Jean Chatzky
Photo: Creatas/Creatas Images/Thinkstock
When 27-year-old Stephen Epstein was a college student, he racked up more than $5,000 in credit card debt. When he realized the financial mess he had gotten into, Stephen started researching personal finance, reading books on the subject and talking with friends and family about the topic. Now, he's sharing his expertise with high school and college students through his program DollarCamp. Jean talks with Stephen about DollarCamp and some of the techniques and tools he uses to teach young people about money.

Stephen has given financial presentations to more than 100 groups of high school students in recent years, and he now uses DVDs and books to help parents teach their children about finance at home. He says his Financial Survival System covers these three areas:

  • Budgeting: Stephen suggests creating a spending plan and using a cash-based envelope system—where you put your cash in envelopes according to your budget categories—to help control spending. "You just carry around envelopes; you don't carry around an ATM card or a credit card, and you manage your money on a ration-based system," he says.
  • Personal Finance 101: Stephen teaches young people the basics of interest rates, minimum payments and the other ins and outs of managing and building credit.
  • Credit Building: Once a young person learns how to budget and manage cash and understands personal finance, she can then apply for a credit card, pay it off every month and start building a good credit score, Stephen says. Other credit building tips, such as putting a utility bill in their names, are other ways Stephen says college students can build credit.