Youth Financial Literacy Resource Center

Helping kids and teens learn the skills they need for financial independence

Financial literacy” is the ability to understand key money and credit lessons so you can use them in your daily life. Basic skills like budgeting, saving money, and using credit are essential for financial independence. These resources can help you get there!

Money and Credit Guides

These guides are a great jumping-off point to learn about personal finance. They walk you step-by-step through key financial topics that matter in your life right now. Learning these lessons now will set you up for financial success later in life.

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My First Budget

Budgeting for Kids and Teens

Do you have money goals or things you want to buy? Then you need a budget! Learn what a budget is and how to build one step by step.

Learn to Budget
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Banking 101

Learn about Basic Accounts

Getting your own checking and savings account is an important step to achieve financial independence. Learn how to use these accounts.

Get Banking
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Credit Card Statements

Tracking Your Credit Cards

It’s easy to think you can skip looking at your monthly credit card statements. But it’s essential to track what’s happening with your cards.

Learn What It Says

Budgeting and Saving Worksheets

When it comes to managing your money, trying to “keep it all in your head” just doesn’t work. You need to write things out if you want to be successful. These downloadable worksheets can help!


Wise Up for Teens Interactive Course

Wise up owlWise Up for Teens is an interactive financial literacy course that will teach you all the skills you need to be financially independent. You’ll learn how to:

  1. Make a budget
  2. Save money
  3. Manage your money
  4. Use credit wisely

Each lesson includes helpful worksheets that will guide you through each topic and a quiz to make sure you have mastered each topic.

Get wise to the ways of finance »


Be Smart About Credit Cards

Credit cards are great tools that can help you achieve your goals when used correctly. But they can also ruin your financial life if you’re not careful! The credit professor will teach you everything you need to know to use credit cards wisely.

Consolidated Credit explains how to have better credit habits while also saving money. Checking the benefits of a credit card and convenience helps with spending as well as not taking on too many cards while being smart about what and how you spend.
  1. Good Credit Habits of Smart Spenders

    Good Credit Habits of Smart Spenders Consolidated Credit explains how to have better credit habits while also saving money. Checking the benefits of a credit card and convenience helps with spending as well as not taking on too many cards while being smart about what and how you spend.

    Credit cards are a great financial tool when used correctly. But you have to be a Smart Spender when it comes to using credit the right way.

    Smart Spenders aren’t going out to get credit just because they can. And they don’t treat credit like money that they don’t have to pay back. They understand that credit cards can be used for convenience, safety and tracking, but even credit cards used for the right reasons have to be used responsibly.

    Smart Spenders aren’t constantly going out and signing up for new credit cards. Instead they only get new credit when they need it and shop around for the best cards for their needs. Instead of being lured in by advertising, they research credit cards carefully to ensure they’re not blindsided once the card is in use or that the rewards aren’t worth the interest and fees.

    Smart Spenders aren’t using luck or crossing their fingers hoping that they get approved because they know exactly how creditors judge creditworthiness. They understand the three Cs – character, capital and capacity. They know they have to show they’re a responsible borrower who can and will repay what they borrow, with assets to back them up.

    Once Smart Spenders find the right card for their needs, they take time to read through the contract carefully so they know what they’re really getting into. They know their credit limits, can strategically pay around the grace period, and know how to avoid penalties – and exactly what those penalties will be if the card is misused.

    Even though credit card statements always come with a minimum payment requirement, Smart Spenders always pay more than the minimum – it’s a trap. They usually pay off everything in full on credit cards used that month. This way they always start the month with zero balances on their cards. When they can’t pay off a balance in full, they make a plan to pay it off as fast as possible, and know how to read statements to find balance payoff information.

    A credit card grace period is the amount of time you have to pay off a balance before interest charges are applied. A Smart Spender knows when the grace period ends in relation to each billing cycle so they can pay off the debt accrued that month before the interest charges are applied to minimize the cost of using credit.

