VIDEO COVERAGE: Speaker tells students pitch the plastic

Liz Bernhart

As Fagin once sang in the musical telling of Charles Dickens’ immortal classic Oliver Twist, “in this life one thing counts, in the bank large amounts.” While money cannot buy happiness, savvy money management can help alleviate stress and lead to a more financially secure future.

With money and the problems arising from overspending as the number one causes of dropout rates in college and divorce, the Campus Activity Board enlisted the help of financial advisor Peter Bielagus, who spoke to Washburn students last Thursday evening in the Washburn room of the Memorial Union.

Bielagus was once in a terrible predicament. He was a freshman in college and five thousand dollars in debt with credit card companies. He said it was the free offers that came with credit cards that drew him in.

“I once signed up for a credit card to get a free plastic whistle,” Bielagus told the chuckling audience. “I still have no idea why I did it.”

But Bielagus didn’t stay buried under a mound of debt. He studied finance and slowly but surely made the assent back into good credit. Now, he goes to colleges all over the country teaching students how to get out of trouble or, hopefully, how to avoid it in the first place.

The first thing a student must know is that they have a credit score. Even if they have never borrowed a thing in their lives, they have a credit score. The important thing is to keep the score up.

Credit Score

A credit score isn’t just another number. It determines many factors including how expensive someone’s life will be and even getting a job after graduation. Many employers check credit scores to get a feel for how potential employees manage money. The perfect credit score is an 850, but 720 is the number to shoot for.

The fiscally-savvy can find out their credit score by going to It’s free to check, but copies cost $8 each. Bielagus suggests going there at least once a year. Many Americans have a poor credit score because there are mistakes on their report. These mistakes can be fixed but first they have to be found. Dig-out from debt

Bielagus’s next point was to pay off credit card debt. Always pay the minimum payment on time. Failing to do so causes a credit score to drop dramatically. Before swiping the plastic, make sure the payment can be afforded.

Also, stop applying for credit cards. Do you really need that free plastic whistle? Simply applying for credit, whether approved or not, will cause a credit score to dip. Only take out credit cards that are necessary and can be easily paid off.