The Ten-Step Guide to College Financial Aid By Zachary Freeman

Building Wealth in College: Part 2

The word “normal” and the word “financial” rarely fit together well.  Everyone wants to be “normal” and “fit in”, but in today’s age, “fitting in” means paying $200,000 in student loans, credit cards near their limit, and a mortgage you can’t afford.  The spending habits of Americans are ridiculous!  Ever since the birth of credit, America has been constantly trying to keep up with the Joneses – a problem that has almost ceased to exist in today’s society.  Forget keeping up with the Joneses!  Americans now attempt to keep up with the Joneses, the Martins, the Smiths, and every other financially ruined sad-sack that lives across the street.

Every day, you hear of some new way to catapult yourself to financial security. “Invest in gold!”, “Buy a new home!”, or “Refinance now with our new lower interest rates!” PUH-LEEEEESE.  Rarely does anyone ever find a solid financial base in any of these things.  You see, America has adopted a new standard for money.  It is no longer gold, cash, or livestock – it is credit.

Part 2: Finding a Solid Foundation for your Financial Future (Where NOT to Look)

The first part of this message is for the parents out there.  Many people ask me where I get all of my opinions and knowledge on the topics that I speak about.  The truth is…I just didn’t make the same mistakes as my parents.  Don’t get me wrong – I have the greatest parents on the face of the planet.  They raised me up to be a good man and they have given me all the tools I need to be successful, but when it came to the finances, they were “normal”.  My parents racked up thousands of dollars in credit card debt, acquired a couple of car payments, and set a mortgage on top of that.  By the standards of others, they were doing well, but I knew what was really going on.  There was too much month and not enough money left over.  They were experiencing what I like to call AGNMLS, or the Ain’t Got No Money Left Syndrome. Somehow, God always provided the means to provide, and my parents have moved well past this phase, and are well on their way to being debt-free, but their near-fatal debt experience has taught me that I don’t want to flirt with that line of disaster.

STUDENTS: THE DECISIONS YOU MAKE WITH YOUR MONEY NOW WILL SET THE FOUNDATION FOR YOUR FINANCES FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

In other words, debt starts now.  The only way to stay out of debt is if you don’t get into debt in the first place.  If you want to build wealth through college, don’t get a credit card!  That’s like deciding to make a great meal for someone really important and throwing all the ingredients away before you even get started!  Please don’t ruin yourself.  I got a credit card the very first chance that I got, thinking that it was necessary for “emergencies” and stuff.  Well, it was at that point that a cheeseburger became an emergency, and that was where I nearly got myself in trouble.  The key to building wealth and not debt in college is to save every penny you get, and live within your means.

Students: you should take advantage of every opportunity that you get to make money.  Whether you have a part-time job, or you sell stuff on eBay®, find a way to fatten up your bank account.  Invest in a mutual fund, and grow your money.  Find scholarship money and apply for it!  The reasons that college students are poor is that they are too lazy to go make money, and then they spend too much of it.  Don’t do that.

Parents: don’t teach your kids that credit is good.  Don’t teach your kids that a “normal” life is synonymous with the “American Dream”.  Don’t teach your kids that everyone needs a mortgage, a car payment and credit cards.  Money is a great employee and a terrible boss.  Teach them how to SAVE, get them a debit card (NOT connected to your account), and whatever you do, DO NOT give them a credit card.  If you care about the financial future of your children, teach them how to be smart with their money.  They have to learn it from you…managing finances well is an acquired skill, not a natural gifting.

Article written by Zachary Freeman, a Business Finance major at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and author of Free Money Please!: The Ten-Step Guide to College Financial Aid.  He can be reached at Zachary@freemoneyplease.com.

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