In a time of mounting school fees, slashed education budgets, tight-fisted student loan lenders and an uncertain fiscal future, never before has maintaining a clean financial sheet been so crucial to college students.
But many are finding it hard to do just that, said Citibank financial advisor Elaine Kazuko Takehara, who spoke to students about debt management at the University Student Union’s Ventura Room on Dec. 3.
‘ ‘The number one problem a student faces is credit,’ said Takehara, bemoaning the spendthrift culture so many college-goers have taken up.
She said many young adults, enamored with owning their first credit card, often make extravagant lifestyle purchases without considering the consequences.
‘I’d say the most important thing is self discipline,’ she said.
Takehara emphasized five things a student should consider before making a purchase.
She said they should ask themselves if they really need the item, and if they must have it right away. They should also ask what would happen if they do not buy it right away and question how they have gotten along thus far without it. Most importantly, they should ask, ‘How much will this really cost me?,’ she said.
Takehara illustrated how when using credit cards, what initially is thought of as a bargain may eventually leave a consumer with a sour taste in his or her mouth ‘- especially after taking into account various charges and interest rates. She also described how an unpaid debt could lead to years of payments.
Takehara, who said she’ bought her own house at 21, stressed the importance of a good credit rating in securing home and car loans in the future.
‘Make the minimum monthly payments’hellip; If you fall behind they will increase the interest rates,’ she said. ‘If you are having difficulty, work with the banks and tell them you are a student.’
Takehara floated the idea of using eBay as a source of extra cash, proposing that debt-ridden students put the extra cash from the venture towards settling debts.
She also advised students to ‘decrease spending on lunch, gasoline, Starbucks.’
Takehara acknowledged the disparity between credit card interest rates and the standard interest rates given by banks to those who open saving accounts.
‘Don’t start saving until you get rid of debt,’ she advised.
Journalism student Marlene Salinas said she took away some helpful tips from the talk. The 19-year-old said she had around $600 debt and that the tips on credit card management were what she took away most.
Stacey Price, 21 and also a journalism student, said although she had no debt, the talk was pivotal in illustrating the importance of good credit.
Takehara offered some parting words for students to follow.
‘Have a goal in mind,’ she said, ‘set a budget and stick to it, practice good spending habits, once you’re dug out stay out.’