Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Personal finance for high school students

Recently, I was chatting with a couple of students in class, and I asked them what class they had next. They told me they were off to Personal Finance. My eyes lit up with joy and excitement, and even more so when they told me it was a required course. You see, I just happen to be a super fan of requiring a personal finance class, and have been for many years now. In general, I think that at least a couple of business courses should be required for everyone, at both the high school and college levels.

Now, these students didn't quite share my joy. They told me it was an extremely boring subject. And that's when I sprang into action by attempting to offer some meaningful advice, which I think got through to them. And here's that advice:

I really wish I had a course like this in high school, because, if I did, I'm sure it would have helped me avoid some serious credit card issues that I started to run into during my freshman year of college. See, after I graduated high school, I started getting applications in the mail for credit cards. But not just applications - I started getting actual, physical cards in the mail - actual accounts already opened for me without even applying for them! Now, I'm not sure if and how the rules have changed on just sending cards in the mail. I graduated high school / started my freshman year of college in 2001, so this was a while back already.

So I ended up having a few nice credit cards around 18-19 years old. And for a while there, everything appeared to be going good. I was working pretty steadily, and so my credit card debt was easily manageable. Staying on top of it seemed like a piece of cake.

That was until I started scaling back my work hours due to the demands of school (college) and eventually left my job to take a couple of on-campus jobs that both paid less and offered fewer hours. Then all of that spending and debt started to catch up to me and snowballed into a very difficult situation that would take a number of years to completely clean up. That difficult situation included plenty of interest, late fees and other penalties, and phone calls from bill collectors. Not pretty. Not fun.

In hindsight, looking back at my situation, a personal finance course in high school would have really helped me, I'm convinced, in better understanding not only credit, but a variety of other tools, resources, concepts, and strategies that could have greatly aided in better preparing me for life ahead - topics like budgeting techniques, entrepreneurship, student loans, saving, investing, and insurance. A course like this should also be required again at the college level in order to refresh and reinforce the insights gained from the high school class.

So there it is, my advice. While it's not the most glamorous subject around, personal finance is undoubtedly critical for success throughout life, and it can even be made fun and interesting at times. There are many games, simulations, and self- and team- challenges and activities out there that can help make financial education both fascinating and easy to learn. In any case, you need to learn this stuff. Trust us. We were your age at one time, too. Many of us made terrible choices and mistakes with money when we were younger. We'd sincerely like to help you avoid them and get you started in life on a solid footing.

Additional Resources

While researching various articles, videos, and Web sites on the subject of personal finance for my own blog post here, I came across these resources that you may find helpful and interesting. Enjoy!

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