Everyone knows the saying "Do as I say, not as I do!" It's an old expression that can be applied to a variety of topics, and when talking about financial literacy, it fits perfectly.
In a snapshot of the current economy, one will see that 28 percent of homeowners owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth. As debt levels have doubled in the past decade, the average person owes $5,000 in credit card debt. And on average, student education debt is higher than credit card debt. The average college graduate owes approximately $25,000 in student loans.
It's clear that future generations cannot continue the approach to solving financial problems that we have used. It is imperative that we teach our children to be financially literate -- to do as we say, not as we, as a nation, have done. The solution is to educate them about their futures. At Junior Achievement, we are committed to empowering young people to own their future economic success.
The hottest, most contemporary and impactful financial literacy program is currently underway at Junior Achievement of South Central PA. The Challenge at Finance Park addresses all of the issues that young adults will face as they venture into the real world. This life-like simulation immerses students in fast-paced, hands-on learning as they are challenged to make financial decisions based on some truly challenging life scenarios.
High school students are randomly assigned life scenarios that detail wide extremes of economic situations. Some students will find themselves comfortable with a well-paying job, good credit score, and a strong education while others will struggle with minimum-wage jobs, debt and a GED. The students are then faced with computing a balanced monthly budget; making critical decisions on housing, insurance, transportation and groceries; repaying debt; and saving for the future. As students work in small groups with a volunteer financial advisor, there are many teachable moments and opportunities for reflection on choices and consequences.
Do as I say, not because I have set the right example, but because I have shown you the consequences of doing the wrong things. We must teach kids to learn from our mistakes and empower them to make the right decisions.
For more information on Junior Achievement of South Central PA and The Challenge at Finance Park, visit www.jascpa.org.
-- Tom Russell is presi dent of Junior Achievement of South Central PA.