Students making ‘cents’ of finances

It’s tax time.
As most adults fumble through their 1997 income tax return, or are still procrastinating about it, a group of students has started learning how to make their money work for them.
“What you learn in this course can make you a millionaire.”
That’s the catchy subhead of “You and Your Money,” a money management course being offered to grade 12 students at Fort Frances High School.
And while some signed up are skeptical they’ll end up in the millionaires’ club, hope still glimmers that it might be attainable.
“It was a drawing card,” admitted Joelle Forget, one of the students who started the course two weeks ago.
“Maybe. I don’t know. I hope so,” echoed Robert Perreault of his chances of becoming a millionaire.
Aimey Cousineau said she didn’t believe it. The reason she signed up for the course was to get a grip on her finances.
“[I want] a better perspective on how to save money because I’m really bad at it. All my cheques are gone like that,” she noted, snapping her fingers.
“I’m not very good with money at all,” echoed Forget. “I have no control over my spending.
“I hope to have a better understanding of investing and of saving, and how I can control my money better and make it work for me,” she added.
And that is the basis behind the course. When they finish, each student should have a firm understanding of such things as budgeting, credit cards, coupon shopping, buying a car, insurance, consumer awareness, saving, and investing.
“A lot of that is fairly basis stuff. We put it in terms that they can understand,” noted teacher Mark Kowalchuk. “[And] we tell them before they start making mistakes.”
The textbooks are the same ones that many Canadians rely on for financial advice–“Wealth Without Risk for Canadians” by Charles Givens and “The Wealthy Barber” by David Chilton.
There also is a resource book put out by VISA Canada, along with periodicals and various speakers brought in from local financial institutions and car dealerships.
“All these materials are meant to be used after the course,” Kowalchuk said.
The most important thing they learn, he said, is to put away 10 percent of their earnings each pay period. Rather than put it into a savings account, though, the students are urged to look at investment options such as dividend funds.
“We don’t encourage that they get into stocks,” Kowalchuk added, noting the students are taught to “save early, save regularly, and the compounded interest takes care of the rest.”
All the students also are urged to file income tax returns so Revenue Canada can give them a basic RRSP contribution limit.
As for the million-dollar claim the students are skeptical about, Kowalchuk felt it could happen if they were to apply everything they learn from the course to their lives.
“They’ve been exposed to everything that, if they were to follow, would make them a millionaire in their lifetime,” he assured, though admitting many of the students are just there for the credit.
“[But] I tell them I wouldn’t be here if I had this course in high school,” he smiled.