Students learn life and business lessons

How would you rate your personal finances? According to a survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), 80 percent of those who took a survey said their finances need a major overhaul. It’s an astounding figure, and I think the problem is that so many adults are financially illiterate. I’m encouraged by the fact that there are high school students who are learning these important skills and their financial savviness at age 16-18 would blow away any adult.

In most high schools you don’t learn how to balance a checkbook or read a mortgage. These are money basics that we all need in life, yet we’re never told how to do them. How about a few less classes on some trigonometry that I’ll never use in life unless I’m an engineer? Everyone needs to know how to manage their money.

There are programs that can reverse this dangerous trend. Some states require some type of financial literacy in some class along the way. Also, Junior Achievement has various programs that teach financial literacy and business skills.

I recently judged a Junior Achievement competition. High school students created a business selling stocks, designing and marketing a product, and eventually liquidating their company. The companies ran the gamet from creating a green tradeshow, designing printed material, and selling lanyards, T-shirts and bags. One group made $2 and another made over $20,000 profit.

It wasn’t about who made the most money, but who learned the most about running a business. Some classes experienced real world problems with their supplier. One supplier told the group their rally towels were too thin a material and the printing was running off it. The group didn’t want to sell a product that would make their customers upset, so they had to find a different material which delayed delivery and sales.

I was most blown away by the group from Avon High School when they said they did market research and looked into the quality fo the product they were going to sell. They sold popular Twitter phrases on T-shirts. They wanted material that wasn’t too expensive but wasn’t so cheap it would shrink. They looked for a cotton – polyester blend. I was amazed a high school student would even think about that. A happy customer reaps more rewards than an unhappy one. Annoyed shoppers tell 4x more people about their experience so annoying one person can jeopardize other business.

The students also learned the value of money. Some students took field trips — one even to an eco-friendly site in Miami — and others donated their money or a portion of it to charity. In Avon, the students were touched by two classmates who are enduring medical and financial challenges. Kelly Aston is in a wheelchair having to relearn the basics of life after suffering a stroke. Click here to read more about her story. Another student was involved in a motorcross accidents and is recovering. The high school students realized their classmates needs were greater than their own and both will benefit from their business.

Avon took second in the competition and earned a cash prize. Lorain took third for a historical book of their school system that is uniting the community. Beachwood took first place for its green trade show.

Learn from these students, and their experiences. Take control of your personal finances today. You never know when life will take a detour. Set aside a rainy day fund. It probably won’t cover you in time of need, but it will help offset some costs. Secondly, pay down your credit card debt. If you need help tackling your finances, get it. There are certified credit counselors who work for non-profits and charge minimal fees to help you regain control. Click here to find one near you.

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