Financial Literacy Essay Contest Winners 2006



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Financial Literacy Essay Contest Winners 2006
This year’s Financial Literacy Essay Contest drew 214 entries from students at public, private, parochial and home schools. That’s a significant increase over last year’s 132 entries, and the increase made the job particularly difficult for the judges from The Commercial Appeal, Junior Achievement, the RISE Foundation and First Tennessee.
Entrants were asked to submit essays of 400 words or less on “Why financial literacy matters to our community.” Winners will receive tickets to see the April 2 Memphis Grizzlies game from the First Tennessee suite, the book “Standard and Poor’s Guide to Money and Investing” and a $200 savings bond from First Tennessee.
This year’s winners are:
6th – 7th Grades

Sloane Blair, 6th grade, Dexter Middle School

Catherine Busse, 6th grade, Richland Elementary School

Kathryn Knapp, 6th grade, Richland Elementary School

Olivia Stiker, 7th grade, Millington Middle School
8th – 9th Grades

Nick Birdwell, 9th grade, St. George’s Independent Schools Collierville

Mac Christian, 9th grade, St. George’s Independent Schools Collierville

Torie Davidson, 9th grade, St. George’s Independent Schools Collierville

David Schlitt, 9th grade, St. George’s Independent Schools Collierville
10th – 12th Grades

Evan Boulanger, 10th grade, Christian Brothers High School

Eric Cheong, 11th grade, Lausanne Collegiate School

Mac Fairly, 12th grade, Lausanne Collegiate School

Leslie Stewart, 10th grade, Southwest Tennessee Community College MIFA Teen Job Services
Sloane Blair, 6th grade, Dexter Middle School

Financial literacy is important to our community. There are several simple ways that a community can be positively or negatively influenced by the financial decisions of its members and leaders. Financial literacy is primarily about being responsible with money in both the way it is earned and the way it is used.

There are two main ways to receive money. The first is to earn it by doing work and the second is to receive a gift of money. Once someone has money, there are four primary things that can be done with it. The first is to save it, the second is to invest it, the third is to spend it, and the last is to donate it. It’s important to understand these concepts when considering how people use money. In our society, someone that earns a lot of money and accumulates it is considered to be wealthy and powerful.

In a community, there are people that are both wealthy and underprivileged. There are also many people somewhere in between. How people use their money is a personal decision guided by their values. When people spend their money wisely, generally positive things happen in a community. For example, when someone spends money to take care of their house the neighborhood benefits.

Someone who is financially illiterate doesn’t understand these basic things. If many people in a community are not financially literate then the community is not going to benefit. This means that the community will suffer. If people in a community don’t take care of their possessions (house, car, etc.) then the value of those items decreases over time. People in the community that care for their property may move away causing further decline. Neighborhoods that are declining are more vulnerable to crime.

A community will also suffer when its leaders aren’t financially educated. For example, if a mayor or city council members make bad decisions with public money then the city may not be able to provide important services or properly maintain public property (parks, streets, sidewalks, etc.). Cities in this situation can decline even more rapidly as members of the community lose confidence in the leadership and stop caring.


Catherine Busse, 6th grade, Richland Elementary School

First of all, I would like to explain the meaning of financial literacy. The word literacy means that a person has the ability to read or write about a certain subject, and the word financial means that the matter deals with money, finances or credit.

Even as a child, I am already exposed to financial matters. I am the proud owner of a savings account, and every year, my bank sends me a statement. It is very important that I know how to read it, so that I can keep track of my money. The statement tells me how much money I have left in the account and how many deposits I have made throughout the year.

Furthermore, every day, when I open the mailbox, I get out a bill and credit card applications. It is very important, that I know how to read them, and fill them out properly. When I receive a bill, I need to know how to read the bill to make sure that it is correct, so that I can write the check and don’t give the wrong amount.

