CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sheila Spotts draws on personal experience when she talks to kids and young adults about financial issues.
She was laid off twice in seven years. "I get it. I know what it's like when your income drops and you've got to make changes," said the 33-year-old.
Now, it's her job as financial wellness coordinator with Fifth Third Bank to teach others how to manage their credit, to budget their money and to save some of it.
She advises families to start early educating their children by explaining that they worked for their money and what it pays for.
Today's parents have it a little harder, Spotts concedes. "There's always something kids want. They know their parents have access to cash. They know what an ATM machine is -- it may be 11 at night but they know they can get money."
She suggests giving an allowance when children are in the third grade. "They can do basic math by then -- and chores."
Teach the child to divide the allowance into portions for charity, savings and, as one parent did, deduct a portion for taxes. That lessens the shock of their first real paycheck, she said.
When the child wants something -- from a cellphone to a car -- require them to use their own money to pay for all or part of it. Said Spotts, "They'll appreciate it more."
And before making those purchases, Spotts said parents should point out the hidden and extra costs -- the cellphone plan and, for the car, the insurance, gas and taxes.
For older teenagers opening their first checking account, Spotts is adamant that they manage that account by recording their withdrawals in a transaction register -- either on paper or online.
There are so many ways now to check your bank balance by calling or at the ATM or even though a phone app. But writing it down, she said, lets teens see exactly how their money is being spent -- or wasted.
Spotts is a traditionalist in that she preaches saving money until there is cash for a purchase, but she does recognize that credit cards are sometimes a necessity, especially for students headed to college.
Those students need more tutoring in credit card use other than their parents' directive not to use it. Spotts uses a game to illustrate how interest grows when the principal isn't paid down. If possible, she recommends leaving unpaid no more than 30 percent of the rolling balance of a credit card's limit. For teens, a low limit, such as $500, will prevent them from descending too far into debt if they misuse credit.
It's not just teens who accumulate credit debit or bounce checks. Many adults do too.
In her job, Spotts holds free workshops for employees of companies and businesses that sign up with the bank's Financial Wellness Initiative. She surveys her audience about their financial concerns.