Jed’s Eye View: Could you handle this course?

Do you know the difference between a credit report and a credit score? (Stay tuned: the answer will appear at the end of this column.)

Could you explain depreciation? Could you compare the types of voluntary and involuntary bankruptcy and the implications of each?

Do you think you could intelligently explore how tax structures affect consumers, producers and business owners differently?

What are the similarities and differences between state and federal taxation of inheritances?

Do you find these questions difficult? Would it surprise you to know that these are just a few among pages and pages of tough questions that help form a course now taught at Rappahannock County High School? Are you aware that students must take and pass this course to graduate from the high school — effective for the class of 2016 and thereafter? Are you surprised by that?

In the event you do not have a working familiarity with depreciation and all the other tough stuff in the paragraphs above, maybe you could sneak into the class in the high school taught by Mr. Weeks. That is Brad Weeks, a retired banker who says he teaches nowadays because “I wanted to do something else before I die.”

There are a few 10th graders in the class, which is called “Personal Finance.” There are also a few seniors, but most of Mr. Weeks’ pupils are in the 11th grade. That’s the class of ’16, and they must have a passing grade in this course to receive their diplomas just 1 1/2 years from now. 

Why do kids have to learn this? Mr. Weeks points out that 30 percent of Americans in the age bracket 25 to 30 years have problems with credit. The numbers, he points out, of first-time home buyers is down. Young people need to learn how to handle their own money. “The purpose of this course,” says the teacher, “is to make sure you do not become a financial victim.”

In other words, it is a big and rough world out there when it comes to dollars. You need to know the basics when you walk into a bank. When you sit down with a loan officer. When you contemplate loading yourself up with student loans. When you receive a pitch — often from sharks and scammers — for a loan that could turn out to have a terribly high interest rate.

Which is more appropriate, renting or buying a car? How can you figure out the best choice for you? Brad Weeks also wants students to cultivate a positive work ethic, to learn customer-service skills, be up to date on current events, and, above all, to learn to be aware of, as he says, “the consequences of your acts.”

Okay, I owe you an answer from the beginning of this column: A credit report lists who you owe money to; a credit score indicates the likelihood that you will pay a bill.

If you got that right, then please move on to the difference between gross and net.