If I am not financially literate, I will not know, if my bank papers or my accounts are handled properly, and I will not make wise spending decisions with my money.

If I don’t start learning early in life to write checks, read bills, and deposit money into the bank, then it will be hard to learn when I am older. When I have learned to handle the basic financial rules, then I will want to learn how to invest money, and I will need to learn how to read the stock market numbers and understand what the points on the Dow Jones (stock market) mean.

Finances and be very complicated, and I believe that we should all learn early on how to read and understand financial literature, so that we can become knowledgeable in the world of finances.

If a country cannot read their financial literature then they cannot grow with their money, and save and or invest, and stay poor. Just as we learn how to read traffic laws, the signs to go or stop, or cross the street, so we have to learn to read money matters.

Lastly, being financially literate is part of a well formed education and connects members of the community together, like me and my banker. Let’s start reading financial literature.
Kathryn Knapp, 6th grade, Richland Elementary School

There are many things that are vital in order for our community to have a

bright and prosperous future. One of the most important is financial literacy. The reasons for this are numerous. For example, if we (the future) do

not understand it, then the probability of us (the future) investing poorly

and sending our economy into ruin is much higher. But if enough children

learn about good investments, then we can help our community to have a

stronger, healthier economy and make Memphis a thriving “idol” of cities

everywhere. Also, if we know about financial literacy we can teach the

next generation about it. They will in turn teach the following generation,

creating an endless circle of economic prosperity. I believe everyone would

want that.
Olivia Stiker, 7th grade, Millington Middle School

Financial Literacy should matter to each and every individual in our community.  We as a community should understand how and why the Mayor or Senators are spending the money.  We should know why and how the money is being used.  The community should know if it is being used so that it can help us build a better educational program.  It also should matter if the money is being used to further what may happen in my life or all the other lives of the children in Millington.  We should always know how the money is being used in our community.

Financial matters will build a life not only for me but for what may happen to the youth of tomorrow.  Financial literacy is what may bring our community current in today’s market place.  With the help of some government backing it could help today’s students further their education.

Also, when people of the community put money in their savings account the bank can use that money to lend out to other people in the community. Other community members can go to the bank for loans for their houses, cars, businesses, or education.

Understanding how and why the money is spent in our community is knowledge.  Knowledge is important for one to succeed in school and in life.
Nick Birdwell, 9th grade, St. George’s Independent Schools Collierville

Financial literacy, in my own words, is one’s knowledge pertaining to financial matters. In other words, one must be able to comprehend and apply financial principles. These principles or skills would include investing, balancing your check book, getting a credit card, or even applying for a mortgage when purchasing a house. Having the ability to create a personal financial budget is also a key concept of financial literacy. If one has financial literacy, then they would not make the mistake of extending themselves financially (This means spending more than what you earn). Therefore, one would have to borrow money to make up the difference. Too much borrowing can potentially result in bankruptcy, or a stage in which you cannot pay back all of your debts. If this happens, businesses suffer losses which are passed on to others in the community that do business with that firm.

The importance of financial literacy in the community is quite simple. One needs to know how to make optional use of their financial resources. Everyone also needs to be financially responsible, so that the business or individuals don’t have to bare the burden of those who go into bankruptcy. From a larger stand point, financial literacy of the leadership of the city or county where you live enables your city or county to be financially stable. The positive effect of financial literacy in the community is that citizens know how to manage their money (saving and investing wisely), so they can create financial stability for themselves and provide capital through their investments to businesses. This enables the business to grow and expand with that money. The earnings of the company should eventually come back and provide a financial return to the stockholder.

My theory pertaining to the age of a financially literate person is that the person should be financially literate when they have enough money to spend, save, or invest. The could be as young as 10 years of age. By learning the values of saving and investing at an early age, the individual and the community will reap the benefits of investing over a longer period of time.


