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HEARD ON THE BEAT / Economy

Credit Counselors Encourage Early Training

June 09, 1998|PATRICE APODACA

With personal bankruptcies and consumer debt levels still running near all-time highs, the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Ana, is trying to get the message out that it's never too early to start learning the basics of economics and personal finance.

And as kids head into summer vacation, there's no better time to teach them the importance of saving and cautious spending habits, said Jim Frannea, president and chief executive of the credit counseling service. The group provides free debt and credit counseling, financial education and debt repayment plans.

Whether they're teenagers with a summer job or younger kids who earn money for household chores, young people will learn to appreciate their earnings more if they learn to budget, the service says. If they overspend, don't bail them out, the group counsels. It recommends starting to teach children responsible saving and spending behavior at about age 5, and encouraging saving by matching every dollar saved with an additional 50 cents.

The most powerful instructional tool is a parent's own attitude and behavior regarding money, the group says. "If every time you go out they see you use plastic, that's giving them a mixed message," Frannea said.

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Patrice Apodaca covers economic issues for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-5979 and at patrice.apodaca@latimes.com.

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