Before I discuss a special CARE experience at Barker Road Middle School, I want to indulge myself and share a few non-financial reflections from a recent vacation to Mexico.

You know you have arrived at “that age” when the shuttle driver at the airport looks at you and asks if you would like a ride to baggage pickup, because it is a long way. OUCH!

Speaking of airports, apparently powder blue, 1-pound hand weights are dangerous and on the “no fly in the carry-on bag” list in Mexico, but not in other airports that I have flown out of.

These days, when we so often hear that too many Americans are politically “tribal” about virtually every issue, I had to smile at myself one day. I had my Marine Corps water shoes on, but was carrying my WXXI tote bag. Now I am not saying that the words Marines and National Public Radio are not often synonymous, but ... .

Finally, we stayed at an all-inclusive resort, where there is a fair amount of eating and drinking. I was in the gym at various times of the day during the week, to take a break from the sun. I saw a parade of people come into the gym. They all weighed themselves on a scale in the corner, and left saying the same
thing: “That scale is just wrong.” I think if I ran a resort and had a scale anywhere in it, I would calibrate it at 5 pounds less for customer relations.

When I was watching the Grammys recently, I was reminded of Keith Hancock from California. He was the 2017 teacher of the year award winner. He gives his students a sheet of “life lessons” at the beginning of the year. One of the lessons is, “Don’t put anything on a credit card that you can’t pay for at the end of the month.”

That turns out to be one of the principal “Lessons” that the students at Barker Road said they learned at our CARE Presentation, as well as a “Practice” that they would commit to using in their financial futures.

One of the practices that many of the students listed in the letters that I received was that they would open a savings account and start saving for things that they might want in the future. I was a little surprised, because I would have thought that they would all already have savings accounts, but I am glad
that they will now. As regular readers know, I really believe that every young person should have a savings account, both so that they can learn about “delayed gratification,” and, also, to build the habit of saving as early as possible in life, so that they will be a “life-long saver.” Early life -long savers are the ones who, as they go through life, will have a better chance of saving for emergencies, anticipated expenses, homes and automobiles, education for their children, health costs and retirement. They are also the ones, because they do save for those things, who are more likely to avoid, or at least minimize, debt, and, therefore, not have to pay those interest dollars.

Some of the other often listed lessons and practices are to use cash as much as possible, (because, after all, it is “ King”); to check unit prices, so you get the best deal on the same product; and to encourage their families to have a monthly family dinner which will include a discussion about an issue of personal finance.

I was encouraged that many of the students came to the realization that being a smart shopper, looking for and finding good deals and sales, checking unit prices, shopping around, and using coupons may not always be as CONVENIENT, but it can save you some serious money that you can use for other things.

I like to think this realization came from my stories about my weekly trips to the stores on Jefferson Road, the savings I enjoyed during my professional life by shopping at the annual Hickey Freeman factory sale, and stories like this one. BJ’s recently had a promotion that allowed me to purchase two large All laundry detergents with $4 coupons for each one, and then save 50 cents a gallon on 18 gallons of gas. As usual, it is not just about the money. For me, it is that same sense of satisfaction at “getting a great deal” that I saw my parents and grandparents enjoy as I was growing up. As one student said, sometimes it is worth a small drive to save some real money.

Finally, I was thrilled to learn from some of the students that there are several apps, like I Allowance, which allow tech-savvy parents and students (which excludes me) to be interactive regarding both their children’s allowances and related chores, and, also, saving and spending different amounts of their allowances. I guess it doesn’t surprise me, but those apps are something that parents with younger children should definitely look into.

How terrific it would be if more Americans committed to some of these practices. Would you like to commit like some of these seventh graders? It reminds me of my favorite television commercial ever. The one for the LPGA that ends with, “Don’t you wish you could play like a girl?”

John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns at or at