What’s in your pocket ?

Financial strain in today’s society


Laci Womack, Staff Writer

Financial strain has fluctuated over the course of the years, accelerating immensely during the pandemic as more workplaces shut down leaving 14.8% of Americans unemployed. Flashforward to 2021, the economy has slowly reconstructed itself post mass shutdowns which continue affecting the current economic climate.

Travis Queck has taught personal finance at Bryant High School for 5 years. He believes in the importance of having financial freedoms and working towards a bright future for him and his family by making the right decisions.

“I focus and spend the majority of my time concerned with how my money can make money,” Queck said. “I have always viewed money as something that we must accumulate to build wealth [and] sometimes that means that I don’t enjoy the rewards of hard work, but my wife does a good job of keeping me balanced and creating opportunities for our family to enjoy both of our hard work.” 

One of the most common variables causing more financial strain for students and adults today is debt. Particularly student loan debt. 1 in 8 Americans has some form of student loan debt, collecting a hefty $1.75 trillion of student loan debt in the United States. Queck thinks that student loans backfire for college students, and has first hand experience as he continues to pay off student loans.

“What stinks about the whole student loan mess is that the reason one is getting a student loan is to get an education so that they can work in a field that they believe can better their situation,” Queck said. “Our education system requires us to attend school, promoting an education, but the moment one chooses an education and cannot fund it, we get hit with a massive debt upon graduation.” 

Queck believes debt is holding people back from building wealth for themselves and urges his students to stay away from gaining student debt and to not make the mistakes he and many generations before have. 

“Debt hinders the ability for all individuals to build wealth,” Queck said. “I would make sure that I understand the ramifications of student loans and debt in general. I would have encouraged myself to work as much as I could to pay for college while in college, because so many students graduating with student loan debt find themselves always struggling to get ahead and build wealth.” 

Although Queck has struggled with the consequences of having student loan debt, his passion for his education has made the journey worthwhile.

“I have a passion for money,” Queck said. “I graduated with a Finance and Accounting degree, and I am really glad I can put it to use in the form of education.”

Queck believes that creating a self budget system is very important when it comes to building a foundation for money to flourish.

“I have always had a budget,” Queck said. “I am OCD with what, when, [and] where my money is going. I believe that our family budget keeps us on track when things like inflation occur or when emergencies happen we are prepared and can make educated decisions that do not devastate our family goals.” 

As teens today prepare themselves for their futures, it is important they understand the roles in which money plays in their life. Senior Anterrian Smith expresses his indifference towards money and his attitude towards expenses in his daily life. 

“Just having money isn’t something crazy to me. I want to look cool so I buy cool things. I didn’t grow up with a lot of money so I don’t really care about that.”

 In today’s world, as a teenager, it can be difficult to navigate the world of money and the lack of financial education can put a dent in their success. Smith, a student surrounded by materialism, currently has no financial responsibilities and believes in purchasing whatever he can afford at one time. 

“I will probably buy whatever I want as soon as possible,” Smith said. If I have enough money I will buy it. I don’t just see something and go ‘oh I want it’, I look for stuff a lot and I have a decent sized list so I know what I want.”

   Impulse buying is a growing trend in America today and the average American will make 12 impulse purchases per month. With marketing strategies getting more creative and efficient at targeting their audiences, special offers such as discounts, coupons, sales, and rewards give consumers incentive to fill their carts and can lead to impulsive purchase behaviors. Younger consumers are drawn to the current fashion statements, accessories, and entertainment. Smith finds personal joy in the items he purchases and recognizes the value within them, like shoes.

“Shoes hold or gain value, they don’t depreciate, ” Smith said. “I have a pair from 2011, and I’m sure the value is just going to increase. Even though the shoe is going to wear overtime, to certain people owning something from 20 years ago is special because they don’t make them like that anymore.”

Research has shown that impulse buying has substituted for emotional needs for fun, social interaction, and instant gratification. Smith believes that money is an essential part of comfortability, and overall opportunity.

“Rich people have more opportunities, which is the craziest thing in the world,” Smith said.” They have more opportunities to make money. It’s easier to make money if you have money.” 

Smith finds inspiration in his mom and transitioning from a childhood without money to being financially stable. 

“ It wasn’t like we didn’t have the money to travel, but we lived in an apartment and I didn’t have the freedom to spend money on new shoes and stuff like that,” Smith said. “My mom is a really hard worker, she owns two salons now so it’s really just been watching her accomplishments, that gives me inspiration. She saves a lot and she has like this giant planning book where she writes all the numbers in. She has a lot of responsibility and she keeps up insanely well.” 

Smith believes kids should enjoy the freedom of not having adult responsibilities like bills, but also believes that having a savings account is important to create and build for after graduation.

“I have like $2,000 saved,” Smith said. “I doubt i’ll spend a lot of money in college like clothing wise, I think I’ve built a really good foundation for myself already. 

Smith believes that because he came from a lower income family, he has more appreciation for having the opportunities to buy things he didn’t have in his younger years.

“It’s not really like an I owe It to my younger self kind of thing but it’s like, I couldn’t then, so I really want to now,” Smith said. “It’s kind of like the saying you have to know the rules before you break them. I think you have to experience it before you can be like I’m fine without that when it comes to spending. Like growing up without money and then transitioning to a point where you have a lot of money you tend to spend a lot of money and I feel like once you go through that you can be like that’s not what it’s really cracked up to be.” 

Smith believes money doesn’t make a person or dictate their life, and his mindset towards money has made him feel more carefree finically and believe in his own success.

“I feel like with money, if I lose money I know I can definitely get it back,” Smith said. “I don’t think I’ll ever be down and out. Maybe it’s a facade, but I don’t think I could lose. I feel like it’s a good mindset to have like nothing could knock you down but it may be too optimistic to the point where it’s a little unrealistic.” 

To Smith, pursuing his dreams is the most important part of life, and it’s not so much about the money than whether or not he is doing what he wants to do.

“Not reaching my dreams, that is like the only thing that worries me is not accomplishing what I want. I want to be a filmmaker or a musician and I would be fine if I was a successful filmmaker with a little money and had my necessities taken care of, but if I don’t end up a millionaire as long as I’m doing what I really like I don’t really care.” 

Smith believes lack of money does not amount to failure, and that not chasing your dreams does.

“If I’m stuck working a 9 to 5 until I’m 60 I terribly fail myself, “ Smith said. “Failing just isn’t an option, I can’t afford to fail so I simply just won’t fail.”