    Smart Spenders understand that just because a credit card company gives you a high credit limit, it doesn’t mean you should run up that debt. Smart Spenders check two metrics often: how much they can afford to borrow and what they can comfortably pay to eliminate debt each month. They check how much they can borrow by setting a limit at 15% of their net annual income. And they also check how much they can afford to pay back each month by calculating 10% of their net monthly income. This helps ensure Smart Spenders have enough money for bills, expenses like groceries, and even savings.

    One of the biggest downsides to using credit is it makes it really easy to give into impulse buys when you see something you want in a store. Smart Spenders resist the temptation and only buy things when they need them after taking time to shop around for the best price. They may even think about it a few days before deciding to buy something to make sure they really have to have it. They also avoid other bad habits, like using credit to cover budget gaps, leaving balances to accrue interest month after month and using one credit card to pay another.

    Now you know these eight credit habits to make you a Smart Spender, too!

  2. How to Compare Credit Cards

    How to Compare Credit Cards Consolidated Credit breaks down how to choose the right credit card for you. This includes the credit card company, benefits, and annual fees. It is also better to choose a major credit card, as they are likely to be accepted everywhere.

    Credit cards vary greatly from one issuer to the next, so Smart Spenders know to compare them carefully before signing up. Here are the eight features that Smart Spenders know to check when comparing cards…

    Rates can vary greatly and the difference of what items end up costing can be astounding. So Smart Spenders know how to shop for the lowest rate possible because it has a big financial impact.

    Smart Spenders also know how to opt for credit cards that have no annual fees. Some credit cards can have annual fees up to $75!

    There are credit cards that have special interest rates for things like balance transfers, and they may have additional transaction fees, too. That’s why Smart Spenders take note of transaction fees to see exactly how much it will cost to use the credit card for things like balance transfers.

    It’s rare these days, but some credit cards and loans have a grace period – that’s time you have after the due date to pay without facing penalties. Of course Smart Spenders always pay on time and usually pay off balances in-full before interest charges are applied. They understand that paying off balances in-full every month can eliminate interest charges entirely!

    Smart Spenders are aware of the financial and credit impact of credit limits. Not only does a high limit give a Smart Spender more purchasing power, but it also has an impact on the cardholder’s credit score. Current credit used versus total available credit is the second biggest factor in credit scoring.

    Smart Spenders understand that cards are easier to use if they’re accepted everywhere. That means major credit cards are better bet in most cases than store credit cards. And even major cards may not be accepted everywhere in the world.

    Smart Spenders check what services are included with certain cards. From fraud protection to credit score tracking, added services can offer benefits that go beyond basic usage.

    Experienced Smart Spenders use reward credit cards because they can provide good reason to use one card over another. Smart Spenders check rewards programs and understand limitations and restrictions. They choose the card that offers the most rewards with the least complications.

    Be a Smart Spender – shop around for credit cards and use comparison websites to your advantage. Once you find THE ONE, don’t rush into signing. Read and understand your contract and make sure to keep a copy on file.

    For more information on how to be a smart spender, visit ConsolidatedCredit.org.

  3. Using Credit Responsibly

    Using Credit Responsibly Consolidated Credit explains how to deal with identity theft, such as being cautious. Reporting a stolen or missing card as well as not buying in impulse helps to alleviate any issues.

    Smart Spenders know how to use credit responsibly. Here are eight tips to use credit without abusing it (or letting it abuse you).

    Smart Spenders don’t run up debt just because they have credit available. They know how much debt they can afford and stay below that amount.

    Smart Spenders take time to read each contract and loan agreement before they sign anything. They know how interest, fees, penalties and payments are applied so they don’t get hit by unexpected issues.

    Smart Spenders don’t let debts linger, especially when they can be paid off quickly. They aim to pay off credit card balances in full every month or in as few billing cycles as possible. And they check terms to see if loans can be paid off early without a penalty.

