Column: Dollars and sense

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Financial literacy is becoming the hot topic for many high school and college students. They are discovering that the protection they received from their “helicopter” and “snowplow” parents has not provided them the knowledge they need for real-world money issues.

With little understanding of long-term debt and interest rates, they sign up for student loans that will eventually cause them huge problems. This is why progressive high schools and colleges are offering financial literacy classes that provide the base for their lifelong understanding of managing their money.

Knowing whether to lease or purchase a vehicle, rent or purchase a home, pay off a credit card debt or keep spending are questions that all of us have faced. As we prepare for taxes, to pay or to receive a refund, we are reminded that we are the “boss” of 2,098, 913 people who are on the government payroll. A recent Fortune magazine article had a listing of where they are employed, with the greatest number, 249,737, being in the Army. When all military is totaled – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard – the number is 636, 998. Add the Dept. of Defense for another 104,638. These are current military members and veterans but not the reserves. Perhaps information like this will help students understand why we pay taxes.

Retirement income is the hot topic in my age group. If we haven’t mastered financial literacy by age 65, it will come as a shock to discover that we may not have saved enough for retirement. Social Security was never meant to provide all of the income needed for retirement, nor will Medicare pay for living in a retirement home.

Many adult children find that they are needed to assist their elderly parents at the very time that they have teenagers going to college. It’s crunch time, for sure!

Any financial information that can be provided to students should be welcomed by parents and their future employers. Peer pressure to spend instead of save is a constant concern for all age groups.

Financial literacy is a topic of interest for everyone, from elementary age to the elderly. Our needs change through the years and sometimes our wants overpower our good sense.

Lorene Burkhart is a Carmel resident and author.

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