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H.S. Students Learning Early Financial Lessons

By Bill Hudson, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- As difficult as the recent recession has been, it's taught many people some valuable financial lessons. Unfortunately, for many, the lessons learned came by way of a painful foreclosure, bankruptcy or a declining credit rating.

That's why a program from the Brooklyn Center-based BestPrep is gaining popularity in Minnesota's schools. Among its many classroom offerings is a three-year-old program called "Financial Matters Initiative." It utilizes the help of financial professionals to share their advice with teens.

Longtime financial advisor Steven Lear has never had a more important group of clients to advise. He spent the day in a government and economics class lecturing to seniors at Southwest High School in Minneapolis.

Speaking about the tightening of lending by banks, Lear told students, "That's recently what happened. The banks said 'no' to a lot of things because they just couldn't take any risk whatsoever."

Lear's lessons centered on the value of credit and the importance of acquiring a strong personal credit rating. The recent recession battered many people's credit ratings and left them with painful lessons in how they've handled their money -- saving too little while spending and borrowing beyond their means. They're mistakes that could have been prevented had older generations learned to use money wisely at a younger age.

That's a message not lost on student Lairnue Blount, who said, "A lot of people don't get this education. So you graduate high school and you get into the world and you don't exactly know what to do with your money -- how to invest it, how to spend it."

Those lessons will be especially important when these students enter college and face that barrage of offers for plastic.

Teacher Patrick O'Connor said that's a big reason he asked for the BestPrep program to come into his classroom.

"So today's lesson on how to manage credit cards is really, really important for them because it's very tempting when you get all these offers to grab a credit card and go," said O'Connor.

For three weeks, they'll learn the importance of good debt and bad debt, credit and investing. It's all designed to help them develop responsible financial habits now that will put more money in their pockets in the future.

"I'm looking forward to hopefully having a good credit score," said senior Luke Burris.

The initiative is funded by the Financial Planners Association and other corporate sponsors so there is no cost to schools for the lessons.

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