For someone who’s not even in high school, Jackson has a lot of insight into the importance of financial literacy and awareness.
“It’s incredibly important starting really early, because if you ruin your financial record, it can follow you the rest of your life,” she said.
That awareness served the Whitney Young eighth-grader well, as she won the Federal Reserve’s Money Smart Week essay contest and was named 2009’s “Money Smart Kid.” She will receive a $5,000 scholarship and a laptop computer, courtesy of HSBC.
Contestants were asked the following essay question: “The current U.S. economy is facing significant challenges. Please describe some of these challenges and briefly discuss some of the steps that your family and other families can take to meet these challenges.”
Rather than a traditional essay with a topic sentence and supporting details, she did an acrostic with the letters “CHANGE.” For each letter, she made a suggestion about how families could be more financially savvy. For example, the letter “N” read: “Negotiate! Car prices are not the only expenses that are negotiable. Families might be surprised to discover how willing some businesses are to bargain in order to make a sale or keep existing customers.”
“We were limited to 300 words or less, and I knew I was never going to be able to explain something so complicated in 300 words,” she said. “It was more tactical on my part.”
Jackson had entered the contest once before as a fifth-grader and made it to the interview stage, but did not win. She said the previous experience helped her this year, and, “I also wasn’t as nervous. It was really overwhelming the first time.”
She attributes her financial savvy to her parents, who have always been open about money matters with their children. She understands parents’ desire to protect their children from worrying about layoffs or bad investments, but says, “You have to be honest with your children. I think it would be worse if your kids made the same mistakes you did.”
Jackson will attend Payton High School next year, and then hopes to go on to Stanford. Ultimately, she’s considering a career in law, but, naturally, business and finance are also options.
In the meantime, she plans to invest her scholarship money. “I’ll probably put it in a CD once the rates go up,” she said.
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