Debt Consolidation
Consolidation Loans

And the winners are …
(click on the name of the winner to read their essay)

Grades 6-7

Andrew Currey (6th grade, Schilling Farms Middle School)
Marchana Holliday (6th grade, Wooddale Middle School)
Adrienne Stepter (7th grade, Germantown Middle School)
Ian White (6th grade, Wooddale Middle School)

Grades 8-9

Chantella Mitchell (8th grade, Cordova Middle School)
Seung-Yen Park (8th grade, Schilling Farms Middle School)
Angie Tsay (8th grade, Schilling Farms Middle School)
Nathan Ziebart (9th grade, Houston High School)

Grades 10-12

Kevin Baker (12th grade, Christian Brothers High School)
Christopher Finley (12th grade, Manassas High School)
Lashun Howard (12th grade, Manassas High School)
Kyle Newman (12th grade, Cordova High School)

Andrew Currey; 11 years old
6th Grade, Shilling Farms Middle School
Teacher: Ms. Bishop

Financial literacy means having a good understanding of both your income and your expenses. Becoming financially literate is one way to increase your net worth. Becoming financially literate is the first step to becoming financially responsible. To avoid late fee penalties you can pay your bills and taxes on time. Most importantly, as an individual, you should not spend more than you make. In addition, you should put your money in an investment instrument instead of leaving it at home in a safe. This way your money can work for you by earning interest. You should spend your money on the things you need first, then you should save a certain percentage of your income and only then should you spend on things you want.

It’s also important for a community to be financially literate just as it is important for an individual to be financially literate. The community shouldn’t waste its money on unimportant things. The community should make sure the needs of its citizens are being taken care of such as schools, libraries, fire and police protection. The community should not spend the tax-payers’ money on people who are able to work but choose not to work. A financially literate and responsible individual will be able to give back to their community in the form of charitable donations. But you are only able to make charitable donations to the community as an individual if you spend and invest your money responsibly. It is extremely important for a community to be financially literate because the community is responsible for serving the needs of many citizens. Because the community is responsible for meeting the needs of all of its citizens it should put its money in a variety of good investments to maximize long term growth while minimizing unnecessary risk. The community should stress the importance of becoming financially literate to its citizens so that the community and its citizens can have a prosperous future working together to make the community a great place to live.

Marchana Holliday; 12 years old
6th grade, Wooddale Middle School
Teacher: Mrs. Parker Bradley, Math Teacher

Financial literacy matters a lot in our community. Many people have no idea how to spend their money. It’s very important for us to learn about financial literacy so that it could help in the future. If you know how to spend your money wisely you won’t have trouble keeping it.

Financial decisions can help us and harm us. The way it would help us is like what I try to do every time I get money. I get paid twenty dollars allowance every two weeks. What I try to do is save fifty percent of what I get so I will always have some money in case of an emergency. I’m also trying to save enough to start a college fund in case I don’t get a scholarship.

Another smart financial decision is to start a savings bond or something similar. What numerous people do today is spend it all on some junk food or some new Carmello’s (tennis shoes). Kids like myself should start saving their money more.

Spending ALL of your money on unnecessary things could hurt. We should get into the habit of saving our money now. Money management has much more importance than people assign to it. You could put yourself in a perilous situation if you don’t spend your money wisely.

For example: If your house note is ten thousand dollars a month and you’re getting paid five thousand dollars a month, why would you buy a house that’s twice as much as what you get paid? That’s not spending your money wisely. That situation can land somebody homeless and on the street.

Believe it or not, millions of adults are on the street today for that or some similar reason. Many people don’t realize how important money management is. I know because I didn’t realize it until I got this assignment.

If everyone in our community wasted all of their money on junk we whould have been doomed. Let’s say that two of my friends bought houses that were similarly priced. If they didn’t take care of their houses then the property value on their houses and possibly the property value of other houses in the neighborhood could go down.

People say that it’s not always about the money. That may be so but money is what makes the world go around. If we don’t get smart about money for ourselves, then no one will. For now we’re kids so I guess our parents will. But we’re going to have to leave the nest one day.

If we are informed on how to make wise financial decisions then we might be successful in the future. You don’t want to go bankrupt or have bad credit because you made a stupid financial decision.

Your question for us was: why does financial literacy matter in our community? It matters in over a million ways. I probably wouldn’t have named all of them even if I could write for more than four hundred words. To the parents who read this I think you should start training your kids now. To the kids who read this I would advise you to get in the habit of saving and spending your money wisely.

I talked to different people about this subject and they all told me to spend my money wisely so that I wouldn’t have bad credit. I think there’s much more to not spending your money wisely than just not having good credit. My parents are teaching me how to be responsible about my money now.

