April is National Financial Literacy month and, according to a national credit-card comparison website, Cardhub.com, the average household credit-card debt in 2015 was nearly $7,500. A separate website, Neighborworks.org, reports that over one-third of Americans do not have any savings.
That data makes Roslyn S. Lash cringe and the work she does with Youth Smart Financial Education Services all the more important. She says she started the company last year to educate consumer and increase financial wellness for young people and their families. She accomplishes this by providing on-site financial education classes at schools, businesses, government agencies and non-profit organizations.
“Everyone should have the education and resources to make sound financial decisions,” Lash says. “Unfortunately, personal finances and money management skills are not nourished in the educational system. This forces young adults to haphazardly learn their money management skills through their financial mistakes.”
The concept of Youth Smart Financial Education Services developed in 2014 when Lash began educating her 18-year-old daughter Ashlyn about money matters. Ashlyn, she says, was a major inspiration for developing the curriculum of Youth Smart, which also offers one-on-one adult coaching sessions for such topics as credit rebuilding, debt management, budgeting, mortgage and rent issues, buying a car, and overall consumer awareness. Like most teenagers, Lash says, her daughter had no understanding of credit, checking, savings or budgeting.
“I realized that regardless of what she does professionally, she must know how to manage her money,” Lash says. “It doesn’t matter how much she earns; if she lacks management skills, she’ll always experience difficulties.”
Eliminating financial distress
According to a 2009 Sallie Mae study, Ashlyn is not alone as 84 percent of undergraduates admitted that while they are proud of their earned degrees admit the need for more financial management education to help them in the real world. Additionally, while 10 percent of net income is the recommended amount for debt obligation, consumers in the 18-to-24 age bracket tend to spend 30 percent of their monthly income on debt repayment alone, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.
Lash has identified certain problems that families incur that tend to lead them into financial distress. She states that although the industry standard suggests that housing costs be no more than 30 percent of a family’s gross income, she recommends that it not exceed 30 percent of net income.
“Net income is take-home pay,” Lash says. “Therefore, budgets and spending plans should be based on what is actually received.”
She also states that many families rent furniture, computers and other household items that they should save their money to purchase. For example, rent-to-own stores now offer designer handbags for a monthly rental fee. Lash recommends increasing your savings in order to purchase the bag outright.
“What I do is identify money habits that are not productive and find alternate methods of behavior,” Lash says. “I provide education and coaching and develop a spending plan for how the money will be managed.”
She recently shared her financial philosophies to parents and teenagers at a Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County educational session.
“Ms. Lash did a Smart Budgeting class for our partner families last year and it was very successful,” says Willette Mosby-Reynolds, the agency’s manager of training and education. “Participants … loved how she connected to them and their teenage daughters. Ms. Lash could relate to them and it was easy for them to receive from her.”
Mother wit as motivation
Lash was born to a survivor of the Great Depression of 1929. Her mother, 97-year-old Eunice Suber, constantly talked about the struggles that she faced during the Depression. Suber and her seven siblings were raised by their mother after their father died when Suber was 13 years old. Suber recalls that they always had food, shelter, and clothes and always stressed the importance of saving for a rainy day and preparing for life’s economic emergencies such as reduced salary, job loss, or household emergencies.
Other lessons on the menu of Mother Wit included: “Don’t live above your means,” “Live below your means,” “You are not what you drive,” “You are not what you wear,” and “Stay away from keeping up with the Joneses – the Joneses are not paying your bill.”
Her mother also emphasized the importance of getting an education. Lash was involved in Upward Bound, a college preparatory program for first-generation college students, before she matriculated to Winston-Salem State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration. She is a licensed real-estate broker, is certified as a housing counselor, and last year confirmed her financial aptitude by passing the Accredited Financial Counselor’s examination. Earlier this year, she was a facilitator at the Family Services 2016 Money Rocks Summit at Charleston Southern University.
Job loss creates open door
Last year, Lash lost her job and was suddenly a single parent with limited income. At that moment, her mother’s words came rushing back to her to give her strength and wisdom for the journey ahead. It was time, she says, to put those words into practice. Because of her inclination to live below her means and save for a rainy day, she was able to sustain her family after losing her job without liquidating her retirement.
Although Youth Smart was conceived to educate her daughter and the services initially geared solely for teenagers and young adults, the company was formally created after Lash survived one of her more challenging financial episodes. Lash also has received requests from adults for one-on-one coaching services. She says she is considering removing the word “youth” and changing the company’s name so that it reflects a wider age range.
With adults, Lash says she focuses on a coaching strategy where they work together to create a spending plan.
“I want to help them reach their goals,” she says. “I always stress the importance of not depriving yourself. If you work every day, you deserve to buy some of the things that you want.”
She also states that many people have trouble qualifying to purchase a home because they live beyond their income – often purchasing expensive luxury cars rather than investing in a practical used car and using the extra funds to reduce debt and increase savings.
“It makes me feel good that I have positively influenced someone and (that) I have lived up to the Youth Smart motto of ‘Changing Lives and Creating Budgets that Inspire Dreams.’”
In addition to her formal education and her accreditation through the Association of Financial Counseling, Planning and Education, she is a frequent advisor on NerdWallet.com, a national call-in program for consumers who have questions about personal finance credit, debt, mortgages, marriage, and other related topics. She also serves as a personal financial counselor with Zeider’s Enterprises counseling service members, veterans and their families.
Dana Gibson, a fellow facilitator at the Money Rocks Summit in Charleston, complimented Lash.
“It was a pleasure working with Ms. Lash,” Gibson says. “She is knowledgeable and she had a great rapport with the class participants.”
Lash says her passion is bringing people into the light of knowledge about personal finance.
“My goal is to provide a comprehensive down-to-earth practical approach to personal finances,” she says. “At some point, everyone feels like no matter how much money they’ve earned, it’s not enough. This sentiment is not only felt by low-to-moderate income families, but is often felt by middle as well as high-income families. The earlier that proper principles are learned, the more likely they will be applied later in life.”
Lash also stresses that confidentiality is vital in her line of work.
“Confidentiality and individuality is important in this vision,” she says. “My budget is not the same as someone else’s budget. Your hobbies are different from someone else’s hobbies. The spending plan you create will be individually tailored.
“I hold information in strict confidence when I counsel individuals or groups,” she adds. “Because we don’t want anyone in our business, we suffer in silence. In my own life, I can identify with some struggles, but God has a way of restoring and providing.”
That was some of the sage advice that Lash provided to 53-year-old Blinda J. Corbett of Stone Mountain, Ga., whom Lash assisted in reducing credit-card debt.
“We cut up six of my ten credit cards,” Corbett says. “We examined the annual percentage rates and started from the cards with the highest interest rates to those with the lowest interest rates. I was able to consolidate by putting the highest rate debt on the lowest rate cards. Now I am down to four cards, and I am more disciplined. I no longer carry those cards in my pocketbook. I leave them at home in a special place. If I do not have them with me, I will not use them as I once did.”
If you are interested in improving your finances, please contact Youth Smart Financial Education Services at www.YouthSmartEdu.com.