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Local teens learn value of money

KIM HENDERSON / Stephanie Freeman leads a class for teenager exploring Dave Ramsey's money management system.

KIM HENDERSON / Stephanie Freeman leads a class for teenager exploring Dave Ramsey’s money management system.

Today’s teens have more money in their wallets than ever, and some local parents are making sure their high-schoolers learn how to manage it.

“My husband and I are big Dave Ramsey fans,” Stephanie Freeman of Brookhaven said when asked why she took on the task of facilitating a 12-week personal finance class for area home-schooled students. “I knew he had materials available for teaching children about money, so I wanted to see what he had for teenagers.” What she found was a foundational course much like the adult version – heavy on budgets, goal setting, and becoming (and remaining) debt-free.

“I knew I was going to require my son to take it, no matter what. We didn’t want to send him out to the wolves without any preparation,” Freeman shared with a smile, referring to her son, Jesse, a senior. She recognized the subject matter would naturally provide opportunities for group discussion, and it didn’t take much to get fellow parents on board.

Toni Little enrolled her 17-year-old daughter, Cierra, in the course without even asking if she was interested.

“I thought it was important because I don’t want her to make the same mistakes with money that I did as a young adult,” Little explained. She points to Cierra’s willingness to do her homework as evidence she likes the class. “I don’t have to nag her. She comes in and it’s, ‘Do you know what this book says, Mom?’”

As students like Cierra get the big picture of money management and how that relates to their future well-being, they also receive a more immediate academic reward – the chance to add a half-credit to their transcript. In fact, one in four high schools across the country have offered Dave Ramsey’s Foundations in Personal Finance curriculum as an elective, with teachers having the choice between a regular version of the materials or one with biblical content specifically geared to homeschoolers.

Freeman’s group of 10 participants meets each Wednesday afternoon at the Lincoln County Public Library to review workbook information and discuss what they’re learning. Another important part of the two-hour sessions is a DVD segment featuring Ramsey himself. The financial guru’s topic today? Budgeting.

“I like that the DVDs show real students, too,” 14-year-old Hannah Henderson says. “One girl compared budgeting to dieting. She said teens know they need to do it, but they don’t want to. I thought that was both funny and true.”

Bradly James, 16, says the in-class exercise in which students actually wrote checks was something new to him. “I’m learning a lot,” the Wesson resident added.

The assignment that has generated the most interest, however, has to do with Ramsey’s emphasis on students maintaining an emergency fund of at least 500 dollars. Freeman explains, “I’ve challenged the class members to meet that ‘first foundation’, as he calls it, by the end of our 12 weeks together. Half have already started, and the others are looking for ways to earn money.”

Freeman credits Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover, as being part of the reason she and her family were able to spend two years as missionaries to Ecuador.

“Many years ago we were convicted by Proverbs 22:7 which says ‘the borrower is slave to the lender.’ Dave Ramsey’s book and radio broadcasts helped us become debt-free, and that made it much easier for us to go, and to go quickly,” she said. “I want these kids to have that same freedom.”