    Smart Spenders know it’s better not to hide from creditors is there’s ever a challenge paying back debt. They call lenders and creditors to make arrangements when issues arise, requesting a forbearance or temporary adjustment the payment schedule.

    Smart Spenders don’t use credit cards as a license to spend. They always comparison shop before spending and shop with a list. So that means not buying on impulse because of flashy sales displays.

    Smart Spenders are prompt about reporting lost or stolen cards. And if there’s a potential for identity theft they place fraud alerts with the credit bureaus.

    Smart Spenders only give out credit information over the phone if they initiated the call or if they have verified the caller’s identity. Giving out information to the wrong people can lead to identity theft and fraud.

    Smart Spenders only enter credit card information on trusted, secure websites. And they never enter credit card information after clicking on an unsolicited email that shows up in their inbox.

    Those are just a few ways Smart Spenders use credit so it doesn’t cause problems. For more information on how to be a Smart Spender, visit ConsolidatedCredit.org!

  4. Credit Tips to Live By

    Credit Tips to Live By Consolidated Credit offers tips on how to properly handle credit. One of these factors is following a budget closely and keeping track of credit payments.

    Smart Spenders always that credit – any type of credit – is a loan. It’s real money that you’re expected to repay.

    Smart Spenders start small with one card that has a low credit limit. They use that card responsibly and make sure they can manage the debt before they being to consider applying for more credit.

    Smart Spenders study credit card agreements and closely read the fine print on inserts that are enclosed with monthly bills. This is important because card issuers can change terms with 15 days’ notice and these inserts may explain changing rates or fees.

    Smart Spenders know that only meeting the minimum required payments is a trap! If you pay off a $1,000 debt at an 18% APR using only minimum payments it will take 8 years – yes, EIGHT YEARS – to repay. And the total interest charged will be nearly equal to the original amount, so it almost doubles the cost.

    Smart Spenders know one slip up can create a negative mark on your credit report that can stick around for seven years. And if you make two of these mistakes your interest rate can escalate to the maximum until you make six consecutive payments on time.

    Smart Spenders follow their budget diligently and keep track of exactly how much they’re paying towards their credit cards. They keep non-mortgage debt payments at less than 15% of their net monthly income. So if a Smart Spender takes home $4,000 per month they spend no more than $600 on debt payments, not including mortgages and auto payments.

    Smart Spenders talk to their creditors and lenders whenever the need arises. Always notify issuers promptly when you move. And if you can’t make a payment you call them before you’re late, because Smart Spenders know creditors want your business for life. So they may be willing to make special arrangements that won’t leave a negative mark on your credit reports.

    Smart Spenders take note of the first sign of debt trouble. So if they see they’re doing something like covering budget gaps with credit cards or using one credit card to pay another they take action. They find out how to get control of their finances and explore debt consolidation, low-interest lending options and credit counseling. They stop charging at the first sign of trouble. They put credit cards on lockdown until debt problems are taken care of and stability is achieved.

    For more information on how to be a Smart Spender visit ConsolidatedCredit.org.

A Video Guide to Good Credit

A good credit score is essential when you’re an adult. Learning how credit scores and credit reports work now will make it easier to achieve a high score. Watch these videos to learn everything you need to know!

Achieving and maintaining a good credit score and a clean credit profile is a constant game of strategy. By knowing what moves to take to build credit and what moves to avoid so you don’t damage your score, you can develop an effective credit management strategy that helps you hit and keep up the high credit score you really want.
  1. Game of Good Credit: Your Credit Score

    Game of Good Credit: Your Credit Score Achieving and maintaining a good credit score and a clean credit profile is a constant game of strategy. By knowing what moves to take to build credit and what moves to avoid so you don’t damage your score, you can develop an effective credit management strategy that helps you hit and keep up the high credit score you really want.

    Come on down! You’re the next contestant on the Game of Good Credit!

    Achieving good credit is a game of strategy. You have to play tactically if you want to win.

