ARTICLE COURTESY OF THE ASBURY PARK PRESS
Candice Kuipers, an Ocean County College student from Berkeley, speaks at a financial reality fair with Matt Brazinski, business development manager for First Financial Federal Credit Union. (Photo: BOB BIELK/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER).
TOMS RIVER, NJ – Candace Kuipers sat down at a table with a calculator, lined up her wages with her expenses, and came up $1,260.09 short.
It was going to be a tough month.
“Probably the cruise,” said Kuipers, 18, of Berkeley. “Shouldn’t have gotten the cruise. Bad idea. And the car. I shouldn’t have gotten a new car.”
Kuipers was one of about 200 Ocean County College students who attended a financial literacy forum here Thursday that was sponsored by First Financial Federal Credit Union.
It was a tough lesson for a generation that has grown up with mixed messages. They have watched their parents struggle in the aftermath of the Great Recession; and they have been bombarded with images of reality stars who live the high life with no discussion about how they pay for it.
A recent survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found only two in five consumers have a budget and keep close track of spending.
“The key is financial education,” said Issa Stephan, president and chief executive officer for First Financial. “That’s what we have been lacking in this country. Since the 2008 problem, there has been more (emphasis on financial literacy) than at any other time. Financial education is the key.”
Students were given a worksheet with the salary they could expect, based on their major. They took out taxes, health insurance and retirement savings to calculate their take-home pay. And then they walked from station to station to see what the world had to offer.
There were new cars and baseball games, yoga classes and pets, mortgage payments and gadgets. And there were unexpected, budget-busting items such as car repairs and parking tickets. Students learned they really can’t have it all — at least, not without going deep in debt.
“I was going to get a house, but instead I got an apartment,” said Isaiah Brown, 18, of Manchester. “Food was $400, now it’s $200. And clothes. Instead of suits, go more casual.”
Ocean County College students Gabi Tartaglione (left) Brick, and Nicole Flesche, Toms River, participate in the financial reality fair sponsored by First Financial Federal Credit Union. (Photo: BOB BIELK/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER).
Better career paths
The event was part of a course called Student Success that’s designed to prepare students for what awaits them. And educators have found that students who learn these lessons early in their college careers are more likely to graduate and improve their career paths, said Maureen Reustle, dean of academic services at Ocean County College.
The goal is to get them to say, ” ‘Oh my gosh, I have to think about this,’ ” Reustle said.
The students could have been forgiven for losing all hope in their future. Their salaries weren’t nearly as much as they expected. Even a non-luxury automobile could cost nearly $25,000. And how were they going to find money for a security deposit, much less pay their rent?
But Candace Kuipers wasn’t discouraged. The cruise can wait.
“I’m still learning,” she said.
Original article written by Michael Diamond of the Asbury Park Press.