Real world knowledge: Money management
Why MVHS students aren’t prepared to handle their money
We’re at the end of the checkout line, waiting to purchase our items. The cashier scans each item and tells us the total. We hand them our debit card but they hand it back to us, saying the card was declined. That’s when we remember: we bled our debit cards dry the week before, and there’s not enough cash in our wallets. Frantically reaching for our cell phones, we call the people we know that can reliably give us money: our parents.
It’s an embarrassing moment. We’re basically exclaiming to the rest of the world, “I’m a typical teenager who can’t manage their money.” Whether the money is from a job, weekly allowances or the birthday checks from grandparents, for some of us, money seems to disappear mere days after we receive it.
Clearly, the concept of money management wasn’t within our grasp when we were seven or eight years old, so our parents had to buy us our necessary everyday items. The only time we would physically buy something at 7 or 8 years old was when our parents gave us money to give to the cashier, attempting to make us feel like we were part of the experience.
As we got older, we were handed more money — and the responsibility of managing it. Unfortunately for our parents, we often blow through our money through shopping sprees or brand name clothing that fills our drawers and closets. So we ask our parents for more. We ask and ask, then spend and spend. More money disappears each time.
We’re closer to 17 and 18 now. Soon, we’re going to control our own money and make our own decisions on how to use it. At that point, it’s dangerous to blow through our money like we did in high school. Worse yet, our parents won’t be enabling us anymore. Eventually, we’ll just be broke.
Because of the affluent community that is the Bay Area, most of the time our parents are able to provide us with access to more wealth, so therefore, it would seem natural to conclude that we know how to manage our money. However, the opposite is often the truth. The fact that we have so much wealth leads us to make more ignorant decisions, because we feel privileged enough to never bother learning how to manage money.
The truth is that when we constantly rely on our parents or other sources for money, we don’t learn for ourselves. Sure, it’s helpful to get an allowance and practice managing that money, but it’s not the same thing in the real world.
If we can’t learn how to manage our money before we enter the real world, the consequences could be steep. At this point, we will be so sheltered from money problems that we won’t realize the consequences of our actions. Only when we need to take out a loan from the bank will we realize the failures of asking for so much money. The average American is $38,000 in debt. And it’s a challenge to pay it back. The bank is not our parent; they expect money back. And when we can’t pay back the money we took, that’s it — there’s no lifeline, no rainy day fund, no hope of recovery.
The problem right now is we can always go back and ask our parents for more. In the real world, that isn’t always an option. Our parents won’t always be able to save us when we spot a new jacket or when our card bounces trying to pay for dinner. Our friends won’t always be there to “spot us” 10 dollars when we forget to put more cash in our wallet. These situations often go unnoticed because they’ve become so habitual that we no longer make an effort to fix them. For us to improve, we have to become familiar with handling our finances.
At this age, learning about finances and money management is a must — but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be during school. Whether we learn these things from our parents or by getting a job and making our own money, it’s crucial for us to get a grip on handling our money by the time we graduate high school. We have to learn when to save, when to spend, what to buy and how to survive with a budget.
For us to learn about money, we have to keep working towards managing it ourselves. At the end the day, it’s up to us, and no one else, to take care of our finances. We have to start learning to manage our money. Watching our parents budget their monthly expenses helps us understand the importance of keeping track of our finances. Writing down all of our purchases can show us how much money we’re actually spending over a couple weeks or months. At the very least, we should start categorizing our purchases based on “needs” and “wants” to stop us from endlessly bingeing on things we can live without. It will take time, but we’ve been dealing with money long enough to know why everyone needs it, so now we should be mature enough to start taking ownership.
The bottom line is that it will be incredibly beneficial to learn how to handle our finances now, because when the time comes, our lives will be independent and unassisted by our parents. Our money is just the same.
Hold your ground
We should be more doubtful in situations where we can be taken advantage of
Our immigrant parents are natural skeptics — when we visit our motherland, walking through the streets where dozens of vendors are stationed selling street food and fresh fruit, our parents stop at one and inquire about a price: $5 for a pound of apples. They frown at the answer, “Too expensive.” We stand awkwardly while our parents bargain with the seller, uncomfortable watching what we interpret as an unnecessary commotion. We are confused as to why they don’t just pay the full price instead of criticizing how someone is running their own business.
MVHS students are uneasy at the idea of speaking out and prefer going through life without having to negotiate: accept what is offered or don’t and move on. We tell ourselves that even though something may seem overpriced, it’s easier to pay the full amount than make a big deal out of it. However, even if it makes us uneasy to see our parents fight for a few dollars, we know that it’s the right thing to do.
We may have already faced encounters where people have taken advantage of us, like when others don’t complete their fair share in a group project. In situations like these, we are more likely to not confront our group mates after feeling wronged. We end up telling ourselves that it isn’t a big deal and the project will turn out better if we simply do it ourselves, but it’s important to speak up for ourselves simply because we are being wronged.
With every slight offense we brush off, we exacerbate the cycle of allowing ourselves to be stepped on. Each “it’s fine” leads to another one, and we begin searching for reasons to justify our compliance. Perhaps we will eventually reach a point where we realize that we can no longer maintain our docile front. As of now, we may find it acceptable to sacrifice ourselves to avoid what we deem as unnecessary conflict, but the outside world is not so kind.
In a few years, we’re not going to just be fighting for a good grade anymore — we’ll be fighting for our survival in society. Our parents are experienced in knowing that not everyone is to be trusted and that some people only act in favor of their own gains in a situation. People will exploit our compliance in situations much more crucial to our lives than a school group project — whether that be making us work overtime for no additional pay or taking credit for our efforts. By placing ourselves beneath others, we are jeopardizing our own chances of leading a happy and secure life.