    Let’s begin with the basic gameplay of how to go from the starting point to winning the game of good credit so you can maximize your credit score. The overall goal in the game is to move forward from the starting point, taking the right steps to reach your credit goal.

    Each step you take can have a positive, negative or neutral effect. You want to make smart moves that boost your score, while avoiding traps that set you back. Positive actions like making payments on time and keeping your credit utilization low help move you forward. And doing things like paying off a credit card in full can give you a big jump up the board. But actions like paying late or allowing an account to go into collections can set you back and put you farther away from your credit score goal.

    As you play the Game of Good Credit, keep in mind that even if you have to make a really bad move it doesn’t mean you’ll have bad credit forever. You may just have to start again to begin moving forward toward the score you want. Most negative actions set you back for 7 years. Although some things like Chapter 7 bankruptcy can set you back longer. But if you have a setback, you can start to move forward immediately!

    The BEST move you can make is to pay your bills on time – this is the biggest factor in calculating your score. Each time you pay a credit card or loan on time it’s a positive action that lets you move forward. If you’ve had setbacks, start making payments on time to move forward again. But keep in mind that the amount of credit you use affects how quickly you can move up the board.

    Credit utilization is the second biggest factor in calculating credit scores – that’s the amount of debt you have relative to your total available credit. The less debt you have, the faster you can advance towards better credit. So by keeping your debt low and making payments on time you can forward to get closer to your credit goal.

    Length of credit history is the third biggest factor in your score – creditors believe people who have been playing the game longer are better at it. So don’t close your oldest accounts or let creditors close them due to inactivity, because this can actually set you back. Keep accounts in good standing and you’ll get an extra boost on your way to a winning credit score.

    The number of times you apply for new credit within a six month period is a factor in your credit score. If you try to take too many new credit moves at once, you can actually get set back. Only draw a new loan or credit card when you really need it, and don’t apply for credit cards in quick succession. That way getting new credit will be a neutral action that doesn’t set you back.

    The type of credit and number of accounts you have also has an impact on your ability to win the game. If you pick up a diverse variety of debts along the way like a mortgage and other loans along with a credit card or two, you’ll have an easier time reaching your goal.

    We have a few tips that can help put the big win within reach. Be aware that you can be penalized paying late as well as for moves that you didn’t actually take. This happens when negative items appear in your credit report by mistake – the credit bureaus think you made a bad move when you really didn’t. If this occurs, you have the right to dispute the item to have it removed. If you’re successful with a dispute, you’ll move up the board.

    Additionally, players often think asking for help will set them back from reaching a winning credit score. But using services like credit counseling if you’re having trouble can actually help you move forward faster instead of setting you back. Completing a debt management program helps you eliminate credit card debt and may aid in helping you build a positive payment history. It can also help you avoid major setbacks on the board like debt settlement and bankruptcy. So you can get the help you need and still reach your ultimate credit goal, allowing you to win at the game of good credit to improve your financial standing overall.

    Make the move to Consolidated Credit and let us help you develop a winning strategy to help you eliminate debt so you can achieve your credit goals.

  2. How to Read a Credit Report

    How to Read a Credit Report Your credit report can make or break your ability to qualify for loans and credit cards. It helps lenders understand your risk as a borrower and assess your creditworthiness during financing decisions. With so much riding on your credit report, it’s critical that you’re able to read and understand your credit report. This video walks you step by step through your credit report so you understand the information it contains.

    Welcome to the Game of Good Credit! If you want to win, you need the right strategy and you must be able to move effectively through your credit report. From start to finish, there are six sections that can come into play.

    The starting point is personal information. This includes basic details likes your name, address, employers and aliases. As you move along, check that everything is correct – especially for aliases. Because if you get confused for another player it can set you back significantly.