In conclusion, financial literacy is something we should be very serious about because many people are on the streets because they made bad money management decisions. I would advise kids to take a course on financial literacy when they get in college. I will try my best to take a course on this subject.

Adrienne Stepter; 13 years old
7th grade, Germantown Middle School
Teacher: Mrs. Williams, Language Arts

Financial literacy means knowing or understanding how to get money, how to use it and how to be responsible with it. Financial literacy is important for everyone who one day hopes to own a house and/or car, because whether you like it or not, your parents cannot buy everything. You have to build up your own good credit and not always be in debt.

Getting or having good credit means you pay your bills on time. Being in debt means, you struggle to pay bills and often live paycheck to paycheck and this is where financial literacy comes in. If you learn how to save up your money and learn what kind of things you can afford without always having to depend on credit cards or ending up in debt then you’re financially literate. Knowing how to manage money is so important because money is just so important and serious because it has so much power and it is essential to getting by in life.

Being financially literate is not only important for buying a house and car but for helping achieve goals like owning your own business, going to college, or actually owning a credit card without always landing in debt. Learning to save money is what helps you reach these goals because sometimes you cannot pay for something all at once. You have to save up your money and do it little by little.

You should also try to understand how the stock market works so you can invest your money and make more out of a little. It is also important to understand that when you borrow money from a bank or use a credit card that as you pay it back, they charge you interest, which is a small amount of money added by percentage to the borrowed total and paid back little by little. This means you pay back more than what you borrowed because this is one of the ways banks make money. But, banks need people to pay them back. If banks lent all their money to people who ended up not being able to pay it back then this would affect the bank and maybe even cause it to go out of business. You can also be affected because you pay more to get a loan to make up for the people who did not pay back the money.

To add, financial literacy is important if you plan to live comfortably when you are in retirement but will depend on Social Security to get by. If you learn early how to save and put up money then you can spend your retirement more happily and comfortable.

Being financially literate is not only important personally but also to our economy. Money is what makes the world function and without it, our great nation of the United States of America would not be as powerful as it is. The government also has to watch how they spend money. If the government went spending all the taxpayers’ money on unnecessary luxuries then taxpayers would end up paying more and more money to the government because the U.S. would have to borrow money from other countries to get out of debt. This affects all citizens because they have to work harder to pay back the money.

So remember, be money smart and do not go blowing off your hard-earned money on unnecessary items that can contribute to putting you in debt.

Ian White; 12 years old
6th Grade, Wooddale Middle School
Teacher: Mrs. Parker Bradley, Math Teacher

When people become smart with their money, they’ll know that they need to spend their money on and where they need to spend or save it. People within the community must learn how to plan and manage their personal and household income. Each household must look at and begin saving and investing, building wealth, managing spending, credit and debt effectively; and tax and estate planning. People must know how to get fair and favorable credit terms as well as have the ability to understand, evaluate and compare financial products, service and opportunities. The hardest part of becoming financially literate is starting; sitting down and making a plan. If every household becomes literate, the community develops a strong economic base.

The first step is learning how to save, invest and spend your money. What is it that you need? How much money do you make? What expenses are a must? What can I do without? These are some of the questions that we must ask when planning a budget. In spending money, one has to decide whether to pay by cash or credit. If the purchase is made on a 90 day same as cash, the money can be left in the bank for three more months and gain interest, letting your money work for you. Sometimes there is a need to buy an item and you don’t have the cash. Here it may be necessary to ask for credit or use your credit card. The important point here is to look at all the options and pick the one that is better for you. Credit is good, but keep in mind that too much credit can be bad.

The next step is planning for the future. What will I do with the money I save? How can I get the most bang for my buck? What about my family when I die? It is not enough to just save your money, you want to build wealth. This can be done by purchasing real estate, investing in the stock market or buying mutual funds. You want to have some money saved that you can use in an emergency, but you also want to have some money working for you. Building wealth requires a lot of work and research and many people shy away because of the time it takes to research for a good product and stay on top of what it is doing. The other thing is eventually people die and they have not planned for this. There is little or no money for the funeral and nothing left for the family. It is important for people to buy life insurance for this time. Poor planning and an untimely death could result in your family having to lose their home.

Finally the one thing that ties this all together is a system of checks and balances. The check is what you do with money. The balance is the effect of what you do with money. When you fail to plan you limit what your money can do for you. When you plan and don’t stick to your budget, you are unable to do the things you used to do. It is like when you get married, you can’t do some things any more because you are no longer single. When every household is financially smart the community is financially smart and the economic base is strengthened.

