Elizabeth Students Get A Lesson In Finances

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ELIZABETH—In reality, you are a teenager. Imagine, however, that you are an employed, single 24 year-old. Then, honestly assess your lifestyle choices, spending, and living expenses. Now ask yourself these questions- are you earning enough money to pay for your lifestyle? Do you have more debt than you would like? Do you have a road map or strategy that will lead to financial freedom?

Students at Benedictine Academy in Elizabeth were asked those realistic and challenging questions at a financial literacy workshop presented at the school on October 16. The “Budget Savvy Workshop” was presented by North East Planning Corporation to young women in grades 9-12 at the all-female Catholic college prep secondary school. Emphasis on saving money and budget planning were key points stressed at the workshop, with a goal of putting students on the road to achieving financial freedom.

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Patricia Ferrara Comforti, a graduate of Benedictine Academy who is employed at NE Planning Corporation, facilitated the workshop. One grade at a time, students participated in 45 minute sessions that featured budget planning facts and  budget worksheets for each, as well as money skills and strategies for long and short term savings goals.

“The rules don’t change when you are an adult,” Comforti told the students. “If you develop good patterns when you are a teenager, you will do well managing finances as an adult. Try to imagine your self ten years from now,” she added. Each student was asked to consider where their money would be coming from and where it would be going.

“Hope is not a strategy,” stated Karen Swartz, NE Planning Corporation’s  lead financial representative at the workshop. Swartz stressed how vital it is to have money management skills. “It is important to be financially informed and look at everything you owe and everything you have,” she emphasized.

“If it doesn’t add up, you can become bankrupt,” she pointed out. She encouraged the young women to ask themselves if they can “really afford” the things they see in stores. Swartz referred to the “IHH” (“I Have to Have”) Syndrome—questioning “need” vs. “want”. She encouraged the students to control that temptation and live within their means, preparing for the future by saving money.

“Pay yourself first, then give back to society, and, set aside a weekly amount for spending money,” she suggested. She spoke about “credit”, emphasizing credit “is making purchases without having the money to pay the full cost”. Other advice included setting realistic short term and long term financial goals; tracking one’s spending; and never letting anyone else navigate one’s financial road map. “People don’t plan to fail,” Swartz pointed out, “they fail to plan.” “Learn good spending habits; don’t get in over your heads,” she added.

Students at the Academy were asked to evaluate their spending and lifestyle choices based on the “salaries” they would earn in the careers they chose during the workshop. Many were surprised to learn they were in thousands of dollars of projected debt after completing their budget worksheets. “It made me aware of how much I take things for granted,” said Melanie Lazaro of Newark, a senior at the Academy.

“I never really looked at money and what I spend. I learned I have to save more,” Lazaro added. Fellow senior Gabrielle Teixeira of Newark agreed. “I’m not moving out of the house until I’m 40,” she joked. “I’m a shopper. I will start putting money away. This really opened my eyes a lot,” she added. Freshman Lydia Oquendo of Elizabeth commented, “I really need to be re-thinking my money!” Fellow ninth grader Iana Amsterdam of Elizabeth echoed that sentiment, saying, “I want too many luxuries.”

NE Planning’s Director of Marketing Kevin Phillips offered words of wisdom for the students. “Saving  20% of one’s money is the ideal, and, work off of a balance sheet whatever you do,” Phillips commented. “Most of the general public doesn’t have a budget…corporations do,” he explained. “We try to get people to think more like a business to deal with challenges and personal business,” he said. “Hopefully this workshop will help the students see reality and then plan realistically,” he stated. NE Planning Corporation also conducted a similar workshop for the faculty at Benedictine Academy in October.

Entitled “Practical Applications for a Healthy Financial Life”, the same presentation will be made to parents of students at the Academy on November 11.

Ben Acad Financial Literacy workshop Photo 1

Patricia Ferrara Comforti, (standing, far right) facilitated a financial literacy workshop for students at Benedictine Academy in Elizabeth on October 16. Comforti, herself a graduate of the all-female Catholic college prep secondary school, works for NE Planning Corporation, which presented the workshop. Students were asked to use budget worksheets to evaluate their spending and lifestyle choices based on the “salaries” they would earn in the careers they chose during the workshop. The workshop also featured budget planning facts, as well as money skills and strategies for long and short term savings goals. “If you develop good patterns when you are a teenager, you will do well managing finances as an adult,” Comforti told the young women.

Ben Acad Financial Literacy workshop Photo 2

Benedictine Academy juniors (l-r): Christie Paredinha of Hillside, Jessica Silva of Elizabeth and Karina Rocha of Newark, practice budgeting their money during a “Budget Savvy Workshop” presented by NE Planning Corporation at the school on October 16. The students, along with their entire school, learned money skills and strategies during the presentation. Other advice included setting realistic short term and long term financial goals; tracking one’s spending; and never letting anyone else navigate one’s financial road map. “People don’t plan to fail,” presenter Karen Swartz pointed out, “they fail to plan.”

Ben Acad Financial Literacy workshop Photo 3

Liz Cabezas (pictured, foreground) of Elizabeth, a junior at Benedictine Academy in Elizabeth, calculates her “budget” during a financial literacy workshop at her school. Students at the all-female Catholic college prep secondary school were asked realistic and challenging questions during the “Budget Savvy Workshop”, presented by North East Planning Corporation on October 16. Emphasis on saving money and budget planning were key points stressed at the workshop, with a goal of putting students on the road to achieving financial freedom.

Ben Acad Financial Literacy workshop Photo 4

Melanie Lazaro of Newark (left), a senior at Benedictine Academy in Elizabeth, listens to some financial advice from Patricia Ferraro Comforti during a financial literacy workshop held recently at the all female Catholic college prep secondary school. The “Budget Savvy Workshop” was presented by North East Planning Corporation to young women in grades 9-12. Comforti, a graduate of Benedictine Academy who is employed at NE Planning Corporation, facilitated the workshop. Students, using budget worksheets, were asked to evaluate their future spending and lifestyle choices based on the “salaries” they would earn in the careers they chose during the workshop. “It made me aware of how much I take things for granted,” said Lazaro. “I never really looked at money and what I spend. I learned I have to save more,” she added.


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