“Financial matters are greatly underrated”

KristenLet me ask you a question: How will you get through college? I’m not questioning your drive or ambition. I’m asking you how you will pay for it. Or, more to the point, I’m asking you if you know how to pay for it.

While browsing the web for scholarships, I found a sweepstakes titled, “Student Financial Education Scholarships” sponsored by dosomething.org and Discover. As soon as I saw the word “financial,” I assumed that it was about giving financial aid to pay for college. In reality, the sweepstakes was all about raising awareness about finance for teens, especially out of control high school seniors who before this had no idea what a purchase order financing project even meant.

As a senior, anything college related is of the utmost importance to me, and this got me thinking not so much about the scholarship, but about the money. How much do I know about finances? Can I survive in the world with the financial knowledge I have? The answer was an immediate no.

I realized that I didn’t know anything about building good credit, applying for grants, taking out no credit loans, registering for a credit card, or paying bills. I didn’t even know how to correctly fill out a check. I pictured myself in debt because I spent too much money or borrowed money I had no way of paying off. It was a scary vision.

In all honesty, I had never thought too much about finances. It simply never crossed my mind. It was never brought up when talking to my parents, teachers, or counselors about college. The closest thing mentioned concerning finance was applying for scholarships, but those usually only pay for the first year. What about afterwards when we are on our own?

My childhood friend, who recently moved back to the Bay Area, just finished college. While we were catching up, he mentioned that he still had a student loan to pay off. I later asked him if he’d had a lot of trouble in college with finances and he said yes. He said that anything concerning finance was oftentimes unknown or unclear and that even a simple course about how to manage one’s finances would have helped him greatly.

Why aren’t high schoolers, especially seniors, being taught how to survive financially in the real world? Some may say that it is a parent’s duty to teach their kids about finance, but in reality, how much do they really know? Most parents went to college at least 20 years ago, some went straight to work. Their paths might not have been the same as the ones we are taking.  As students, we need advice for where we want to go and what we want to do.

Am I saying we need to have a required class in finance? No. Absolutely not. There is no possibility of that happening without changing the entire format of school requirements. I suggest for there to be more awareness about handling finances. Teachers and counselors should give tips about managing finances, applying for grants and loans, and managing bank accounts. Sessions hosted by those with financial knowledge in a public venue concerning finance could be held on a monthly basis. A finance unit could be added to the required Economics class.

There are always things that can be done to help teens prepare for the future. Financial matters are greatly underrated and need to be taught to students. If not, there will only be more student debt and misery in the upcoming college years.

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