The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

May 22, 2014

A-Tech students learn practical tips on managing their personal finances


Star Beacon

JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP — The Social Studies Department at Ashtabula County Technical and Career Campus held their annual “Personal Finance Week” May 5 through 9. The week is designed to give students real-world experience in finance including their credit reports and credit score, checking and savings accounts, investment accounts and retirement savings, purchasing an automobile and obtaining a loan, the advantages and disadvantages of renting and buying a home, and obtaining a mortgage loan.

The week began with very basic information about checking and savings accounts. The lesson included examples of how difficult it can be to manage transactions with multiple people on the same account writing checks and using debit cards.

“One of the most difficult aspects of balancing a checkbook and making sure that you have enough funds for bills and purchases you make is communication. If you and your spouse are both using a debit card on the same account and not communicating your purchases to each other, your account can be overdrawn very quickly,” said A-Tech social studies teacher Keith Biery.

One of the students, Roy Knapp, mentioned that he already had a great way to fix that problem.

“My bank gives me text notifications every time there is a transaction on my account. Even though I am the only one on the account, I can see where these texts will help me when I do get a joint account,” Knapp said.

During the section of the week when auto loans were discussed, A-Tech social studies teacher Bill Lipps discussed the differences between when the teachers were 18 and looking for cars and today’s young adults. “We had no idea what dealers paid for cars. We also really didn’t have any idea what our trade-ins were worth. The dealer used to bring a little book out of his coat pocket and find the value of our cars, and we had no choice but to trust what we were told,” Lipps said. “Today there are tens if not hundreds of sites dedicated to help consumers make educated auto buying decisions. Autotrader.com, kbb.com (Kelly Blue Book), carfax.com; these are just some of the sites you should be going to before you even step foot on a car dealers lot.”

Students were also surprised at how much a retirement account can build up when you start contributing to the account at a young age.

“The teachers showed us that if we had good credit, cars and homes would cost us less. With the money we save, we can start to invest in our retirement. One example had us putting $20 away a week. When we were ready to retire, that account would grow to almost $250,000,” said welding senior Dennis Sussman.

Social studies teacher Mary Beckwith cautioned students to be careful when they entered into agreements to purchase home goods during “no interest, no payments for 12 months” financing periods.

“You should divide the total balance up and divide it by 12. Make payments each month, so when you reach the end of the “no interest” period, it will be paid off. If you forget to make payments, a large lump sum may be due at the end. If you can’t come up with all of that money, you’ll often get charged interest back to the first day you bought the items,” said Beckwith.

Senior culinary arts student Renee Molzon said, “This was one of the best weeks of the year during government. I enjoy learning about how our government works and I know it is going to make me a better citizen, but the information we get during Finance Week is something I can use every day. The teachers gave examples of how they failed when they were young. I’m sure I’m not going to be perfect with my finances, but this information hopefully will help me avoid some of the bigger mistakes.”