Credit Lessons Learned at an Early Age

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What did you do with your allowance when you were a kid? Blew it on the things you wanted, maybe? Not Katrina Jones. She would stash her cash, and sometimes dole out a loan or two to her brother ... with interest attached.
Growing up, Jones witnessed the results of careless money handling in her family. She also saw what could be accomplished with financial discipline. The path she chose for herself was

What did you do with your allowance when you were a kid? Blew it on the things you wanted, maybe? Not Katrina Jones. She would stash her cash, and sometimes dole out a loan or two to her brother ... with interest attached.

Katrina Jones

Growing up, Jones witnessed the results of careless money handling in her family. She also saw what could be accomplished with financial discipline. The path she chose for herself was a no-brainer.

She also believes in making the most out of programs that can help her along the way. Case in point, by age 24, Jones had already purchased her first home.

Disenchanted with the way her landlord at the time managed the apartment building she lived in, Jones signed up for the city's Home Purchase Assistance Program and emerged the owner of a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house. See? No nonsense.

Since becoming an employee of the Federal government in 1986, Jones has taken full advantage of contribution-matching retirement programs. Between a Thrift Savings Plan, a tax-deferred retirement savings and investment plan for federal government employees, and a T. Rowe Price IRA account, she's able to sock away 16 percent of her annual income for retirement.

"I can't leave any free money on the table," she says. "I believe in maximizing, whatever they can match."

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At home, she and her husband stick to a simple philosophy: Meet basic needs, pay bills on time, save, and spend when appropriate. A bi-weekly allowance gives family members room to have fun, which for Jones means purchasing stocks and bonds on a quarterly basis. When it's time to shop, she goes for the deals and discounts over full retail price. Christmas cards and decorations for this year were purchased during end-of-the-season sales last year.

She keeps her mid-700 credit score in tact by leaning more on her debit card than her two credit union credit cards, she says. One card is saved for emergencies, while the other is used every once in a while and paid off immediately. Same goes for the retail credit cards she obtained purely for the immediate discount. Anything she purchases is paid in full within the month.

Thankfully, sons Lamar, 12, and Antoin, 26, are following mom's financial patterns, she says. The oldest is proving to be a responsible, bill-paying adult, while the youngest is getting hands-on, money-management training through the Capital Gains Program, an incentive-based program that allows middle school students to earn up to $200 a month for good behavior, grades, attendance, etc. Each student has a SunTrust bank account from which they can make a limited number of transactions each month.

"Any monetary gifts he receives, half goes to a savings account at a credit union, unless he has something particular he wants to buy," she says.

Whether Lamar is making loans yet remains to be seen. But undoubtedly, both he and Antoin have been ingrained with three lessons to help them build a financially sound future.

Says Jones: "Pay all of your debt, do not to live above your means and always save something!"

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