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Please Send Money, 2E: A Financial Survival Guide for Young Adults on Their Own Paperback – April 1, 2008

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About the Author

Dara Duguay, the Director of Citigroup's Office of Financial Education, has been involved with the issue of financial literacy for over a dozen years. She is the former Executive Director of the non-profit Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy in Washington, DC.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The Three R's of College: Reading, 'Riting and Revolving Debt

The college years are probably the first time in your life where your parents will not constantly monitor you. The hour you go to sleep or wake up, your activities, what you eat, whom you hang out with, and how you spend your money become your decisions, not theirs. This newfound independence can be quite liberating, as your parents' rules and guidance are no longer controlling your life to the extent they used to. However, this may cause you to make decisions that you are not truly knowledgeable about, just because you can.

Decisions involving credit cards will be yours as long as you are at least eighteen years old. Prior to this age, any credit cards you may have had were in your parents' name. Even though you were able to use the card, it still was your parents' account. Once you reach a legal age though, the card becomes yours and so does the liability.

You are free to have as many credit cards as you can obtain with a credit limit as high as you can qualify for. But being responsible for making spending decisions on your own also means being responsible for repaying the debt you've accumulated. You'll find that your freedom in choosing how to spend your available credit does not apply to your freedom in choosing how and when to repay it. There are payment deadlines and set amounts that you are required to repay. With as many as one third of college graduates having problems with credit card debt, your credit obligations should be carefully considered prior to getting that first card.

Jane came from a small Midwestern town to attend Ohio State University, a school whose student body totals over 50,000 undergraduates. Jane knew almost everyone in her hometown and now she found herself living in a dorm with more people than her entire town's population. This "new world" was overwhelming and liberating at the same time. Jane was finally free from her strict parental rule. Now all she needed was money.

Her parents were very conservative, especially in regards to financial matters. They always paid cash for everything and put themselves and Jane on a strict budget. In addition to monitoring Jane's allowance, they had always paid close attention to her friends and activities. Now that she was away from their watchful eye, she planned on asserting her newfound independence.

As a freshman, she signed up for her first credit card when an application caught her eye. It said, "Finally, a credit card that gives you something you really want, fun." Jane filled out the application immediately.

Armed with her first credit card, Jane made sure that she did not deny herself anything. Her credit cards were always there for her when she needed economic help. They did not ask questions about why she needed the money or moralize about her spending patterns like her parents would have. After all, she was just following what the advertisements were telling her to do, "Just do it," "Don't deny yourself," and "Indulge." Some of Jane's friends turned down social invitations because it wasn't in their budget, but Jane never missed an opportunity. She went to movies, football games, concerts, stores, and restaurants.

One night, less than one month after getting her first credit card, Jane tried to pay at a restaurant with her credit card and found that the approval wouldn't go through. She had not yet received her first bill, since she had had the card for less than a month, and she couldn't imagine that she had already reached the limit. Several days later the credit card statement arrived in the mail and confirmed that she had indeed reached her initial $500 limit. Jane started to panic but then noticed that all she was required to pay was a $20 minimum payment. This she could handle. In fact, if she could handle one credit card, why not another?

Jane applied for two more credit cards and promptly charged them up to their limits. As she continued to make the minimum payment each month, Jane couldn't believe what a small price she had to pay for so much fun (just like the advertisement promised)! Jane had every intention of continuing her pattern of getting a new credit card every time she had exhausted the credit available on her last card. In fact, the credit card companies were helping her by frequently increasing her available credit limit. Unfortunately, this pattern stopped working after her sixth credit card.

For a reason that she couldn't understand, her applications were now getting turned down. The reason given was that she was "overextended." Jane did not have any idea what that meant. All that Jane understood was that her source of money had suddenly dried up. She had started using cash advances on her sixth credit card as a means to make payments on her other five accounts. She was playing the "credit card shuffle," using one credit card to pay the other. Now how was she supposed to pay her credit card bills?

To make matters worse, her parents' combined income precluded her ability to qualify for a subsidized Stafford loan (Guaranteed Student Loan) and she would have had to get her parents' approval for any other loan program. Telling her parents was not an option. She was sure they would take away her credit cards and put her on a strict budget if they found out, and she couldn't let that happen.

Jane decided to start working part-time at a retail store at the mall in order to have money to pay her credit card bills. Unfortunately, this decision added a seventh credit card to Jane's wallet. She justified the additional card because she could only get store discounts if she made her purchases with the store credit card. She convinced herself that she was saving money by using this credit card.

As her debt accumulated, so did the number of hours Jane was forced to work. Between working and studying, Jane started burning the candle at both ends. In fact, the more she worked part-time, the more she felt she deserved to eat out, enjoy a concert, and hit the clubs with friends. What Jane didn't realize at the time was that she had opened a Pandora's Box of rising expectations that could only be satisfied with greater levels of debt and more hours of employment. It became a vicious cycle.

Soon her grades started to suffer because she had less and less time to spend studying. Before she knew it, she was working almost full-time and failing most of her classes. She decided to drop out for the semester and catch up financially. Unfortunately, by only making the minimum payment each month, her debt never seemed to go down. In addition, she had a tremendous amount of guilt because she had been lying to her parents who still thought she was in school.

