Expo encourages better money management

Offering ways to better manage money was the central theme of Pasco County Schools’ Financial Literacy Expo, held at Wesley Chapel High School.

Representatives from various organizations and companies came together to inform students and adults, alike, on how to prioritize their expenses.

The Wesley Chapel High session was on April 4. A previous session had been held on April 1 at Marchman Technical College in New Port Richey.

The Financial Literacy Expo gave high school students and adults the opportunity to gather information to increase their knowledge about financial issues. The April 4 event was held in the Wesley Chapel High School cafeteria with a host of booths representing various institutions. (Brian Fernandes)

The informative sessions were timed to coincide with Financial Literacy Month, which is celebrated nationwide in April.

“This was in response to our parent and community feedback to our survey last year,” explained Tina Stavrou, a senior instructional specialist for Pasco County Schools. “They felt that our students walk out of the (school) system being financially illiterate.”

The University of South Florida – specifically its Muma College of Business, was one of the organizations present at the event.

Amanda Houston, admissions recruiter/advisor, was at the institution’s booth — fielding questions.

She said funding for college tends to be the most common question among parents and students.

In addition to the information she could share at the financial literacy event, she also recommends seeking additional information at the university.

“We have a wonderful financial aid office available every day,” Houston said.

The office informs students of the various scholarships USF offers and is open to outside financial aid as well.

Although the school has a work study program to help offset expenses, students are encouraged to seek out assistance from different programs.

“Florida Prepaid is a huge help with a lot of students,” Houston said.

The statewide program invests funds toward future tuition by installment plans.

While it takes money to enter college, once there, business students at USF are taught how to build their wealth and maintain it.

Depending on their major, students may learn about estate and retirement planning, or from a corporate stance – assets and equity.

For students who are not business majors getting in-class guidance, there is the Bull2Bull program.

This program recruits those like Linda Higgs to help fellow students to become aware of financial opportunities and to come up with ideas to manage their money.

“They (students) really want to learn how to manage their money, it’s just hard in college,” Higgs said.

Michael Zmistowski, of the Financial Planning Association of Tampa Bay, educates the public on preparing for retirement. He was among numerous guest speakers at Wesley Chapel High School’s Financial Literacy Expo, April 4.

In her experience helping peers, she found that students are open to the idea of investing to build a better future.

Coaching sessions are also offered to educate students on business jargon and direct them to the best sources for investing their money.

Across the cafeteria, Shirin Khorsandian stood behind the State Farm Insurance booth.

She noted that the company not only covers vehicles and homes, but health, banking and credit cards.

“We also have investment planning services we help small business owners with, and individuals,” the representative explained.

State Farm also addresses the risks associated with owning property – including a home.

For instance, homeowners are advised on what steps to take in order to hold onto their home in the case they lose their job.

Khorsandian also noted there’s a trend among younger generations to be less inclined to get a driver’s license, because of the growing popularity of Lyft and Uber.

Even with this in mind, State Farm emphasizes the importance of safe driving for teens.

“The reality is that it’s a huge financial risk that their parents are giving them, when handing over the keys,” she said.

The insurance company will sit down one-on-one with young drivers to educate them on what to do in certain scenarios.

Luigi Danielu, a senior from Wiregrass Ranch High School, was at the forum to soak whatever knowledge he could. He said that he often thinks about properly managing money.

“I’ve researched about how to build good credit, and I think that’s important for a lot of young people,” Danielu stated.

The expo came at a great time for the 18-year-old, as he just started his own business earlier this year – Partum Digital.

This online marketing company assists clients with the use of Facebook, Instagram and Google.

Danielu stated that social media has been a huge advancement for his company.

“We’re in the information age now,” he said. “You can almost create anything you want online.”

While he said that the expo was a learning experience for him, he would like other youth to take advantage of these events, becoming more educated than previous generations.

This sentiment was echoed by Michael Zmistowski who said he sees the importance of having high school courses geared toward managing finances.

Zmistowski is an advisor at the Financial Planning Association of Tampa Bay.

In the building adjacent to the cafeteria, he was one of multiple speakers holding seminars in classrooms.

In his class, the advisor spoke on what he said are the top three worries surrounding retirement: outliving your assets, making a reliable income and a potential stock market crash.

His solution to these concerns was summed up with one response.

“The answer that I give to all of them is to create a purposeful spending plan,” Zmistowski explained.

He advised that in order to save, people must look at their reasons for saving, whether it’s for their kids’ education or their own retirement.

Also, unforeseen events, such as the loss of a spouse, need to be factored in, and most importantly, it should all be written down.

He addressed those who live paycheck to paycheck, finding it hard to save any money at all.

“Make a list of those things that you spend money on that are essential and those things that are discretionary,” the advisor encouraged.

Using food as an example, he stated that while this is an essential need, people can be conscious about how much they spend and how often they go out to eat.

Finding ways to cut back, even on the necessities, can result in small savings, he said.

With advice and support from institutions like this, Stavrou hopes that this will become an annual event for Pasco County schools.

Published April 24, 2019

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