What Teens Really Think About Money

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In an essay contest, high schoolers wrote about their innermost thoughts about cash. The results were much more mature than you might think.

“You’ve been a malignant tumor upon the lives of my family and friends,” says Justina Tran, a 17-year-old student at Garden Grove High School in Garden Grove, Calif. “I hate that my family talks about you more than anything else – they even worry about you. You’ve put my family through a lot, you know.”

Who’s Justina talking about? Money.

“I don’t expect you to apologize, but you could at least compensate us with your presence more often,” Justina wrote in the first-place entry in last month’s college writing contest sponsored by a writing website called Stage of Life. The site sponsors writing contests on a myriad of topics, ranging from “What stresses you out?” to “What is the value of marriage?” In December, the contest was “What is your relationship with money?”

More than 3,300 students from all 50 states entered. Here are some illuminating excerpts…

  • “I have been rather careless about money. I never had to really care, it was always there. Until sadly, my parents separated for some time, then I really had to take care of money. I became aware of how much everything costs and how much I could really spend. I realized I had no clue about what money really means.”
  • “When I was little, everyone thought you were one rich kids if you had a five dollar bill. I mean, you could buy about five candy bars with that kind of money. But as I got older, things that I wanted started getting more and more expensive…computers, cell phones, iPod’s, and designer everything.”
  • “Why do banks basically pay you to borrow money to give to other people?? I mean, why the middle man? Wouldn’t it just make more sense if people all just loaned money to other people? But then I got to thinking about how governments play their role in the banking system. Well, lets just say that I got even more confused.”
  • “I look at some of the teenagers in my school and see how spoiled they are. I hear girls talk extremely foully of their mothers because they cannot have the latest, most expensive accessories. I wonder why they cannot see all the lavish articles they have, and I have come to realize the answer is money. Money blinds people; it makes them oblivious to their surroundings. In a way, it is like an addictive drug; the user cannot survive without it.”

So what did the winners receive? Ironically, not money. Justina received a T-shirt, a pen, and a $25 Kodak gift certificate.

Teaching kids about money is obviously an important part of raising them, and we’ve done several stories that could help, like How to Teach Your Teens to Avoid Debt and 5 Money Related Gifts For Kids.

Stacy Johnson

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