    The second section you pass through is also the largest – credit history. You move through each account to review payment history and account status. Remember each late payment sets you back, bit by bit. And the longer an account goes unpaid, the further it will put you back. Accounts in good standing with a positive payment history help you move forward. But if you fall behind you can also land on other negative items, like collections, charge-offs, repossessions and foreclosure, which can really cost you credit-wise.

    The next section is where you encounter credit inquiries. Too many hard inquiries from authorized credit checks can set you back here.

    The next section covers public records, like civil lawsuits and court judgments. If you don’t have any of these records on file, this section may not appear and you can skip ahead. But if you owe something like bad child support, it can slow you up. And you may have to payout in order to get moving again. This section also includes third-party collection accounts. These can put you back in a big way, so it’s best to avoid them.

    Next you’ll run into a section for consumer statements. If you lose a dispute to remove a negative item, you can add a consumer statement that explains what happened. The effect of these statements on your game is always neutral.

    Finally, you’ll encounter a summary of your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This isn’t really part of the game, so much as a list of rules for fair gameplay. If you read this it helps you understand your credit better so it’s easier to win. You can learn about all of the rights protected by federal law, so it’s easier to win and achieve the best score possible.

    It’s important to note that each credit bureau has their own version of your credit report. So, fields may not be exactly arranged the same from one bureau to the next. While the board may look a little different, gameplay should be the same.

    For more information on winning the game of good credit, visit ConsolidatedCreidt.org.

  3. How Long Will Negative Items Affect You?

    How Long Will Negative Items Affect You? In the Game of Good Credit, negative credit report items hold you back from achieving the score you want. This video explains how long negative items remain on your credit report. Luckily, in the world of credit, (almost) nothing lasts forever. Learn when you can expect negative items to drop off and what you can do in the meantime to offset the damage.

    Welcome back, contestants, to the Game of Good Credit!

    Do you have the right strategy to win? The game of good credit is easy to win with the right moves. And winning means you achieve a good credit score that helps you get approved with low rates. But some actions you take can set you back.

    By law, filing for bankruptcy hits you with a penalty that sets you back 10 years from the date of filing. Except if you file for Chapter 13 – the bureaus stop the penalty after 7 years. This minimizes the setback so it’s easier to recover.

    Things that happen outside your credit file can also affect your game – civil suits, court judgments and records of arrest can come up. These public records remain for 7 years from the date of entry OR as long as the current governing statute of limitations allows – whichever is longer.

    Unpaid taxes can also set you back. A paid tax lien sets you back seven years from the date the lien was paid. On the other hand, if you leave a lien unpaid it can stop you in your tracks and remain indefinitely until you pay it off. That is, except in Experian’s game where the penalty for unpaid tax liens ends after 15 years.

    Every time you pay on time it creates a positive space that stays on your credit forever and pushes you ahead. But each time you pay more than 30 days late, it sets you back 7 years from the date the payment was missed. And the longer a debt goes unpaid, the more it sets you back. If you let it go unpaid too long, the creditor writes off the account and changes the status to charge-off. Charge offs also set you back 7 years.

    There is one exception to that rule… If you default on a federal student loan and then bring it current, any negative actions from the late payments disappear. But for all other debts, charge-offs are usually sold to collections, which creates ANOTHER trouble space that causes issues for 7 years. So, letting a debt slip into default is almost a double or triple whammy to your game.

    However, don’t believe a collector if they say they have ways of ruining your credit game forever. That’s just not true. Nothing you do can get you kicked out of the credit game forever. Any penalty you encounter will only set you back. But you can offset these setbacks by taking positive actions that help you move forward. So even if your period of financial distress puts you back at Square One, you can start again and get right back in the game.

    For more information on winning the Game of Good Credit, visit ConsolidatedCredit.org

  4. Understanding Credit Inquiries

    Understanding Credit Inquiries In the Game of Good Credit, only some credit inquiries can affect your credit score. You can check your credit as often as you want without decreasing your score. Inquiries from employers, insurers, landlords and even for pre-approved credit offers don’t count against you either.