Mac Christian, 9th grade, St. George’s Independent Schools Collierville

Financial literacy is one of the most important skills that adults and young adults need to have in the highly confusing field of finance. Financial literacy is defined as being able to “read, analyze, manage, and communicate about the personal financial conditions that affect material well-being.” Basically this means the ability to have a basic understanding of finances and being able to manage your own money.

Being financially literate is helpful in planning for the future. When someone is financial literate they are able to plan for retirement and make investments and save money for unforeseen obstacles. This helps that community because people who have saved their money will not have to dip into the community’s money in the form of welfare and unemployment. When people are financially literate they are able to pay their taxes, which have a very positive effect on the community because improvements in healthcare and education are able to take place. Financial literate people are also able to afford bankruptcy, which keeps interest rates and taxes low. When a few people are irresponsible with their money because of financial illiteracy, it hurts the whole community.

People should learn about financial literacy as early as fifth grade. Being financially literate is not hard, but many people were never taught financial literacy. Fifth graders have the basic math skills required to balance a checkbook, and are just beginning to understand the value of money and how important it is. When children enter high school they should learn how the stock market and other investments work, and should also invest some of their money and watch it grow. High school students should take an economics course and begin learning about the economy and how things around them help the economy or bring it down. With these basic skills, young adults coming out of high school and into the real world should be financially literate.


Torie Davidson, 9th grade, St. George’s Independent Schools Collierville

A very wise and well educated 8th grade American History teacher taught me that the “Golden Rule of History” is economics. This means that you can understand almost any event that took place in history just by looking at the economic situation at hand. What does economics have to do with? Money. Everything in our society and most societies eventually comes down to money. It plays a huge role. An essential key to being able to move smoothly through the world is knowing how to handle and deal with money. One must have the knowledge of taxes, credit cards, savings accounts, the stock market, and retirement plans among other things. This knowledge is called financial literacy.

The beginning of financial literacy begins with someone’s first “I want…” This is later followed in children when their parents give them an allowance. An allowance helps children to begin to learn how to save their money and also start learning how to budget their money. When children are spending their own money they begin to learn what they can and cannot afford. They also begin to learn how to separate the things that they want from the things that they need. It helps children to learn that you can’t have everything that you want and it helps students learn how to prioritize and decide which things are most important to them.

Using credit cards wisely is an important aspect of financial literacy. They are very easy to obtain but are also very tricky because if you don’t pay close attention to how you are using them they become abused. Abusing credit cards by just handing the cashier the plastic and not paying attention to the numbers after the dollar sign slips people into debt very quickly. Once you are in debt it is extremely difficult to get out, and makes paying your bills challenging as well. One with a credit card needs a plan on how much money they are going to spend where. Debt is an issue that millions of Americans are struggling with. It is also an issue our country is facing with the costs of Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War, putting us in more debt than our country has ever dealt with.

Those who are financially literate to not just keep all their money sitting in their savings accounts at the bank; they invest. Investing in the stock market is an art and learned skill. It can be a risky business if you don’t know what you’re doing. Skills in reading financial reports, watching trends, and a flexible investment strategy are just a few essential parts of playing the stock market. Millions can be earned and millions can be lost. It is a great tool to earning money, but has great risk that has the potential to hurt you.

One ultimate goal most Americans have is to have the luxury to retire comfortably. This is a field where thinking as much ahead of time as possible. The sooner you start to save, the more money you will have saved to take care of yourself. Pension plans, savings accounts and investment plans are several of the tools that allow you to pay for health care and easy living throughout the “Golden Years” of life. Nobody wants to just depend on social security.

Financial literacy touches every part of your life from the time you are a child throughout your entire life. Now is the time to learn these skills that lead to a vast knowledge of financial literacy. It affects how our country works, how trade between nations works, and especially our daily lives. “You work for your money so make your money work for you.”

