I'm just 17, and I am starting to think like a middle-aged person about finances, credit cards, loans and debts — things a teenager should have no care about whatsoever. But with the plunging stock market all over the news and houses with foreclosure signs on every corner, it's impossible not to worry.
I have a job that pays well enough for a teenager, and I pay for my own gas and other minor expenses. When I was younger, I took money for granted. But now that I see how easy it is to spend a day's paycheck on a tank of gas, I am more cautious about what I buy.
I notice that the generation before mine, as well as the baby boomers, have been living in ignorance of the creditors. I see older people all around me buying on impulse. They seem to feel that brand names are impossible to live without. Then, when it comes to paying for things that really matter, like mortgages, they find that they have no money left in the bank.
Just the other day, a heartbreaking thing happened at work. A customer brought in a coupon for 15 percent off a pair of running shoes. We helped the gentleman into a pair he really liked that, better yet, were on sale. His total came to around $50. But when I slid his credit card through the machine, it was denied. I didn't know how I was supposed to tell the man he didn't have enough money to buy a pair of shoes. But when I turned to him, I saw it in his face; he knew he didn't have enough money. Before I could speak, he said, "Another time, then," and walked out.
I might not know much about the financial responsibilities that my parents have, but I do know that the middle class seems to be in trouble. Looking back in history to the Great Depression, we know it happened because people weren't able to pay back loans after they had spent all their money. I see the same situation happening today.
I hope that by the time I graduate from college, I will live in a stable economy once again, and I will be able to explore my economic opportunities. I hope I will not have to worry so much about money and will have more time to enjoy life. I know I shouldn't worry, but I do.
Commentator Jenna Jakowatz is a high school senior in Southern California.