Money Smart Week

Consumers nation-wide learned how to make sense out of their finances during the 10th annual “Money Smart Week.” This time every year, experts offer a series of free seminars to teach others how to better manage their hard-earned money. Locally, college students realized just how student loans and credit card bills could drown them in debt.

With the total unpaid debt from student loans exceeding $1-trillion dollars, it’s no surprise that that would be a topic of discussion during money smart week. Professor Vicki Jobst showed students video clips of how debt can take a toll on them.

“They’re having problems paying back those debts because of the job market,” said Jobst.

The average college student graduates with $25,000 in debt. It’s not just loans but also credit cards that contribute to the burden.

“When students have credit cards – and they’re not getting them as much as they used to – but when they have credit cards they sometimes get into a trap of using them too much & not using them in th way they’re intended,” Jobst added.

“I heard that people actually commit suicide cause of this so if you don’t like take care of, and nip it in the bud, it can become really stressful,” said Wajiha Azher, a Junior at Benedictine.

“I own three credit cars and my dad always says you never spend out of your needs, know the difference between wants & needs & you have to live respectfully,” said Caplin Coughlin, also a junior.

Neil McManus, Vice President of Harris Bank, would agree. The bank has been bringing financial literacy to consumers since it helped start money smart week 10 years ago. But McManus says being money savvy should begin at a young age.

“I think if you start your children early, they get that knowledge base really young, that grows with them and helps them be responsible financial adults,” he said.

Other advice: plan and stick to a budget, using credit cards only for necessities, pay more than the minimum, as doing so can take years to pay off the balance, and save up for those expensive luxury items.

“People forget to put money aside,” McManus said. “They will put things on credit sometimes that perhaps they could’ve saved to get.”

BMO helped the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago start money smart week 10 years ago to provide financial literacy for consumers, but McManus enjoys it year-round.

“This is what we do everyday. I wake up smiling everyday. I get to help somebody improve their life,” said McManus.

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