Girls Leadership Project Welcomes Donna Griffiths, Instructor in Money Managment at Concord Academy

The money set aside for buying a latte each day for four years would be enough for a down payment on a car, according to Donna Griffiths, a Chief Financial Officer and an Instructor in Money Management at Concord Academy, in a Girls Leadership Project (GLP) meeting last Sunday. GLP, a group that promotes female leadership at Andover and beyond, brought Griffiths to campus to discuss financial strategies and money management. According to Kathleen Dalton, Instructor in History and Co-Head of GLP, Griffiths was the first of a series of female leaders from surrounding communities who will present to the group on specific topics. Throughout her presentation, Griffiths emphasized the value of maintaining financial security, through saving and maintaining a high credit rating. “You have a pool of resources to use in your life. And you have to live within those resources. That gives you a lot of things to think about—if I do one thing versus another, there’s an opportunity lost. If I spend $1 on books, I can’t spend that dollar next week on buying socks. When you make decisions, you’re making that choice—maybe something small today versus something big tomorrow,” she said. “Each day, that accumulation of what you’ve done that single day builds up to into what you’ve done at the end of a month. Saving is a little bit of the same thing. If you can save a little bit on that one small amount. The bank can give you interest on that—and you’ve made money. Keep the change,” she continued. Griffiths stressed the benefits of having a good credit rating. Credit ratings are grades assigned to individuals based, among other things, on individuals’ behavior as consumers. According to Griffiths, maintaining a good credit rating is incredibly important for students since those with poor credit ratings often pay much more interest on student loans. “I really didn’t have any idea the effect of credit scores until I started working with some private banks and found that the cost of student loans was twice as high for people with bad credit. That can be the difference of tens of thousands of dollars over a long time if you have a lot of student loans. Just that alone,” said Griffiths. Griffith said that she highlighted this point because student loans can play a huge role in college decision making. “Recently, there are so many graduates and they have, say, $80,000 in debt, some as high as $200,000. They’re starting their life off with that debt, and they can’t get jobs in their fields. You don’t think about that when you’re in school,” said Griffiths. In addition, Griffiths warned students to understand the terms of a loan before signing it. “If somebody says you can double your money next week, really think about that. ‘Why are they offering me that, what is this?’ So just if it’s an uncomfortable situation, just step back and say that’s not for me today. Your intuition about things as you gain experience will be right.” Griffiths also warned students of the dangers of overspending on smaller items. “If you spend $3.50 every day more than you actually have at school for four years, at the end of four years you’re going to be in debt $3000 to $4000 from the cost of buying a latte 9 months a year. $3000 is the down payment on a car; it’s the down payment on an apartment. It’s the little things that are going to make an impact on the opportunities you’ll have,” said Griffiths. According to Dalton, she invited Griffiths to speak at the GLP meeting because Griffiths is a knowledgeable accountant and could offer advice to the student audience. “Money management is a basic skill to have. Teaching economics is really good, but it’s not always good with the kind of life choices that Donna [Griffiths] talked about today. This is something that I’ve thought about for a long time. A lot of people look back on their education and wish they had more practical lessons,” said Dalton. Josselyn De Leon ’13, who attended Griffiths’s presentation, said, “Overall, it was a good experience, and the knowledge that we got was useful not only to girls but to pretty much youth in general only because a lot of us don’t really get that type of learning and teaching from our parents.” “We’re going through this phase where we’re learning to deal with our own money, and it’s just important to have these basic facts so we know how to use it, when to use it and not make financial mistakes later in our lives,” she added. Dalton said that GLP hopes to hold similar sessions in the future that will focus on public speaking and other practical skills. Dalton and Rebecca Sykes, Associate Head of School, started GLP three years ago. For the past two years, they ran a mentorship program that paired together younger girls with older students to promote female leadership at the school.