Personal finance

25 years in schools, part 2

In the last column, I set out my story and the story of CARE’s national financial literacy program, which I founded, in our fight against our national financial illiteracy epidemic.

I have also included some quotes from students and Tammy Franz after a recent visit to the Canandaigua Academy.

Before I leave the CARE high school presentations, I want to include the TOP TEN LESSONS I cover, with three goals in mind. First, reinforce what students have or will learn about personal finances in the classroom or at home. Second, educate students on additional personal finance lessons, tactics, and techniques. Third, energize the students to realize that they need to learn a lot more about finance and never stop learning, so that they are not taken advantage of by the financial industry, and so they also realize the importance of always having a financial plan in life, and developing good financial habits, so that they can achieve all of their career and life goals.

To reinforce the top ten lessons, the presentation includes videos, as well as stories of real people in and around bankruptcy courts and the mistakes they’ve made.

Here are the lessons. Don’t use credit cards to buy “things” you can’t afford. Money is king. Budget to control your spending or it will control you. You need a good credit history or there will be consequences. Save if you want to do priceless things and live richly. Money matters; be frugal, not cheap. Do not make wants, wishes, luxuries and amenities “false needs”. Do not make advance spending a “false emergency”. The only “good debt” is what you can afford to pay off and have a repayment plan. Get the best value for every dollar you spend or borrow on your education and reduce student debt.

Before moving on to a few pre-pandemic visits to Canandaigua College (I’ll be back there at the end of November), I wanted to leave you with Nathan’s story, which regular readers might remember. Due to the unique combination of courses he took, after listening to three presentations over two semesters, even though after the first one we told him he could go to the library and take a study room, this elder had this to say: I don’t regret attending three presentations, because “I learned something new every time, and kids like us don’t hear enough of this stuff”. WOW!

Also, before I move on to some college experiences, I wanted to share a quote from Caroline Chapman, district communications director, who, as far as I can remember, is the only person in a school district to sit on both a high level school and a presentation to college.

“Judge Ninfo’s lessons to our students prepare them for life beyond middle and high school. I have visited and participated in the lesson on several occasions and have found the advice and explanation useful to everyone. Understanding the value of money, interest rates, being frugal, and thinking about the value of money in conjunction with the hard work required to earn it will be lessons our students can take to the world and hopefully. it, share it with others. “

I have been going to Canandaigua College to speak for Kim Connal’s Family and Career Science classes every semester for a number of years now. The students were incredibly attentive, interested and eager to learn. We’re talking about more basic topics, like unit pricing and comparison shopping, and having a monthly dinner with your family to chat and learn more about personal finance. Then, in a somewhat reduced fashion, we cover some of the top ten lessons – money is about hard work, money is king, the need to start saving now, knowing the difference between needs and wants, interest payments cannibalize your hard work and wealth, and the need to avoid credit card debt as you get older.

In the attached pre-pandemic photo, you’ll see the famous “money tree” in Kim’s classroom and a dear red Ferrari.

Thanks to the tree, I always say in my presentations: “Money doesn’t grow on trees or come from ATMs, it comes from hard work”. As for the Ferrari, I always say, “Avoid and minimize debt as much as possible so that I don’t give all those unnecessary interest payments to my friends in the financial industry, so they can buy better cars,” etc., keep for yourself and your family.

Here’s a quote from Kim: “It’s a huge plus for our students that Judge Ninfo comes to our class to talk about financial management and being a frugal buyer. Thanks to his passionate dialogue, Judge Ninfo fully engages the students so that they “sit down and listen” to his wise advice. It is evident from the students’ reflection that the Ninfo Judge sessions are of great value and are something that students will take with them after graduation. “

I want to end with my favorite college stories. In fact, it’s one of my favorite stories, period.

Normally I only do 7th and 8th grades, although it’s never too early to start talking about these things, but one year Kim said “I have a really exceptional 6th grade to which I would like you to talk. ” I did, and at the end I asked what I always ask in all my presentations: did anyone learn anything today, do you think other kids should hear this and do you have any final questions? A somewhat puzzled 6th grade boy raised his hand and said, “JUDGE, ISN’T THAT JUST IN COMMON SENSE? “

If all Americans could say that, we would no longer have a national financial illiteracy epidemic.

John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns at

John Ninfo