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October 06, 2011

Transforming teens into bankers

By Jessica Kelmon, Associate Editor

Like most of my generation, I learned a hard financial lesson courtesy of my first credit card. I was a junior in college strolling down Bruin walk, when a friendly on-campus marketer hailed me over. He gave me a ridiculously high-interest-rate card and a t-shirt. It was so quick, I still made it to class on time. Despite the lessons about saving and making smart choices that I learned at home, I wasn’t really prepared for that first credit card. Many students aren’t.

But in one state, that stops now. Virginia’s General Assembly has now said, enough! – and is mandating that teens pass economics and personal finance to graduate. I applaud the measure, and despite the education cutbacks everywhere, I think all states should follow suit. This is a form of real-life education that every person needs to exist in our incredibly indebted capitalist society. Need stats to back that up? According to creditcards.com, 50.2 million households carry credit card debt, and the average credit card debt per household with at least one credit card is $15,799. Scary.

One high school in Richmond, VA is taking the money-management education even further. John Marshall High School has partnered with a credit union. The branch is located on campus – and students are the tellers. The head teller? A junior who says his plan is to open his own business! By working in a branch, the hope is that all of these kids will learn about money, credit, and financing to better manage their own finances as adults. Let’s hope it works!


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How is credit so difficult and how is it that kids don't learn this at home? On my 18th birthday, my mom walked me into the branch of a major bank, and we opened my first checking account. I had been dutifully writing checks to pay the household bills for years for her (she would double check and sign). A few months later, I got my first department store credit card--with a $200 limit. I would buy a blouse or a skirt on sale, and pay the balance when the bill came in.

My son had his own checking account at 17 (with my name on it for legal reasons), and he's never had a problem.

My daughter is 10, but I suspect she'll be helping me with online banking in the near future.

I appreciate that the schools want to cover all the bases, but until they master teaching the basics, this is just another case of taking time away from valuable classes that will mean something on college transcripts.

Isn't focusing on credit card debt solving yesterday's financial problem? Total U.S. college loan debt now surpasses total U.S. credit card debt. High schools should also take responsibility for not advising kids into loans they'll spend the rest of their lives paying off.

Hi Alison,
I hear you on student loan debt - that's a whole other financial fiasco that needs attention and education. I'll do a separate blog on that. Feel free to send stories, comments, resources on this topic my way, too.

When dealing with the financial issue of student loan debt, students need to be realistic about the job prospects in their chosen major. As a Radio-TV-Film major with an emphasis in writing, I knew I couldn't count on landing a great job out of college with a bunch of debt. My career took a few unexpected detours, but insisting on paying as I went made it easy to buy a house at 27 and pay it off in less than 10 years.

I'm reading way too many stories about way too many kids in the soft sciences and humanities who are taking on ridiculous debt in jobs that pay $30K a year, tops. As much as I hate saying it, governmental financial aid isn't as helpful as most of them think--anymore than buying a really expensive car on a 6 or 7 year loan--or worse--on lease. It's just lunacy.

True and I agree. Children should be taught to be financially responsible at a young age. Then perhaps they can take a course and career about finance.

My daughter always get notices in the mail saying she is pre-approved for new credit cards. How does that happen when she's only 17?

America has an overflowing credit debt that remains unresolved. While credit is the best way to acquire things now and pay later, without using it wisely, you can end up at the bottom of the pile of billing statements. Or even behind bars.

Very nice idea to transform teens into bankers.In this generation its very essential for students to be aware of transactions that takes place in banks.Rather than studying about it we can get more knowledge by practising it.So I think its a better choice...

was a younger in higher education jogging down Bruin move, when a helpful on-campus professional confirmed me over. They offered me a extremely high-interest-rate card and a t-shirt.

Ah our first credit cards, so many memories, and so many disasters. Hard lesson but everyone's got to go through it.

Those are super cute. I like you on Facebook.

In my opinion it is not good to providing bank credits to the school students, it may lead to bad habits when they get credit cards.. slowly the concentration on studies will divert!

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