David Schlitt, 9th grade, St. George’s Independent Schools Collierville

What is financial literacy? My definition of financial literacy is knowing how to deal with money. If you are financially literate then you know how to manage your money. Being financially literate is very good for you because you know what you can spend and what you have to pay for your bills. Some positive effects of people knowing how to manage their money know what to spend and save. An example is say someone makes about 45,000 dollars a year, well first is income tax (30%) that is about 13,500 dollars so now he has 31,500 dollars. Let’s say he spends about 75 dollars a week for groceries that gives him about 27,600 dollars. He lives in an apartment that is 1,000 dollars a month that gives him about 15,600 dollars left. Let us not forget about utilities like water, electricity, cable, and telephone service lets estimate that it costs about 950 dollars a year. That gives him about 14,650 dollars left. That is a ton of money just on basic needs. Another positive effect is that when people manage their money wisely some businesses grow and when businesses grow that produces revenues which go to the government and the government could use the money to pay for new roads, programs, or government funded operations. There are also negative effects if people don’t manage their money. One example is if people don’t use their money wisely then they will spend it all on stuff and then they won’t have any money for heath insurance or won’t be able to pay their bills and taxes which would result in fees and even jail time. I think people should start become familiar with financial literacy when they get their first job.


Evan Boulanger, 10th grade, Christian Brothers High School

“Why Financial Literacy Matters To Our Community”

It seems like every day now we hear about how the economy is not doing as well as it used to do. We also seem to hear the commercials on television and the radio about how to get out of debt. These things are happening more often because many Americans do not know how to manage, handle, and invest their money. They make wrong choices about stocks, they don’t invest their funds correctly, and the major problem is the fact that Americans buy what they cannot afford. This was proven by a Saturday Night Live skit that plainly stated the problem. It was an “advertisement” about a book to help you get out of debt. It was entitled Don’t Buy Things You Cannot Afford, and the people buying it could not grasp this concept. This is the main problem that is occurring in the country.

You may ask, however, “Well that has nothing to do with the U.S. economy.” This has a lot to do with the economy; a chain reaction occurs. People cannot pay everything so they declare bankruptcy. This erases their individual debt, but the companies they owe do not get their money paid back to them. This causes less profits and it causes the economy to go down. Furthermore, the individuals that are in debt in the first place return to their old habits and they are in debt again.

All of this would be prevented if they had learned simple concepts about managing money, or being financially literate. The first step has been taken in Tennessee by making it mandatory in high schools to teach economics, which obviously teaches about the economy. It also teaches how to manage personal funds. This way, this information is taught early, so good habits are started early. The things that need to be taught in this class are the features of a bank (i.e. account types, deposits, etc.), how the stock market works, and most importantly how to use a credit card. If these things were taught in schools everywhere in America then maybe, just maybe, most of our economic problems will be solved. Therefore, in conclusion, financial literacy is important because many small problems can add up to a big problem.
Eric Cheong, 11th grade, Lausanne Collegiate School

In these days, we live in the community operated by money and credit system. The community in the Memphis has hardship with financing problem. For example, the bankruptcy rate in Memphis is doubled after Tunica came into being according to information given in the economic class. This shows our community needs to recognize how important financial literacy is.

First, Financial literacy is important because it secures oneself and one’s family from the financial disaster. When families do not prepare or understand their finances well, they may have to sell property and possessions to pay their bills or declare bankruptcy. To prevent this disaster, we should recognize that the credit cards that charge exorbitant interest rates can cause financial ruin. People think they can buy whatever they want because they don’t have to pay for it right away, and they end up owing more than they borrowed. People need to be informed about the credit cards they use. If they know the interest is high, they may choose not to use the credit for a purchase or they may decide to pay off the credit card debt as soon as possible. Some credit card companies try to lure new customers by offering a very low interest rate for the first few months, but after that the interest rate jumps to a much higher rate. It is important to be aware of what these offers are REALLY offering. Many people fail to save money for financial emergencies such as losing a job. In addition, economic experts recommend that a family has enough in savings to pay all its current living expenses for 6 months if unable to earn income. Another thing, families need to understand their insurance policies. Many Katrina victims in New Orleans did not receive money for their claims because they were insured only for wind damage, not water damage. Careful reading of their insurance contracts could have prevented many tragic situations. Financial literacy could help citizens maintain a good standard of living even if they give up a few luxuries. This sacrifice could ultimately bring them better financial security and comfort for their entire lives.