Chantella Mitchell; 13 years old
8th Grade, Cordova Middle School
Teacher: Mrs. Judye Shannon

Financial illiteracy is a problem that is becoming widespread in America. More and more Americans do not know how to wisely invest their hard earned money. Tennessee leads the nation in the number of people filing bankruptcy annually. However, it is through education that people learn how to spend and budget wisely. Once a person is knowledgeable on how to use money and manage finances, they will be able to begin to put what they have learned into practice. Communities depend on their citizens to be able to budget and manage money so that the community can function properly.

A lot of people dream of owning a business, and businesses can prosper with the correct financial education. People want to buy homes and cars, which is practically impossible without decent credit scores. This all comes back to managing money. When people go to work daily and earn money, they should do everything in their power to try and keep that money. It does not seem fair for a person to have to work long hours to get money, and then have to pay it all to credit card companies and bank loan departments.

There are always daily news reports on television and in the newspaper concerning the lack of needed money to finance schools, daycares, transportation, etc. There are constant deficit reports from Shelby County Schools, Memphis City Schools, and MLGW. All of these areas are major parts of our community that have huge impacts on the citizens. Maybe high schools, or even junior high schools, should offer a class on budgeting money. This could help prevent future generations from making the finance mistakes of older ones.

America has a national debt of over one billion dollars, which can be erased one step at a time. Improving our financial literacy is vital to prosperity of our communities. If we continue to mismanage our funds, overuse credit, being forced to take out loan after loan, we are in for a rude awakening. Through finance education, and overall wise spending we can help our communities to grow and prosper. We desire the finer things in life which can often be attained by shrewdly investing and managing our money.

Seung-Yen Park; 14 years old
8th grade, Schilling Farms Middle School
Teacher: Mrs. Gonzalez

In the past, I had always thought that words like "pension" and "Social Security" had no significance in my life. Recently I discovered that the majority of the general American public was financially illiterate, such as in my own case. When I came across this statement, I said to myself, "It’s too early for me to learn this now." However, I found out how crucial wise money management was to my community. Financial literacy must be considered as a great importance in our environment because it affects several groups of people, has the power to drive our country, and can influence many lives.

To begin with, I believe that financial literacy is important, for it has a profound impact on different groups of people. For example, individuals who are starting college should be informed of how to manage money. Young married couples must think ahead for long-term plans, such as purchasing a home and preparing for their children’s education. Middle-aged citizens who are working to meet their retirement goals and retirees both need to know the wise methods to handle their funds. All people, regardless of their ages, can learn and benefit from familiarizing themselves with economics.

Also, our nation can gain much if its citizens are aware of how finance works. U.S. operates under the system of capitalism, which is a system that functions under investment of people and privately owned businesses. With more basic education, an investor can acquire a greater amount of money. This can definitely boost America’s economy. Each individual’s decisions can affect how our country runs.

Not only that, financial literacy is an issue that can make dramatic alterations in personal lives. Individuals who spend their capital intelligently are less likely to become bankrupt. Insurance, mortgage, and retirement are all important matters that need constant attention. Knowledgeable people have the potential to make the most out of their financial resources. These pecuniary decisions affect the lifestyle of a person and need to be considered seriously.

In conclusion, financial literacy matters to my community because it impacts people of all ages, has a tremendous effect on America, and can help individuals succeed. So many lives can be changed for the good if we address this issue. People can become more confident of their financial capabilities and make choices that will benefit them. Surely the development of this program will bring smiles on thousands of faces.

Angie Tsay; 14 years old
8th Grade, Schilling Farms Middle School
Teacher: Mrs. Gonzalez

President Bush’s idea of the Social Security proposal made people think. Without knowing about financial literacy, they wouldn’t be able to decide and know what his idea is about. Another hassle is they would not be able to determine if it is a good way to save money. However, on a much milder term, you can see that we need someone who fully understands financial issues to run our community. We need to enforce the knowledge of financial literacy in order to make the right decisions for our community, save money, and use money properly.

In our own community, we struggle with financial problems. The schools are losing money, but raising taxes isn’t doing much. Problems like these are problems that need to be dealt with by people who have understanding for financial literacy. Someone like myself, who has not yet been taught financial literacy, should not be chosen to fix these problems or greater consequences may erupt. In order to make our community a safe environment and a community that grows and strives, we need financial literacy.

Furthermore, financial literacy needs to be put in the minds of caretakers to enable us to make and save money. Similar to the Social Security proposal, adults need to carefully examine this proposal to see whether or not it would benefit themselves and the next generation. If chosen the wrong decision, our country would be in major trouble and could possibly result in a depression or bankruptcy. As you can see, financial literacy would be needed to make decisions to save money.