    Welcome, to the Game of Good Credit. Winning at the Game of Good Credit means taking the right actions to achieve a high score. So, let’s look at how credit inquiries can affect your score.

    A credit inquiry happens when you authorize someone to run a credit check. Creditors and lenders run credit checks when you apply for financing. They look at your gameplay history to assess your creditworthiness.

    In addition, employers, landlords and even insurance companies can run checks. They review your credit to evaluate risk. Even when you check your credit, it creates an inquiry on your report.

    For the most part inquiries have a neutral impact on your credit game – they don’t move you forward or back. You can check your credit as often as you want and it won’t create a negative item or set you back. Employment and insurance related inquiries have a neutral impact, too. And even when a creditor checks your credit to extend a pre-approved offer the effect is neutral. So, while all these inquiries appear on the field, their effects are neutral. That’s why these are referred to as “soft inquiries.”

    However, if you apply for a loan or credit card, that creates a “hard inquiry.” One or two hard inquiries within a certain time is fine – the effect on your game is still neutral. But if you have credit applications – one after another – within a six-month period, then it becomes an issue that can set you back from the high score you want.

    If you apply for a mortgage or car loan and shop around, each lender runs a credit check when you request a quote. HOWEVER, in this case you don’t get penalized for comparison shopping. All the inquiries get grouped together so the effect is neutral. Just keep in mind that the same thing doesn’t happen with credit cards or other types of loans.

    For more information on winning the game of good credit, visit ConsolidatedCredit.org

  5. Repairing Your Credit for Free

    Repairing Your Credit for Free Don’t get scammed or get stuck paying a company for credit repair when you can do it on your own! Learn how to identify and dispute mistakes that you find in your credit report. If the credit bureaus can’t verify an item that you question, it must be removed.

    Welcome, contestants, to an exciting round of the Game of Good Credit. If you’ve ever lost big in the Game of Good Credit, it can feel like you’ll never be able to win again. But if you take the right move advising you can get back to winning score faster than you think.

    A winning game plan often starts by cleaning up your credit report. It helps you clear the board so you can move forward effectively. Negative items can linger longer than necessary. You may have actually made some bad moves, but some negative items that show up may not be real at all.

    So, the first step in your game plan should be to order your credit reports through annualcreditreport.com. Answer a few security questions, pass through the portal and access your profile from each credit bureau.  After a bad credit loss, you’ll want to play through three rounds of review – one for each bureau.

    As you work through each round, look for trouble spots that could set you back. Make sure those items are legitimate. But keep an eye out for errors, such as mistakes in your personal information. But take note if your report shows duplicate accounts or accounts that shouldn’t be there.

    Detail any information that’s not correct: Look for late payments that you actually made on time and identify bad account statuses that might be outdated. See if there are any hard credit inquiries that you didn’t authorize.

    Now you can dispute these errors to the credit bureau to have them verified or removed. They have 30 days to respond to a dispute. Once that clock expires, the item must be verified or, by law, it must be removed from your report.

    This is how you clean up your credit so past issues don’t affect your current game. If you’re ever unsure of any credit rules, call the toll-free number for the bureau listed on the report. They’re required to explain any rules you don’t understand so you can play with confidence.

    For more tips on how to win the Game of Good Credit, visit ConsolidatedCredit.org.

Youth Financial Literacy Test: How Much Do You Know about Money and Credit?

Which type of deposit offers the fastest access to money you get from paychecks?
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How much of your income should you save each month?
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What does the APR on a credit card determine?
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True or false: If you are under age 21, you can’t get a credit card unless your parents co-sign for it.
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What’s the best tool for managing your money?
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Which score would be considered a good credit score?
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True or false: You need a good credit score to qualify for student loans
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What does it mean when you “overdraft” your checking account?
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What type of credit card can you get if you don’t have good credit?
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True or false: If you don’t make the payments on a car loan, they can take your car.
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b)
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