Jane is living a lie, which will eventually be found out by her parents. The truth will come out and the longer she waits, the longer her college education is being delayed. Right now she is just treading water by making only the minimum payment each month on her $6,000 in total debt. The following example puts into perspective the time it will take Jane to pay off her debt.

If a college freshman with a much lesser balance of $1,000 quits charging on the card and only pays the minimum due each month, he or she could earn a bachelor's degree, complete a master's program, and still have three years left to finish paying off that freshman plastic binge.

Once Jane accepts the fact that her current course of action cannot make a dent in her debt, she will hopefully be more willing to talk to her parents, discuss her situation with a credit counselor, or explore a solution with her school's financial aid office. Until she does so, Jane will continue burning the candle at both ends until it finally burns out.

Some danger signs of being overextended are:

Are you arguing over your bills?
Are you living from paycheck to paycheck?
Can you only make the minimum payments on your charge accounts?
Do you put off medical or dental visits because you don't have the money?
Would you be in immediate financial difficulty if you lost your job?
Are you afraid to add up your debt?
Are you juggling one credit payment to make another?
Are you receiving past due notices or calls from creditors?
Are you unable to save?
Are you running out of money before the next payday?
Are you using credit cards for normal living expenses?
Are you borrowing from family and friends?

Jane should have figured out before she started to experience any of these danger signs how much debt she could handle by completing the debt percentage worksheet introduced in Chapter 3. As a refresher, the following guidelines correspond to the percentage of your total monthly debt payments compared to one's net income.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks; 2 edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402213247
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402213243
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #872,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"Please Send Money!" is a great book for high school seniors to read before they go off to college and are confronted with financial situations of their own.
This book does a great job of relating that material to the age group for which it was written. The book also includes many personal stories and accounts which help the material come together. I feel it would be worthwile for anyone, especially college students, because it explains how to best maintain a positive financial status. The best thing about this book that is it's easy to read and doesn't drag on.
Even though this book is about a boring topic, money, it actually kept me entertained. The facts in this book are very necessary to know, and it taught me a lot. It made me very fearful of credit cards and bankruptcy. This book gives useful advice about maintaining a balanced budget, while still leaving room for fun. It also talks about investing early in the stock market.
The most useful section of this book is the chapter on saving. No savings is a common problem for students and this book deals a lot with how much and when to start saving. I liked how this book gave solutions for any teenager on any budget. It gave options such as investing only $2 per day and still becoming a millionaire by age 65. It seemed like there was someone for everyone.
Another very important chapter is that about investing in the stock market. The book discussed "not putting all your eggs in one basket" and diversifying your money. The best part about this section was the book did not use only "Wall Street Lingo" but also common place words. It was easy to understand, and that is a huge plus for a financial book for college students.
This book was definately worth the [money] because in the end it could help you to make millions. The only bad this about this book was that it made me very fearful of credit cards and debt. :)
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By Michael on April 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book was good to read. It is very informative for young adults. I know that this will be very helpful to me next year at college. I liked this book because it was very helpful in demonstrating what should not be done when creating personal financing. The only reason I did not give this book five stars was because while it did say what not to do, I only noticed four instances of when the book mentioned a person doing something correct from the start. Throughout the book the author, Dara Duguay, would tell a person's tale of how they screwed up their financing. Then she would explain how that particular situation could have been better handled. In each of the four instances of someone handling their finances well, it was merely to compare that person to another that didn't do so well.
Overall I liked the book. It gives good advice and is rather easy to read. The lessons the book tries to convey are understood quite well by its target audience (teens). I am glad that I read this book, I will take to heart most of the lessons it teaches.
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As a NFCC certified credit counselor for over 17 years I feel this book will be an excellent guide to help teens and young adults avoid the pitfalls that come from a lack of financial education. Dara's book is comprehensive....It addresses every money question that could face a young adult....financing school, moving out, how much credit is safe to use, what to do if you get into trouble, beginning investing, etc. This is a much needed book. Dara offers easy to follow charts and forms. She presents real life stories which help people who are experiencing financial difficulties know they are not alone and that there is a way out.
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Personal finance is a subject that is rarely taught in school, yet managing money can be more important than making it. Although this book is geared towards young adults, it has great take-home value to anyone who has not yet achieved the net worth they desire. The book contains all the finance principles most people were never taught that enable them to get ahead financially in life. The book covered all aspects of "personal finance 101" with lots of real life stories. Yet, it was well orgainzed into topics so that you could just read the chapters that interested you such as, "Do You Run Out of Money Before You Run Out of Month?".
PLEASE SEND MONEY should be required reading for every college student or anyone going out on his or her own. I have already bought additional copies as graduation gifts. This book is a must read to develop financial habits to last a lifetime and action items to take if you are not as financially as well off as you would like to be.
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I picked up this book for my daughter, and of course read it first. I loved it and thought it would be helpful for her. I found the book to be packed full of information to help young adults and better yet, the advise wasn't coming from me, but a financial expert. I wasn't sure how my daughter would react, but she loved the book, learned to stay out of debt, and she has even passed it onto a good friend of hers at school. She's now dedicated herself to becoming financially responsible and the best part is that it's HER IDEA! Not her mothers. I would recommend this book for any parent who wants their children to be financially responsible!
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