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Money Matters - Manhattan Times

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Story and photos by Gregg McQueen


They got lit – financially.

Students from several Northern Manhattan high schools received free financial literacy training on March 23 at the Alianza Cultural Center in Washington Heights.

Sponsored by State Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa, Catholic Charities and State Farm, the event was designed to teach high school juniors and seniors about financial planning.

In addition to a presentation from State Farm financial professionals, students participated in a networking breakfast and a breakout session.

“Financial literacy and financial planning are great assets of knowledge to have, especially before adulthood,” said De La Rosa. “Our high school students need to be exposed to real life scenarios that will be advantageous for them in the long run.”

“Catholic Charities is excited to bring financial literacy to high school students in Washington Heights. Having a good handle on one’s finances is so critical to success,” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities.

State Farm agents Jewelz Santiago and Robert Ramos gave the students advice on managing credit and saving money for the future.

“We like to stress what to do, and what not to do, with credit at a young age,” remarked Santiago, who said many young people are tempted with credit card offers and end up falling into debt before they reach college.

“Once you get a job and start earning money, make sure you save a little bit of your paycheck each time,” Santiago said. “If you don’t learn that concept of saving, and you go straight into getting credit, it can be really harmful.”

She told students to avoid signing up for too many store credit cards, and said many teens share their credit cards with friends, a practice she advised against.

“Don’t share credit with a friend. Once your credit is damaged, only you can fix it,” Santiago said. “It’s not like your friend can help you. You have to be very mindful.”

The agents suggested that young people sign up for a student credit card, and keep only one card for a while in order to build credit, while being careful not to let the balance climb too high.

“All credit isn’t bad, but all credit isn’t something you want,” remarked Ramos.

“If you have a $1,000 credit limit, act like the limit is $500,” Santiago said. “Be careful that you don’t get near your limit.”

Students in attendance were from the High School for Media and Communications, Gregorio Luperon High School, Inwood Academy for Leadership, High School for Health Careers and Sciences and the Department of Youth and Community Development’s In-School Youth Program.

“I thought it was a good presentation,” said Natasha Pimentel, a senior at the High School for Health Careers and Sciences. “Getting info like this, ahead of time, can stop you from making bad financial decisions.”

“I learned the importance of saving money,” added classmate Andrea Guamon. “I’m going to make sure I put part of my paycheck aside from my summer job.”

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