Second, Financial literacy is important because it protects the community, particularly Memphis community. When many citizens do not pay their bills on time, the entire community suffers. The business to which citizens owe money may have to raise its prices for goods and services and charge more interest on credit purchases. This hurts everyone. In addition, dishonest people who try to cheat or steal also cause prices to rise. If they were financially literate, they might realize that theft hurts themselves and others. Preparing for retirement affects the community. If senior citizens lack enough money for medical care and living expenses, the taxpayers’ money often has to pay for their care. With the approaching retirement of baby boomers, the effects on communities to support them could be devastating. Financial literacy SHOULD have caused baby boomers to save for retirement without counting solely on pensions and social security. Many companies have recently gone bankrupt, and the pension plans have been the first thing to go. This has been true for some employees of United Airlines and Delta Airlines.

Financial literacy of individuals has a mushroom effect on the family, the community and eventually the country as a whole. True understanding financial literacy and wise decision what to and how to manage the finance will bring our family and community to happy and stable. Eventually, America keeps its powerful and healthy economy on the strong base of financial literacy.
Mac Fairly, 12th grade, Lausanne Collegiate School

To see how important improving financial literacy is to the community, one must understand what financial literacy is. The basic definition of financial literacy is the understanding of how to use money wisely. Using money wisely means spending money in the most efficient way. How a person spends money can determine how financially successful that person will be. What most do not realize is that wise spending applies to all financial decisions, not just big purchases. Many do not realize that seemingly small expenses, such as fast food and recreational spending, add up quickly and can affect a person’s budget just as much as something as important as purchasing a new car. Part of the problem is that with the frenzy that comes with everyday life, it is usually very hard to keep up with exactly how much money is spent. The other part is that some people simply do not understand how to spend money wisely.

The key to financial stability is realizing exactly how much is being spent, how much should be spent, and budgeting accordingly. Budgeting could mean spending less on recreation activities such as eating at restaurants and going to the movies, and spending more on required expenditures, such as bills. Properly managing bill payments will help to prevent or eliminate debt. Once a person falls in debt, it is very easy for that debt to accumulate. With debt and recreational spending managed, a person must also save money to have not only expendable funds, but also to have money for unexpected expenditures such as losing a job, or getting sick or injured. If each individual person has his or her finances managed, it will benefit everyone. People will not be indebted to each other and people will be able to spend more money which would stimulate the economy.
Leslie Stewart, 10th grade, Southwest Tennessee Community College MIFA Teen Job Services

Financial Literacy is your ability to understand and make decisions that affect your personal finances.

Financial literacy is very important. Even if you think you know that you know how to count your money you should want to go beyond what’s expected. More importantly, saving your money allows you to have freedom from debt. Savings can translate into power in every area of finance, by ending the habit of buying on credit. A person who has developed the discipline to save, will also have developed the discipline to control spending. This will lead to planned purchases, and an end to item purchasing an activity that frequently leads to credit card transactions.

Everybody has a different reason for saving, just as all people differ in income, and in expenses that are necessary. But one thing that doesn’t differ is the need to save. Saving is the single most important thing that any person can do for financial success.



Financial education has always been important for people in helping them budget and manage their income. As financial markets become increasingly complicated and as households presume more of the responsibility and risk for financial decisions, financial education is increasingly necessary for individuals, not only to ensure their own financial well-being but also to ensure the smooth functioning of financial markets.

As people increase their use of financial products, it becomes more important that they be financially literate.


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