In the future, it’s important to be skeptical in certain situations to detect when someone is taking advantage of us and confront the situation. Author Scott Berkun writes that smart people are more susceptible in defending bad ideas — us MVHS students are a homogenous group of people, and as Berkuns states, the more a group of people’s thinking is similar, the more likely they are to jump to inaccurate conclusions instead of thinking things over. While right now, we are considered “smart”, many of us will ultimately experience college life and land a full-time job, having to come face-to-face with completely unique environments consisting of individuals who are unlike our peers at MVHS.
In certain situations it’s important to assume best intentions — but at the same time, when someone is trying to convince you of something, it can be smarter to remain doubtful if you feel somewhat uncomfortable. We shouldn’t be afraid of challenging someone’s claims through questions and ultimately refusing it if need be.
Learn to fight or take flight
Why self-defense classes should be required at school
It’s college move-in day, and you decide to explore the city with your new roommate. After dinner, both of you try to find your way back to the dorms, with your phone flashlight and a dim street light the only sources of light to guide you. A group of people approach you, eyeing your phone and then your bag. Suddenly you’re nervous — this doesn’t happen in Cupertino. You don’t know whether to run and be chased or to stay and try to defend yourself.
It’s easy to think “that would never happen to me here, it’s Cupertino,” but many of us struggle to keep up with or acknowledge essential methods of self-protection. We can all agree that Cupertino is a relatively safe community, especially in comparison to other places in the country. Naturally, the idea of learning self-defense isn’t prioritized because we’ve grown so comfortable here.
Some MV P.E. teachers include a self-defense unit for freshmen classes. However, not all teachers are incorporate itt. Units such as street hockey and volleytennis are more popular among most teachers, with the majority of all students participating in at least one of these units, but self-defense should take priority. According to P.E. teacher Brian Sullivan, teachers are often reluctant to teach self-defense to their students because it is difficult to execute correctly while also making sure students feel comfortable.
“It’s one of those uncomfortable units where you either know how to do it or you don’t, “ Sullivan said. “Just the fact that it takes a little more work to master some of the mechanics and go through the process of actually learning how to master it physically and mentally, while keeping them interested is another hard part. Because if it’s uncomfortable for them then it will be a challenge to try and teach them.”
According to an article by the Odyssey, learning self-defense can lead to an increase in mental awareness, self-confidence and discipline. There are thousands of violent situations that could have ended much better if students adapted the practice and techniques of self-defense. The skill is a useful source of protection, allowing students to grow up knowing they can take care of themselves.
Our oblivion could lead to trouble in the future. Continuing this pattern of constant trust or unawareness of our surroundings could lead us into situations we can’t get out of. Because this city is so protected by the bubble, we lack the chance to experience handling anything beyond it. We become ignorant to the repercussions that could follow our display of expensive phones without care. Our lack of education in self-defense leads to a lack of self-protection.
Schools need to start considering the long-term benefits and dedicate a certain amount of time to self-defense. Many of us at some point will head out of our protected city into areas and situations with limited guidance and knowledge. If self-defense becomes a requirement, many students might take the time to appreciate and acknowledge what could potentially save their life.
“With today’s society and the way many kids are stuck in their phones, it [becomes] more of a challenge [for them] to actually see the world around them, and they miss out on more,” Sullivan said. “In this case, [it’s] their personal safety that’s at risk, [so] I think if it’s even just something little it will help them for the better.”
Put your pride aside
How our pride blocks us from seeking the necessary assistance
There is always something that makes our lives difficult. In the competitive field of MVHS, students here know this best. After-school clubs or sports coupled with a heavy course load and hours of violin practice can make our lives stressful and chaotic. As independent high school students, we are expected to trot on, make our own decisions and simply figure it out. But the moment someone offers help, the competitive nature of our local high schools propagates our fears and makes us insecure.
The New York Times finds we don’t ask for help because we do not want to seem needy, incompetent or weak. Maybe because of the competitive MVHS environment, we are insecure about being inferior to other students. It could be our pride or our parent’s expectations that make us think we are old enough to figure high school out. But we see people asking for help all the time, regardless of age. Thus, by letting insecurities getting in our way, we forgo asking for help, ultimately making our lives harder.
In high school, there are readily available resources: counselors, teachers and even two student advocates, all here to help us. Counselors can give college advice and help improve time management. Teachers can give extensions and are there during tutorial to offer one-on-one assistance. And the student advocates are here to talk and help hash out our problems. But it’s not easy to ask teachers or counselors for help. They can be intimidating. We do not want to upset our teachers in fear of getting a bad grade, or annoy counselors in fear of getting a bad recommendation letter.
But then fast forward a few years to college. It’s a whole other level: greater independence, more responsibility, harder classes, no parents and just a pile of problems we have to deal with on our own. Evidently, it is harder to find help in college. While there are many resources to help us out, they are not going to come to us — we have to go to them and seek their assistance. Essentially at the collegiate level, there is no one actively offering us help.
If we are too prideful to seek help in high school, we are deliberately making our lives more difficult. But the simple gesture of just asking for help can take one a long way. High school is the perfect opportunity to come out of our shells and seek help.
The norm is that our lives should be hard, and if it is not, we are not working hard enough. There is no shame in making things easier and it would be ignorant to think otherwise. If we want our lives to be easier, we should put our pride aside and make our lives simpler for our own well-being. While at first, it may feel odd, eventually, we will become more confident and less reluctant to ask for help.