Where Did My Wallet Go?

Teens and the Scary Life of Finance.


Photo taken by Edie Tuck

Maryanna Gonzalez Ramirez, Author

It’s coming to a time where a whole bunch of us are tapping into the world of money and work. Great, right? We are making our own money, we can buy whatever we want, we can do whatever we want because it’s just money! Sad truth is that isn’t how this new world works. Sucks. Once the money from one paycheck is spent, we must wait for the next one to come to buy those shoes we want. Sometimes that isn’t even possible because we need to pay for gas or other basic needs. How can this stop? How can we save up enough to buy that cool car we want in the future? What can we do now so that we can afford an apartment once we are of age?

The clean definition of financial stability is that it is “a property of a financial system that dissipates financial imbalances that arise endogenously in the financial markets or as a result of significant adverse and unforeseeable circumstances.” Woah, a lot of words that mean nothing. To put it simply, financial stability is the part of finance where anyone will be okay, even if you need to pay for something big, like a car or going to the hospital or even simply rent. So, why is this important for teenagers to know about? We’ve asked a teacher here at North for some help, but due to certain circumstances, he will remain anonymous. Let’s get into it.

In general, it is important for anyone in the working class to be informed on the workings of finance, more specifically, personal finance. “It is important to know because it allows you to have more control of (your) finance,” says our teacher. “It can give you more confidence.” So how do we get started? He says, “Income is one of the biggest parts of finance, but there is no single part to it. It is important to have a steady income.” For students, this means getting a job and saving. “[A steady income] is the biggest part of economic freedom.” That allows for a future of possible travels and pursuit of education.

As a teen, our teacher didn’t know much about what finance was about. If the information was available, he says, “I could have made better choices.” He repeats, “I could have saved more, like 10 to 20% of my paychecks. Then I could have put more money away for the future.” His advice? Save, save, save, and take advantage of scholarship opportunities. “Teens spend so much on food. Cooking at home and buying groceries is cheaper than buying fast food every day,” he said when he was asked what teens spend the most on. Basically, pay more attention to grocery stores and save as much as you can while you really can.

Okay, okay, this is a lot of common stuff that not just teens do. Why is it important for teens to be involved? “Then [teens] have freedom to do more. They have the freedom to tap into different savings and have money for future uses [like college].” Many of us are halfway to the finish line and are on our way to college or adult life. That costs a lot more than what we really think. “Any debt is stress and people will deal with stress a lot more [as adults]. Economic stability can lead to a stable life,” he says. No one wants to lead the unstable life of a person who overworks, is stressing, and doesn’t make time to take care of themselves. “If you work too much, you won’t have enough time to take care of yourself,” says our teacher.

What can we do to stay out of debt and stress? Well, there is credit, but how does that work? “You have different lines [of credit]. Basically, you get money now and pay it back [to the bank] later. Pay it back on time and your score goes up,” he says, giving information on credit. Why is that score important? Our teacher says, “Ultimately it isn’t about how much money you have, it’s about if you pay it back or not.” This is very important when it comes to the future of big spending. If you want to take a loan out for school, the better your score is, the likelihood of receiving a big loan, increases. How do we get started with building credit? “A credit card is the easiest way to build credit. Say you go to the mall and buy $100 worth of clothes on a credit card. A week later, you pay it, and your score goes up,” he said, “If you have a job and you’re 18, get a credit card and start paying it back right away.” It is difficult for minors to be involved with the world of credit, so the advice for those under 18 is, once again, save!

When asked for final advice, our teacher was ready to share what he had on mind. “Other than ‘save money’, learn a trade. Something useful and needed. Pay your bills and take care of your basic needs first. And find a side hustle. Find your passion. Your passion doesn’t have to be your 9-5,” he said. What else can we do? How can we save? Budgeting? He says, “Be careful with food. Again, take care of your basic needs. Anything, coupons, memberships, sharing. I know Phoenix is a driving predominate city but if you can walk somewhere, walk.”

In the end, we need to be safe with our money now, so we don’t have to stress out about it in our future. We can work and save as much as we can. Have little goals to save up for separately from your rainy-day fund. Take care of yourself and what you need to function before spending on things that aren’t important. Have dates at home, have fun in the park, walk around the mall, whatever you can do to ensure you will be okay in the future. The future awaits!