Money management class for teens
BY JASON ASHLEY WRIGHT World Scene Writer
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
3/15/11 at 6:39 AM
Matthew Why spends a lot of time at the library, but not for studying.
The 18-year-old senior at Union High School has been shelving books at Martin Regional Library, 2601 S. Garnett Road, for almost two years. He needed a job to buy a car, as well as put gas in the tank. Plus, he's saving for college.
In a similarly independent vein, Holland Hall senior Alex Stumps has had a babysitting gig since seventh or eighth grade. A couple summers ago, she had a job at a gift shop; this year, she'll probably apply at Bath & Body Works.
They're two Tulsa teens focused on making and saving money. But others may need a little guidance, and Hardesty Library, 8316 E. 93rd St., is hosting a free personal finance class for teens 12 to 18 years old from 4 to 6 p.m. on March 22.
The class will be led by Mary Thomas, the education director for Consumer Credit Counseling Services.
The financial tips Thomas will offer aren't that much different than those she gives adults, she said.
"When kids are old enough to say, 'Mom and Dad, I want ...,' that's when you need to start money management with children," Thomas said.
Teens have to figure out what it takes to live, she said. Sure, they want to go to that concert, but what about school supplies or making a car payment? And don't forget auto insurance.
Students must learn to distinguish between wants and needs, then set aside financial goals, Thomas said.
"And if you don't put a date to it, it's just hanging there," she added.
"Nobody likes to budget," said April Rosebure, a credit counselor with Christian Credit Counseling Service. "Some say it's a dirty word."
That's why Thomas likes the phrase "spending plan" - "sounds softer and better," she said. Keep track of what you spend, by writing down every day what you buy and its cost, even if it's just 85 cents in a vending machine, Thomas said.
Some students are used to receiving their paychecks and spending them, Rosebure said. "It's cash sitting in their pockets."
So she suggests they open a checking account. Those younger than 17 will need a parent on the account, but that could be a good safeguard. Definitely consider a savings account, too.
When you get paid, pay yourself first, Thomas advised. Put money in savings, and leave it there.
Every two weeks, Harmony Stephens, a 17-year-old online student, socks away $100 for college.
"I don't want to be reliant on my mom for so much," said Stephens, who works at Eloté Cafe, 514 S. Boston Ave. She likes to be able to go out for lunch with friends and pay for it herself.
Stephens thinks she has a good handle on it. But not every teen does.
"Kids think they're immortal, don't feel like they have a lot of boundaries," Rosebure said. "It's kind of helpful to bring that into awareness."
One step after that first paycheck might be stepping up to pay for something parents usually do, or at least pitching in - like on car insurance or a car tag. It doesn't have to be a big expense, she said. But if students have to pay for certain things now, they learn more responsibility.
The personal finance class is free; but reserve your spot by calling the library, 918-549-7550.
One major credit card company's slogan is, "It's everywhere you want to be." But it's highly doubtful you want to be in debt up to your eyeballs.
Some teenagers will get their first credit cards soon. But they need to remember the responsibility that comes with wielding plastic.
Teens graduate from high school and leave for college, where many apply for and receive credit cards. But they have to know when and how to use it - to control their money before it controls them, warned Mary Thomas, education director for Consumer Credit Counseling Services.
"We've lost students on campus to suicide because of credit cards," Thomas said.
Before you use it, ask yourself this: Can you pay off your balance when the bill comes? If not, don't charge it, Thomas said. Learn to live within your means.
Always be current with your financial obligations, she said. In other words, pay your bills on time. If you don't, you incur late fees and your interest could go up, which makes payments higher. Thirty-five percent of your credit score is based on whether you make payments when they're due.
"Credit impacts every aspect of our lives," Thomas said - including getting a job. About 87 percent of employers now check job applicants' credit reports. "If you have poor credit, nobody's going to want to hire you."
It impacts insurance rates, buying a home, being able to pay for goods and services at a lower interest rate, she said. The earlier you learn all this, the better off you're going to be.
Original Print Headline: Dollars & sense
Jason Ashley Wright 918-581-8483
Matthew Why, a student at Union High School, earns money by shelving books part time at the Martin Regional Library. The Hardesty library will offer a free course on March 22 to help teens learn to manage their money. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World
Teens need to remember that there are responsibilities that come with carrying plastic. Tulsa World file