How to Help Kids Build Strong ‘Financial Foundations’

A conversation with financial expert Anthony ONeal
February 1, 2021 Updated: March 14, 2021

It’s commonly lamented that students aren’t taught life skills in school, such as how to balance a budget or manage their money. Ramsey Solutions, the company founded by financial expert Dave Ramsey, aims to change that with “Ramsey Solutions’ Foundations in Personal Finance,” financial literacy programs specifically designed for middle school and high school students.

The programs, created for school teachers and homeschoolers, feature video lessons from Ramsey personalities including Anthony ONeal, a dynamic speaker and the author of “Debt Free Degree” and “The Graduate Survival Guide.”

I asked ONeal about his advice for students who want to understand how to manage their money. Here’s what he said.

The Epoch Times: Your work is dedicated to inspiring young people to understand how to manage their finances well. What inspired you to walk this path?

Anthony ONeal: I’ve seen firsthand the lack of financial literacy young people have today. They graduate high school not knowing how to handle their money, because financial literacy is not a mandatory class in most schools. And unfortunately, many parents aren’t having those conversations with their kids. This is a major reason why 73 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck—they were never taught how to handle their own money. I want to do my part in helping people build wealth, and that starts with teaching young people how to handle their money with wisdom.

The Epoch Times: What are the benefits of teaching financial literacy at a young age?

Mr. ONeal: The caliber of your future will be determined by the choices you make today. We need to help educate young people how to make the right choices when it comes to their finances. They need to be taught the basics, so that moving forward, they can make the right financial choices with the correct information. I made some unwise money decisions when I was young, and I want to help young people avoid those same mistakes that I made.

The Epoch Times: What are the key fundamentals kids need to understand about money?

Mr. ONeal: Money doesn’t grow on trees. There isn’t an unlimited supply of money, and your parents aren’t going to take care of you financially forever. Kids need to have a plan for their own money—a budget. A budget will give them structure for their money, and this is the time in life they need structure the most. They also need to take debt off the table, not even making it an option for themselves. Debt will rob you of your future, and we see this happening now with the student loan debt crisis. Preparation at a young age will help these kids walk into a much better financial future.

The Epoch Times: What misconceptions do young people tend to have about money?

Mr. ONeal: Young people typically think that taking on debt is inevitable, and a lot times they learn this from their parents. They think that you need a credit card because without it you can’t get a credit score. And without a credit score, you can’t make a life for yourself as an adult. This is false. There are ways around needing credit to get what you want and sometimes the answer is simply to save for what you want and pay for it in cash. They also think that there is no way you can go to college without student loans, but that’s also not true. Yes, it will take work and dedication, but in the long run you’ll be so thankful that you didn’t borrow from your future to get through the present.

The Epoch Times: How can you make the topic of personal finance fun for kids?

Mr. ONeal: You have to relate it to real life. Tell them the kind of life that they can have in the future if they start doing the hard work now. Have them envision it! Like most things, they won’t see the results tomorrow or the next day, but good decisions multiplied by time will give you a healthy financial life. Give them a sense of vision and show the steps to take to get there. If they are looking to make money, encourage them to work around the home for commission (not allowance). Allowance doesn’t require work, commission does. This empowers them to make their own money, but gives them the foundation that you can’t make money without putting in the work.

The Epoch Times: What advice do you have for parents and teachers who want to encourage their kids to take responsibility for their finances?

Mr. ONeal: Do not baby your kids financially. They are capable of taking on some financial responsibility, but you have to give them the opportunities and tools to do so. When you’re making your budget, have them sit down with you and do theirs. Whether that income be from a household chore commission or a job, show them that they need to have a plan for their money. If they choose to spend it all, don’t give them any more. In life, there are consequences to your money decisions and learning that early on is important. I also believe that if college is in your kid’s future, they should pay for 10 to 20 percent of it on their own. This can be from a job or scholarships or grants that they apply for. Kids need sweat equity in the game.

The Epoch Times: Do you have any student success stories you’d like to share?

Mr. ONeal: There was a girl in a youth group I led years ago that lived by the financial principles I teach and believe in. She spent her four years of high school saving up for college and spent an hour every day applying for every scholarship and grant she could get her hands on. Because of her hard work, she was able to graduate college completely debt-free. Yes, there were some things that she missed out on in high school, but they were things she couldn’t even remember today if you asked her. Now while her former classmates are drowning in student loan debt, she is completely debt-free and building wealth.

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