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TEENS: All things money

As the cost of living and credit debt increases, people are losing the knowledge and willingness to manage their money efficiently.

In an economy where people want luxury items now, why wait when you can put something on layaway?

According to a podcast entitled, “freakonomics,” 70 percent of Americans are financially illiterate. This number came from a three-question test that was given on the 2004 Health and Retirement Study. It has now been incorporated into national and global surveys.  

Here are the three questions. Try to answer them:

1. Suppose you had $100 in a savings account and the interest rate was 2 percent per year. After 5 years, how much do you think you would have in the account if you left the money to grow?

2. Imagine that the interest rate on your savings account was 1 percent per year and inflation was 2 percent per year. After one year, how much would you be able to buy with the money in this account?

3. True/False:  Buying a single company’s stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund.

Each question was a multiple-choice answer.

If only 30 percent of American adults can answer all three questions correctly, it made me wonder how this translated to high school students taking economics now. Out of the 34 kids in econ class, 18 percent answered all three right. Granted, they haven’t finished the semester, but 35 percent of people answered question 1 wrong; and according to their teacher they had already covered that unit.

What can you do if you don’t remember basic information from high school economics class? No need to read a Dave Ramsey book or take an online course. Everything you need to know, according to Professor Harold Pollack, from University of Chicago, can be written on an index card. He composed and posted a list of nine items that went viral.  These nine things are the basics of what you need to know in order to be financially literate. 

Here are some of the highlights.

• Pay your credit card in full every month.

• The high interest loans cause a lot of unnecessary cost.

• You must save as much as possible when you are financially set.

• You should begin a 401K as soon as possible for your retirement or big purchases later in life. The younger you are when you start, the better because the interest will have more time to grow over the years.

• If you are putting your money into stocks, make sure you spread your money around into low-cost diversified index funds, bond funds, and stock funds. Ensure that your financial adviser is going to help the customer’s financial wellbeing above all.

For more information online, search, “Everything you need to know about money on an index card.”

I have been lucky enough to have my dad hammering economic teachings into me. My parents have demonstrated superb money managing skills, but they are the minority in America. In this age of student loans and 30-year mortgages, steps need to be made so the majority of the public isn’t ignorant to basic economics.

This can start with educating yourself.

Answers to survey: 1. More than $102. 2. Less than the previous year. 3. False.

EVE ODUM is a senior at Seneca High School. She can be reached via tammies@mywebtimes.com.

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