School is almost back in session. This year, think LifeSmarts. – National Consumers League

By Lee Parker, LifeSmarts program Intern
Lee Parker is a LifeSmarts intern at NCL. He will begin his junior year this fall at Tulane University, where he is pursuing degrees in Political Economy, and Legal Studies in Business. Lee has a passion for promoting consumer education and financial literacy. Lee is a member of the Tulane debate team, and is helping to launch Common Sense Action, a new youth advocacy movement fighting for generational equity.

Brace yourselves: It’s August. For kids, this means the last chances to bask in the summer air of freedom. For parents, this means an ever-closer return to the “normalcy” of the school year.  For me, it means facing the realities of being an adult for the first time: paying rent and utilities, buying furniture and other household goods for my new apartment, and beginning to sort out the rest of my life. This constitutes the college student/young adult’s version of “back-to-school shopping,” a necessary transition between summer vacation and the school year, for students of all ages. But back-to-school shopping offers a much more fruitful opportunity that is often overlooked, with benefits that will far outlast the upcoming school year. A survey conducted in July by Capital One found that, “69% of parents said they believe they are doing enough to teach their kids about personal finance and money management…yet less than half of teens (47%) say they have worked with their parents to develop a budget for spending and saving.” This discrepancy, while understandable, is very disheartening. Like many things, teenagers gain most of their personal finance knowledge from their parents. But without substantial, hands-on practice with basic issues such as budgeting for utilities, insurance and other necessities, young adults can easily be overwhelmed by these so-called “real world problems.” As I move into my first apartment this month, I must admit I’m nervous about dealing with these new responsibilities. Now more than ever, I will be using the knowledge that LifeSmarts does a spectacular job of teaching. After just over a month working with the LifeSmarts program, I can only wish I had competed in LifeSmarts back in high school. As LifeSmarts embarks on its 20th year of education young consumers, competitors and coaches alike can expect some exciting new possibilities just on the horizon. From the launch of the newly redesigned LifeSmarts website (coming later this month), to holding head-to-head competitions between teams on Google Hangout, LifeSmarts has quite the future ahead of it. But it isn’t about the future of LifeSmarts; it’s about the future of the young adults who gain so much practical knowledge from participating in LifeSmarts. Graduates who begin living independently for the first time are so much better equipped to face new responsibilities, and thrive in the new chapters of their lives to become smarter consumers, smarter citizens, and just smarter people. And I am firm believer in the mantra “knowledge is power,” in that smarter people make better people.