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Adults, take a money lesson from these high school girls

Teenagers. What do they know?

It turns out, kind of a lot, actually. At least, that’s what I’ve learned from a girls’ youth group I’ve helped lead for the past two years. These high school girls, while sometimes a giant pain in my giant behind, are often refreshingly insightful.

When we started a unit on personal finance recently, I was knocked for a loop by their savviness. I polled them about their spending habits, and they all seemed pretty frugal. They rolled their eyes at the idea of keeping up with the Joneses, and they seemed genuinely concerned about creating financially stable lives for themselves.

Schools teach very little about personal finance, so they didn’t have a lot of knowledge about things like credit scores, credit cards and banking. But their instincts were great, they were surprisingly eager to learn, and they caught on quickly.

Maybe it’s because they came of age during the country’s worst recession since the Depression, or maybe it’s because they are still innocent enough not to have been brainwashed by society’s misguided ideas about money. Whatever the reason, I’m certain they could teach adults a thing or two about handling money.

Here are just a couple of gems that came up, giving me hope for future generations.

“I just want to live in a cheap studio apartment and fix it up.” That’s one girl’s hope for when she leaves home someday. She’s bucking a trend.

Even as household size has been declining, new homes are an average of 1,000 square feet larger than they were 40 years ago. Do we really need all that fancy space, or have we just been watching too much TV? Thankfully, these kids haven’t been sucked into the idea that their purchasing habits need to mirror those of the Kardashians.

“We have so much.” A while back, we raised money to buy shoes for a group of children in Colombia who needed them. We went around the class asking each kid for their fundraising goal. Some of the kids aimed really high. But two girls went above and beyond, donating every last cent of their personal savings. They were able to look at their lots in life, appreciate just how fortunate they are and realize that they could share all the money they had and still have plenty left over. Talk about awesome.

“Why would anyone use a credit card?” One of the girls shouted that out during our lesson about credit. The only response I could think of was, “Exactly.”

We played around with compounding interest, and I showed the kids how quickly credit card bills can get out of control. We crunched some numbers and saw how impossible it can be to catch up on debt when you make only minimum payments, not to mention how much more it ends up costing. The whole concept seemed crazy to them. And it is.

Adults like to point out that credit can be a tool if used wisely. But very few people are truly able to pull that off. I showed the kids some statistics that showed consumers tend to spend more when shopping with credit cards. Why else would credit card companies offer cash-back incentives? The kids decided credit cards are a trap best avoided.

Teenagers often shake their heads about adults and declare them stupid. This time, they’re kind of right.

Got consumer tips or questions? email:, tweet @DiscountDivaSam or visit

Maybe it’s because they came of age during the country’s worst recession since the Depression.