Getting first-hand high school experience in finances

INVEST19P
Students (from left) Mariam Sharobeem, Valerie Cheney, and Ahad Rafi worked at Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union branches set up in their high schools and said they learned a lot about personal finance.

Meet Ahad Rafi, Mariam Sharobeem, and Valerie Cheney, three teenagers who are teaching themselves about personal finance. All three have worked at branches of Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union set up in their high schools.

Lots of folks advocate for personal finance as part of school curriculums, including the Council for Economic Education, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia (which offers courses and free materials for teachers), and, of course, educators.

These teens were self-motivated.

Rafi, 18, opened a credit-union checking account a few years ago "because I wanted to pay for Netflix. I needed a debit card, and I wanted one with no fees."

He also worked at the Franklin Mint credit-union branch at Upper Darby High School during lunch hour. He plans to study finance and engineering when he starts Drexel University this month.

Sharobeem, 17, a Springfield High School junior, opened a savings account at the credit union "because they were giving a $25 promotion." She currently works there as a teller, too.

"It wasn't intimidating like a bank, and they paid me to work. I also learned the difference between a debit card and a credit card," Sharobeem said.

Her savings account is for college, and she can check the balance online on her phone.

Cheney, 17, who works at the branch at Strath Haven High School, opened an account there just before her freshman year.

"I work at the YMCA nearby, and my direct deposit goes straight into my credit-union account."

Of course, she also likes having a debit card so she can use it to buy shoes, sunglasses, and other items online.

Teenagers can open savings accounts that earn 2.0 percent annually - there are even children's accounts earning 4.0 percent - and learn that credit unions "are not for-profit, like banks are. The savings rates are higher, and there aren't as many fees," Rafi said.

That's a welcome lesson these days, when Wells Fargo was just fined for opening millions of phony accounts for customers, some of whom are enraged enough to leave the bank altogether.

Many high school students in districts such as Penn Wood and Upper Darby are already working and helping to support their extended families, said Lorraine Ranalli, program manager for Franklin Mint FCU in Broomall.

Nine of the credit union's 10 high school-operated financial literacy centers, which function as branches and serve the school community, are located in Delaware County.

"It's really a helpful introduction to personal finance," said Cheney. "You learn about the differences between checking, saving, and not spending more than you have."

Added Sharobeem: "I have a lot of self-confidence and independence and have my own money."

No one's secretly opening unauthorized accounts, since the students audit each branch every month.

Take note, Wells Fargo.

Social Security workshop. Are you wondering when to apply for Social Security? On Sept. 27, the Social Security Administration will conduct two 90-minute preretirement seminars in Media, open to the public.

Preretirees can learn about their benefits and plan for their financial future. If you have questions about eligibility, when to collect, the online application process, rules for collecting benefits while working, family benefits, and enrolling in Medicare, then these seminars are for you.

The sessions will take place at the Rose Tree Corporate Center, Building 2, first floor, 1400 N. Providence Rd., Media 19063. They are scheduled from 3 to 4:30 p.m. or 5 to 6:30 p.m.

The seminars are free, but registration is required by Friday.

To register, send an email to edward.lafferty@ssa.gov or call 1-866-398-3469, ext. 29305.

earvedlund@phillynews.com

215-854-2808@erinarvedlund