Content provided by J.J. Schenkelberg, CFA, CLS Senior Portfolio Manager
For the past several years, I have taught high school students at an investment camp hosted by the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Each year I am impressed by the interest these students show in their financial success. While the camp is free (UNO has a generous sponsor that provides lodging, meals, and a curriculum), they must compete to attend.
The students learn about personal finances, investment analysis, and portfolio fundamentals. They also get an opportunity to tour ConAgra Foods and participate in an individual stock market simulation game for the week of camp. Giving these students the foundation for financial success is extremely motivating to me.
For my part, I cover diversification in investments. A variety of subjects fall under this broad topic: how to use credit (personal borrowing), mutual funds, and international currency. I typically spend almost the full hour on how to use credit, a topic I feel should be taught to all high school students!
Save, Save, Save!!! And Invest Wisely
The first investment decision most young people make involves utilizing loans to fund their futures. As they start their careers with entry-level jobs, there are many expenses to juggle. Access to credit cards makes this juggling act easier, but it also makes it much more treacherous.
So, when is it beneficial to use debt? I highlight the following for my students:
- Invest in an opportunity to improve earning potential, such as education and certification classes. Keep in mind these loans need to be paid off and be reasonable about what you can afford.
- Pay for upkeep on transportation to get to school or work. If you can’t get to work, you can’t earn money.
- Take advantage of discounts. Buy something necessary that does not go on sale very often.
Necessary is the key word on that last point. Necessary items are those that provide shelter, food and clothing. Students must realistically identify when shelter, food and clothing that they seek is a need or a want. Shelter needs to be safe and secure: it does not need to have an extra bedroom, fitness center, and pool attached. Food can be basic nourishment and does not need to be found regularly at the trendiest restaurant. Finally, clothing needs to be long-lasting quality that fits well. It does not need to be the latest style to fit the bill.
Keeping wants in check is difficult for most young people. However, doing so may help them afford the really fun stuff when they get older. By saving early through sacrificing that fancy apartment or being willing to live with roommates, students may find themselves able to afford the car they have always wanted or that second retirement home later in life.