Lastly, financial literacy is needed to handle money properly. In my own words, financial literacy is the knowledge of handling money. It is dealing with checks, accounts, and bills. Without using the knowledge of financial literacy, people could spend too much. People need to know how much they make and keep a budget of how much they spend. Therefore, financial literacy is needed to give us the wisdom of using money properly.

Many issues in our world today involve money. It is up to us to enforce this knowledge of financial literacy. Whether it is used in our community or our nation, we need this knowledge to aid us in making the right decisions, save money, and to use money properly. If not followed through, our community can be in trouble.

Nathan Ziebart; 15 years old
9th grade, Houston High School

In today's complex financial world, financial literacy is of the utmost importance. The ability to understand the impacts of important financial decisions is a key component to success in life. Without it, people are prone to financial deficiencies including debt and bankruptcy. The latter is a major problem here in Memphis, with its high rate of bankruptcy, and debt rates are rising across America. There is, however, a solution to these problems: making sure the public is financially literate.

Middle and high school students are apt to gain a lot from financial literacy. It gives them a head start in life; they are better prepared to provide a secure financial foundation for their families as adults. It enables them to focus on other aspects of their lives rather than worrying about how much debt they are in. College students would also benefit greatly from financial knowledge; students who take out loans for their education would be better able to pay off their loans rather than graduating thousands of dollars in debt.  
It is crucial also for adults to have a good understanding of how today's financial system works. With a good understanding, they can confidently manage their income and make the most of their money. They are better equipped to save money for their children's college education and for retirement. They can focus more on the quality of their lives and retire without worrying about whether or not they will be able to financially support themselves. 
A good understanding of finance is important to every age group, and those who have it will lead higher quality lives. Financial literacy will aid not only those who are currently employed, but also the adults of the future, and our economy will benefit as a result.

Kevin Baker
Grade 12, Christian Brothers High School

In an age of online trading, high-speed Internet banking, and possible Social Security reform, the Memphis community must promote financial literacy to the greatest extent possible so as to protect itself against preventable yet devastating consequences. Balancing a checkbook, understanding Wall Street, and making prompt payments on credit purchases are just some of the basics everyone needs to be financially successful. Everyone must deal with financial issues over his or her lifetime; they are extremely important to achieving a comfortable lifestyle, yet even a simple error can haunt someone for years. One widespread repercussion of a community that is financially uneducated is poverty. By tackling the issue of financial illiteracy in the Mid-South, our community is sure to thrive.

Understanding the stock market, loans, checking and savings accounts, and Social Security are all necessities in today’s society. Every citizen deserves to receive an education that covers banking, basic investment skills, and the American economy, because simple tasks, such as saving and investing, are vital in developing good financial habits. Most importantly, what one does with their money now affects how well off they are down the road. When a community is educated about current economic and investment options, they are able to practice it and get a solid financial footing.

Financial literacy is essential for another reason: it can break the cycle of poverty. There are, no doubt, several impoverished communities in the Mid-South, and this poverty thrives because financial literacy is not endorsed to the extent it should be. When uneducated parents have no financial advice to pass on to a child, the child is less likely to see saving and investing as important. Generation after generation can foolishly spend their income, and without the promotion of financial literacy, the community will not prosper. For the vicious cycle of poverty to be uprooted, a solid financial education must be instilled in a community.

Like it or not, today’s society requires an understanding of money; however, with the right tools, anyone can manage their way to a comfortable lifestyle. No longer is it all right for one to breeze by without studying the ways of a changing global society. Financial literacy is extremely important because money affects individuals over their entire lives. By promoting financial education, impoverished communities can change for the better. Only by recognizing the importance of financial literacy can a community develop to its full potential.

Christopher Finley; 18 years old
12th grade, Manassas High School
Teacher: Syreeta Kee

Financial literacy is important to our community. In order for the community to thrive and prosper, the people who live in it must be financially stable and able to support it. The community members have to secure employment and manage the money they earn. They have to understand how to create and stay within budget, not to mention how to use credit wisely. Additionally, they have to learn how to accumulate money through investing and saving. If the people in a community understand these factors and put the money back into the community, the community will be successful.

First of all, adults in the community have to have legal means of making money. Even if they are not college educated, they have to have enough knowledge to obtain gainful employment and to be able to manage the money they make. In turn, they have to pass this knowledge and these skills on to their children. They also have to encourage them to choose careers that support the lifestyle they would like to live. If not, a destructive cycle of financial illiteracy will begin in the community. Two negative results are crime and poverty. When people cannot buy the things they want and need, they sometimes steal them. When they don’t have money, they can’t buy things. These things will devastate a community quickly.

