Students Should Plan Now To Avoid Future Debt

By Jeff Abell

Nearly every American, young or old, will deal with debt at some point. Where does a good portion of this debt start to accumulate? Debt can come from many different areas, but a majority of the debt many Americans gather comes from student loans and credit cards.

Recently, I was introduced to motivational speaker Anthony ONeal, who speaks to teens about the seriousness of their lives and the impact their day-to-day decision making has on their future. ONeal experienced firsthand the negative effects of a few bad financial decisions he made as a young man. He had graduated from high school on a Thursday night and hit the road the following afternoon, eager to be on his own. Within six months, ONeal had dug himself into $25,000 of debt, the majority coming from his credit card. Soon after, he was kicked out of college and lost his job. According to ONeal, he had “hit rock bottom.”

ONeal grew up continually telling his parents that he was a grown man, and his father reminded him of that when ONeal came to him and told him of his struggles. His father reminded him of the independence he had craved and encouraged him to find a solution to his problems. For the next few months ONeal lived out of the backseat of his car in the Walmart parking lot, until he sat down with his father and created a budget plan.

ONeal uses his experiences and the hurt from the decisions he made to encourage others to make better financial decisions. ONeal believes many teens struggle with a self-identity crisis. Instead of paving unique paths, they fall into the same debt problems as their peers.

“They’re struggling with following the norm. They may say they’re different, but they’re really following the path of everyone else,” ONeal says.

ONeal encourages teens to start applying for scholarships early, find gainful employment and start saving for their future. He advises high school freshmen to apply for scholarships, even though college is four years away, and encourages those already in college to continually apply for more scholarships to help avoid excessive student loans.

Jeff Abell is the Teen Advisory Council Program Coordinator at Youth Resources.