Keynote: Youth and Financial Education
Speaker: Jacob I. Swindell-Sakoor, April 13, 2013
Opened with an older American Japanese woman whose name I did not catch. She speaks about her hopelessness during WWII. Quoted her mother’s words at the time: “In 20 years, we may have nothing left but the memories of how we conducted ourselves during this difficult time.” Shared how this thought/ view has stayed with her and influenced her actions/ reactions through her life.
Next speaker is Dr. Sidney, who introduces Jacob, a 10th grader at Brooklyn Friends School. Jacob is a Merit scholar, student ambassador, and orchestra member. Very involved both in school and in community in diversity and anti-racial activism. He is the first youth keynote speaker at WPC. Jacob’s topic is:
Youth and Money.
Jacob talks about how as a kid, he thought the ATM was a money dispenser. He shares an amusing personal anecdotes of his youthful misunderstanding about the use and value of credit cards.
He then segues into statistics regarding debt and youth — credit cards, student loans, etc. How debt increases life stress, can damage education completion, how the students carry the debt with them through their lives and it negatively impacts them long after the debt is ignorantly accrued in their late teens/ early twenties. He cites statistics and studies to support his arguments.
Jacob asks the audience (of primarily white-collar, educated adults) why this situation exists. He answers his own question, proposing that it exists because kids do not understand finances and do not know how to use a credit card. He explains that kids today are not taught to understand the value of a credit card, or what the taxes/ fees/ interests can do. He says that when the first credit card offers come rolling in, kids have not been taught how to factor in the hidden costs, and so they don’t.
Jacob proposes that financial education classes for high school students with focus on debt and credit cards should be added to existing curriculums. He says that unless a high school student student is interested in economics, they are not taught this stuff. He points out that it is just assumed kids will know/ figure this financial stuff out on their own when they reach adulthood. Many adults view this information as a “life lessons” type of thing.
Jacob points out that, unlike in generations past, the process of “figuring it out,” through trial and error can cause life-long financial damage. Many 19 and 20 yr olds, when getting their first credit card, get into a “swipe-it” mentality and don’t stop to factor in the value of what they’re actually spending. He points out that this type of financial mistake can occur regardless of class or of the financial situation of the parents.
He reiterates that both teachers and parents need to educate youth in high school years on finances and economics. Continuing on, he adds that it’s not all teachers’ faults for neglecting this are of education, it’s also the concept of value. He asks the audience: What are youth spending their money on?
Explains: Jacob receives $15 allowance a week and has worked summer jobs. He likes to buy nice clothing, musical equipment, food, fun stuff, etc. Says the problem with his income and spending habits is that he does not differentiate between his wants and needs, because his parents take care of his needs. Because he does not have to worry about the needs, he gets into bad spending habits where he indulges his wants first and foremost.
He says most kids — whether earning income or taking in allowance — have the subconscious expectation their parents will provide a roof of their head, food on the table, and other basic necessities of life, so they can spend what money they do have/ earn they can spend lavishly. He explains that many kids don’t realize how much their parents actually make, or where the income goes. His friends end up spending their money to emulate the celebrities they admire, and end up running up debt.
He points out that most people are not making 6-7 figure salaries, yet are spending as though they are. He shows the statistics illustrating that in the bottom 15.2 percent of poverty lines, they are still spending via credit as though they have plenty of money and wealth.
Continues on, more carefully, to insinuate that financial ignorance is not just a youth problem — that many ADULTS don’t understand finances, debts, loans, credit cards, saving. He insinuates without outright stating that adults are modeling poor spending habits to youth.
[Personal Note: Is it his own youth and because he is addressing a room of adults that makes him skate around this statement?)]
He comes back to the primary point, arguing that students should be taught about savings, about investing in self and in ones own dreams. Something is just not worth it unless you actually have the money to spend on it; credit is a bad idea especially for the financially non-savvy. There is always a better option.
To illustrate his point, he draws on the example of some headphones called “Beats,” which he tells us are actually not great quality headphones, but are [apparently] very popular and [I guess] look cool [or something]. “Beats” headphones cost about $300-$350.
[Personal Note: What the fuck? Who spends upward of $400 on fucking headphones? Are they painted in diamonds and unicorn shit?]
Jacob says quality headphones used by professionals can run $100-$150. So the wiser choice for someone wanting to spend money on headphones is to go with the less “cool” but financially wise choice.
[Personal Note: All due respect to his arguments of financial ignorance and so on, but this should just be a no-brainer, really. Quality should always be among the top concerns in evaluating any purchase. It doesn’t matter, for example, if Item A is $10 cheaper than Item B if Item A falls apart on you and stops working within the week, but Item B was built to last.]
Says as a youth, he gets irritated when adults brush off kid concerns about finances etc by saying, “You’ll have time, you’ll figure it out.”
To a wave of laughter in the audience, Jacob calls such attitudes, “blatant institutional adultism,” but he’s clearly only semi-joking, despite how the statement is received. He further states that adults are doing a disservice to youth by brushing off their financial education and assuming they’ll learn through their mistakes, as they go, from life.
[Personal note: Jacob is a little classist in his statements, which is forgivable given his age and experience. He clearly does not take into account adults who lack the financial connections/ teachings to pass on in the first place. He also does not take into account youth who drop out of high school in order to take low-wage jobs to support their parents/ siblings/ households.
He is correct in that money, debt, and the management of it can make or break a life. He is correct that to let the kids screw up their lives with debt that they may end up carrying for decades later, long after they’ve moved past the mindset and youth that engendered the debt, is a disservice to our children and is morally wrong. We need to teach our kids. I need to teach my son. I need to teach him the value of money, financial management, and economics. I need to teach him to distinguish between wants and needs.]
Announcements: Norma Johnson’s poem available in next WPC journal, also can contact her through http://www.allinspirit.com.