Finance 101

Students take notes on credit, career choices

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Steamboat Springs High School junior Taylor Miller-Freutel writes down the five characteristics a borrower needs to obtain credit.

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Steamboat Springs High School juniors Taylor Miller-Freutel, right, and Jessica Fox negotiate salary and benefits during a role-playing exercise at the Financial Literacy Workshop on Thursday at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School.

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Debra Selbe, front, and Melissa Cosby talk to Steamboat Springs High School students about credit during Thursday's Financial Literacy Workshop.

— Steamboat Springs High School junior Liza Darlington does not have a credit card, and she does not plan on getting one any time soon.

"It would be too easy to get myself in trouble," Liza said.

But she also learned Thursday that getting one might be necessary to help build a credit history.

Liza was one of about 200 Steamboat juniors who participated in the Financial Literacy Workshop on Thursday. Girls spent the morning at the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp for the workshop, and boys attended their workshop at Olympian Hall in the Howelsen Hill Lodge.

The finance workshop focused on topics that included careers, networking and negotiating as well as credit.

"We don't learn a lot about that in high school," said junior Taylor Miller-Freutel. "With this, it helps you know where to start."

Noreen Moore of the Routt County Economic Development Cooperative helped organize the workshop and said the information is particularly relevant to 11th-graders as they prepare for college and careers. Moore facilitated the girls' workshop, and the boys workshop was led by Scott Ford, who works closely with the local business community as a volunteer with the Yampa Valley Chapter of SCORE, a nonprofit organization that counsels potential and existing entrepreneurs.

According to the Young Americans Center for Financial Education, about 20 percent of high school students use credit cards. Nearly half of college students have credit card debt averaging more than $3,000, and the number of 18- to 24-year-olds declaring bankruptcy has nearly doubled in the past 10 years, according to the center.

"I've had kids that have come back from college and said they had to drop out because they had problems with debt," said Gayle Dudley, career and college counselor at the high school. "These are things that aren't taught in the classroom."

Local bankers Melissa Cosby and Debra Selbe talked to the students about credit and credit reports.

"This is essentially like your second resume," said Cosby, holding an example of a credit report.

Landlords, banks, credit card companies, and even some employers will want to look at your credit report before making any decision, Cosby said.

"You can't hide from your credit," Selbe said. "The only person who is responsible for your credit report is you."

In addition to building good credit, students were also given tips on how to negotiate for higher salaries so they could pay off their future credit cards.

Alice Klauzer with Alpine Bank joined Moore to talk about the skills of negotiating and networking.

Moore said it was especially important that the girls hone the skills because of the wage disparity that exists between men and women.

Many professionals from Steamboat volunteered their time to teach the different parts of the finance workshop. Jen Frits with Prudential Steamboat Realty talked to the girls about careers. Sarah Fox with Fox Construction Inc., gave the keynote speech to the girls.

"One of the biggest things is they get to hear from women in the community who are very powerful women," Dudley said. "It's great there are people in the community who took the time to do this."

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