Teaching tough financial lessons

Published 9:56 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Nobody ever said it was easy to be an adult. Holding down a steady job, learning to juggle financial priorities while getting bills paid on time and handling all of the mundane, but necessary, things involved in getting from day to day on a limited paycheck can be quite a challenge. For evidence, one need look no further than the headlines of the day. The credit crisis, underwater home mortgages and the rate of divorce are all examples of the inability of many Americans to make tough choices about their financial futures and stick to them.

Of course, things never look like they’ll be so complicated when we’re young. Ask the average high-school student what her plans are in life, and you’re likely to get a detailed answer involving careers, houses, cars, children and the like. It’s normal to think you’ve got everything worked out and everything will fall into place along the way.

Being an adult, however, is a long process of learning to adapt to changing circumstances, learning which goals are worth pursuing and which lack value, and finding ways to hold onto the bedrock principles that define who we are.

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The folks at Bronco Federal Credit Union understand just how hard it is for young students to grasp the many simple challenges they will face when they finally leave the world. The credit union’s financial education fair last week helped bring those challenges into focus for some 150 rising ninth graders from King’s Fork High School.

The students learned about the realities of everything from taxes to utility bills, all in the forgiving environment of a virtual life where mistakes cost them nothing and do-overs were encouraged. The lessons learned in the program — unlike many of those in life — were painless. But the idea is that teaching those lessons early will result in young adults who function at a higher level in society, who are capable of making smart decisions that will keep them out of the financial trouble that is a hallmark of so many young Americans.

Bronco FCU is to be commended for providing this service to students at its nearby partner school. The Suffolk School Board should find a way to provide a similar program to students at the city’s other high schools.