Community members have to learn how to develop a budget and prioritize. Having discipline is the key to staying within the budget once it is established. The budget makes it harder to overspend. Also, learning to use credit wisely will help tremendously. When people do not understand credit terms or the consequences of using credit, they overextend themselves and get into situations that are hard to overcome. When this happens, they limit themselves to the things they are able to purchase and even the jobs they are able to be hired to do. This is why bankruptcy is such a problem in some communities.

Most people will not get rich just by going to work. At some point they have to save. A percentage of income should be saved periodically and money should be set aside for hard times. Saving is very important, but better gains are made through investing in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities and retirement accounts. By investing, their money works for them. When the money accumulates, the quality of life will increase. If the majority of the people in a community are successful in accumulating money, the community will improve, too.

Financial literacy really does matter to a community. If there is a solid financial knowledge-base, it is safe to assume that the community members will be employed consistently, manage their money, use credit wisely, save, and invest. Doing these things individually or within their households will ultimately have a positive influence on the community collectively.

Lashun Howard; 17 years old
12th grade, Manassas High School
Teacher: Syreeta Kee

Since financial decisions can help or hinder you, financial literacy is extremely important. The success or lack of success achieved by a community depends on the people who live in it. Although many things influence this success, money is a major component. People who are financially literate know how to use decision-making processes to make good financial choices. Financially literate members of the community are also aware of the challenges presented by not understanding the benefits of understanding how to get the most out of their money. People who are financially literate are usually concerned about their community.

Financial literacy allows people to be well-informed and to use reasoning to make sound decisions. If people are educated on financial matters, they can make good investments in themselves and their communities. They can prioritize and make calculated risks. Those who can afford to become entrepreneurs can start businesses in the community that will increase their individual wealth as well as keep money in the community.

Being financially illiterate can create many personal challenges that will spread out into the community. This is why the members of a community have to understand the importance of financial choices. Declining property values, poor credit ratings and high unemployment rates are not good for the community. If the community does not support the local businesses, they cannot survive. If they do not close altogether, they move to areas with more customer demand.

As a general rule of thumb, people who are well-off financially take more pride in the image, development, and appearance of their community. People who work hard want to make sure that the things they work hard for are well-kept. They have a vested interest in the community and want to make sure that it remains a nice place to live. They are concerned about community schools, outreach programs, property values, crime prevention and economic growth. They are also concerned about preserving the community so that future generations can take pride in it.

In conclusion, financial literacy really is very important. It determines a lot about the total success of the community. Therefore, the people who live in the community have to be able to make decisions that have a positive reflection on their knowledge and actions. After all, a community is no better than the people who live there.

Kyle Newman;18 years old
Grade 12, Cordova High School
Teacher: Dr. Fredrick

In today’s culture, an environment in which everything can be charged, leased, or put on layaway, it is crucial that people understand credit, and become financially literate. A sobering reality is that there are just as many advertisements for credit cards as there are for debt relief services. Obviously, many Americans do not understand that using credit cards and making only the minimum payments can greatly increase the total money paid for goods and services. Interest rates can be crippling and steadily increase the longer a card is used. Even if a debt service helps someone to pay off debts, their credit rating can still be damaged to the point that they may never be able to own their own home or take out a loan for important business decisions.

Another crucial factor to financial literacy is the concept of personal savings. In the past, Americans could rely on Social Security for support throughout the golden years of retirement. As the government coffers grow dry due to more and more Baby Boomers retiring, Americans need to understand how to manage their own savings. With stocks, bonds, and even diversified IRAs or 401ks, there are endless opportunities to prepare for retirement privately, ensuring financial security for years to come.

The problem lies in education. Many schools do not focus on personal finances, but on the economy of the United States as a whole. There need to be programs available to prepare students to manage their finances as they enter the workforce. It is vital that teens be made aware of the dangers of poor credit decisions, and the importance of investing for the future. If our communities become financially literate, perhaps government money will no longer need to be spent on credit counseling, welfare, and bankruptcy assistance and instead, can be focused on the debt of the country as a whole.


The information on this website should not be a substitute for the advice of a professional.

• Bankruptcy filings in Memphis for 2002: 28,207

• 75% of bankruptcies filed in Memphis are Chapter 13.

• 2002 - The Commercial Appeal publishes a story stating personal bankruptcy filings in West Tennessee have increased 22% over the prior 12 months.

• 2001 - The New York Times prints article proclaiming "Memphis is the Bankruptcy Capital of the Nation".

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