Did you know?

More Americans declare bankruptcy than graduate from college, and a bachelor’s degree can help you earn more than twice what your high school degree can.

Questions & answers

We know you have a lot on your mind. That’s why we’ve answered some of the questions your friends have asked in case you were wondering the same thing.

Wise words from Steven Gooding of the rock band GOODING

Financial literacy is empowerment, and to have control over your own life is very rock ′n’ roll to me. Without a basic understanding of credit, interest, saving, and creating a rainy day fund (to keep kids who are struggling away from predatory lenders), there is no way to turn our communities around. To me, rock ′n’ roll means having the freedom to make your own choices, build the kind of life you want to live and help others. This planet needs fully aware, educated young people coming up to make this place work for everyone.

Some of my closest family members and friends have faced huge struggles with money, and I have seen how quickly it can tear families, relationships and communities apart. I also commiserate with young people who think that their only way out of a hard situation is by becoming famous, getting a sports deal or a record contract. Music saved my life, but I was never taught to save some money along the way. Not at home or in school. Our society really doesn’t reward “slow and steady” in any area. Everything is based on more and now – immediate gratification.

Also, as a touring rock band, we have seen firsthand that the roughest streets are the ones with five or 10 same-day lenders setting up shop. This creates a feedback loop that makes it very hard for people already having financial trouble to ever get a foothold. We have talked to these people in the middle of the night after our shows, and we figure if we are lucky enough to have a microphone to speak out we might as well use it.

Getting in trouble with credit cards. I didn’t understand that at 25% interest, a fourth of every hour I was working was going to someone else – and hurting my ability to build my own life and career. I also missed minimum payments and, when I needed a loan the most, my credit score was too low.

Man, I know times might be hard for you right now, but if there is any way you can stay in school, please do. Your education is really important, and the going could get tough later on without that high school diploma.

Much, much later than I should have. I was out of college before I understood the power of compounding interest. I have worked almost every day of my life, but if I would have saved along the way I would have got so much further so much faster. It’s important to remember that people who struggle may be working very, very hard, but if they don’t have money saved their money cannot work for them.

You asked, we answered

Bank Accounts

Usually, you need at least $250 to open a bank account, but some community banks and credit unions may allow you to open an account with as little as $50 or $100. It’s always important to ask.

You can be any age! But, if you’re under 18, you will need to have someone at least that old to co-sign on the account.

Ideally, it’s best to start an account with your parents. Ask them to take you to the local bank and co-sign to open a checking or savings account (most banks require you to be 18 or have someone of age co-sign on the account). Once you have income, plan to put a portion of each paycheck into that account.

If your parents don’t have a bank account, or aren’t the best option to co-sign, ask your grandparents, a teacher or someone you look up to in your community who is willing to help you get started.

It’s vital to keep your banking and account numbers safe and secure. That also means keeping those numbers private – away from friends and anyone else who may not have your best interests at heart.

It’s money that the bank pays you to keep your savings at their bank – it’s yours to keep.

No, but you do need to have a way to earn money so that you can begin to set some aside for savings in a bank account and investing for your retirement and other long-term goals. If you aren’t old enough to have a traditional job, you can explore other options.

Credit Scores

Some people think of a credit score similar to your GPA in school – it’s your “grade” compared to other individuals. Credit scores are created by companies in order to give an indication of how financially reliable you may be. The FICO scores range from 300 to 850, and the higher your score, the better. Banks, insurance companies, credit cards and lending companies use these scores to determine how much of a risk you will be to them in regard to paying them back – and they adjust the cost of lending to you based on your score. The better your score, the cheaper your cost will be (meaning the lower your interest rate will be for that loan).

While credit score calculations are not completely public information, the timeliness of your payments, payment history, the total amount of loans available to you, how many credit cards you have, and how long you’ve had credit cards are all criteria used to calculate your credit score.

Having a high credit score can help you buy a house or car, and even get a credit card with a low interest rate. A good credit score tells lenders that you are trustworthy and able to pay back what you owe on time.

Like social media posts, your past follows you. Even colleges review your activity as part of the process to determine if they will accept you. When you want to buy your first car or home, your credit score can help you make that purchase, or keep you from it. Improve your score by paying loans on a timely basis and keep your debt-to-income levels within a reasonable rate (a good range is 20-30%).

Start by getting a credit card that gives you a lower balance maximum to charge, then only charge a little at a time. Pay on time and make sure you don’t carry over a balance of more than $100 to avoid paying a lot of additional money (interest) back.

Your bank accounts have little effect on your credit score, and only in certain situations would that come into play. A debit card with your bank can show responsible use and help you get approved for a credit card from your bank. Credit cards are key to helping build good credit and a high score.

Age doesn’t matter. Your credit history starts the first time a credit report is reported by a lender. You can request a copy of your credit report after the age of 14.


Use a piggy bank or envelopes until you have at least $250. Typically, banks will have lower minimums for young students looking to save and invest – just ask.

They are both investment opportunities to help you save for retirement. Both have different advantages in regard to taxes, investment choices and possible employer contributions. For example, a 401(k) is usually provided through your employer, and the money you set aside (before taxes are taken out of your paycheck) is sometimes matched by your company, which makes your savings work harder for you. With a Roth IRA, the relationship is between you and the investment firm you choose to set it up through – it’s not an employer-sponsored plan with a match, but there are tax advantages to consider.

Withdrawals from 401(k) accounts may be subject to income taxes, and prior to age 59½ a 10% federal penalty tax may apply. Unless certain criteria are met, Roth IRA owners must be 59½ or older and have held the IRA for five years before tax-free withdrawals are permitted.


Advanced education is critical to your potential success in the working world after high school. Do your research and explore your options before you take on student loan debt. The first step in this decision-making process is to map out the future costs of your education with the potential income you could eventually earn in your career. Look ahead to create a clear understanding of what debt you can handle once you have earned your degree. This can help ensure the debt you take on can manageably be paid off within a reasonable time frame. It’s a good idea to sit down with someone who can help you compare the potential costs of taking out a loan versus the potential benefits.

Your education costs should not be so high that they drown you. And, you can advance your education more economically in some ways more than others. There are hospitals, institutions and government agencies that you can commit to working for in order to reduce some of your student loans.

Many student loans can’t be abandoned and will follow you, and your credit score, until you deal with them. It’s important to understand and plan before you take out loans to help ensure they will be workable to pay back after you complete your education and are successfully employed.

Credit Cards

Start with a debit card from your bank. After a year or two of using it responsibly, you can apply for a credit card from your bank.

Unlike a credit card which enables you to borrow money and pay it back, a debit card is connected to your bank account. That means when you use this card to purchase items, money you’ve saved is being taken electronically from your checking or savings account. Since it’s so easy to swipe your card and pay, it’s important to keep track of what you spend to make sure you don’t get charged fees for not having enough money in your account to cover your purchases.