you and ask all of you to keep in touch.  If you want us to come visit, after the first of the year, give me a reminder email and we’ll see how resources are matching up with needs.