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.

Comments (3)
  1. TJ says:

    Let’s hope they learn to live with-in, or even below their means, unlike the previous generations…

  2. Agree with TJ says:

    When I was in high school 20+ years ago, we had a teacher who gave us the project of figuring out what career we may want, then we had to research it according to pay, benefits, education costs, etc. How much would education cost, student loans, etc and how long would it take to pay them back. We then had to project our goals and spending–what would we want to do for entertainment weekly, how much would that cost, what did we like to do. What kind of car did we want someday, how much did it cost and how much would insurance, gas, repairs and upkeep cost. Where did we want to live, how much would it cost, how much would renters or homeowners insurance cost. How much would cable, phone, utilities, etc etc. Did we want to travel. Pretty much, what did we want to spend our money on and would our career choice allow us to do that. We had to cover savings ideas as well. It pretty much had to cover every aspect we could think of–of course, realizing and figuring out those aspects we hadn’t thought of was a big part of getting a good grade. It was based completely on our own dreams and goals and it was a real eye opener for me and all my friends. It still helps me today, in being able to figure out my goals and how to achieve them while still staying within my income limits. She was one of the best teachers I ever had! I hope all students get to do a project like this sometime in Senior High…

    1. M says:

      I graduated In 2001 and I can say without a doubt we did nothing like that. That should be required of all students though.

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