Throughout school, students learn advanced mathematical and chemical equations, American history, art, music and English. But most Americans never learn how to properly manage money. Debt is an accepted part of most people’s lives. Thirty percent of Americans have no long-term financial plan. Some have a tendency to spend money when and where they want with the mindset that they will pay it back later.
The widespread financial illiteracy this country faces is the biggest failure of the U.S. education system. A bill—SB 808—was introduced Jan. 8 to the S.C. state legislature that would require universities to provide a financial planning course for all athletes. So let’s expand this idea to all high school students, where all students would be required to have a personal finance course credit to graduate.
Wando already offers personal finance classes, which students can choose to take. All students graduating from a S.C. public school must pass an economics class so they will have at least a basic understanding of the economy. It’s time to make sure that students also understand how to manage their own personal finances as well as how to make good financial decisions.
Everyone needs to know the basics: how to write a check, how to open a checking and savings account, how to take out a loan, how to pay your bills, even how to make a basic budget for yourself. Those are givens, and things that are not always taught to teens by their parents or school. But it’s also important to understand how credit works. One hundred and fifty-seven million Americans have credit card debt. That number should be zero.
Credit cards—while necessary to establish credit—are not something people should rely on. You should never use a credit card to buy things you can’t afford. Instead, some companies give what seems like great deals to young college students to lure them to the dark side of credit.
Credit card interest rates average out around 15 percent each month, meaning that if you go into debt, the amount of money you will owe will increase by a huge amounts. One way to combat this problem is only to spend what you know you can pay off at the end of each month.
Americans also need to learn how to save money for emergencies. Actual emergencies do happen, and they can be very expensive. Emergency funds should be there to help cover things like car accidents, home repairs, medical emergencies and legal issues. Those funds need to be saved for those real emergencies, not things like impulse purchases on clothes or cars.
The biggest general rule is that you shouldn’t spend money you don’t have. If you live within your means, you should be able to avoid catastrophic debt. There are only two things that you should buy if you don’t have enough money for them upfront: college and a house.