‘Money Brains’ helps with understanding finances

Abby Fisher

Ricky Robinson wants to put an end to financial illiteracy. So Robinson spent four years developing the Money Brains Helper, a financial management guide written with college students in mind.

The Money Brains Helper, a pocket-sized book, explains common financial terms in simple language, said Robinson, president of the Money Brains company.

“The book is a reference guide that you can carry in your purse or back pocket,” Robinson said. “It’s not a textbook.”

Robinson was an adjunct business professor who taught accounting at the University of Michigan for one year. Afterward, Robinson decided to become a motivational speaker because he said “all people need words of encouragement to keep going.”

“We all get a little down and a fresh voice can give us the energy to keep going,” Robinson said. “Many times we are just operating on fumes and we just need a little push to get us to the next level.”

Robinson’s inspiration for his programs stemmed from talking with several college students and adults. He spent four years working with college students to research common misconceptions about finance.

After graduation, Robinson said many students learn how to manage their money by trial and error. Robinson added there is certain information students must know when they leave college, such as what a mortgage is, how automobile insurance works and their credit score.

“My rule of thumb is don’t buy it unless you can pay it off in 30 days,” Robinson said. “Keeping your credit score squeaky clean is the key to staying out of debt.”

Robinson said when students are not knowledgeable about their credit and their finances, they will lose money.

“Say for example you have reached your credit limit of $7,000 but you want this $50 pair of jeans,” he said. “You end up using your card and the transaction goes through, but when you get your credit card statement, you are hit with an overlimit fee – now that pair of jeans costs you way more than $50.”

It is when students lose control that they will go into debt and begin living paycheck to paycheck, Robinson said.

In conjunction with his book, Robinson developed an online program for understanding personal finances called the Money Brains Tutorial.

The tutorial is a program that tailors to the needs of the individual using it.

“For example, say you want to know the steps to leasing an automobile,” Robinson explains. “Say the lease is $300 per month, the program will explain what happens during the entire lease process and tells you where you can negotiate with the dealer.”

Robinson added many students do not know the monthly payment on a leased automobile is negotiable.

For Stacey Graf, sophomore special education major, having the Money Brains Tutorial would have been a big help for managing her finances.

“I think the benefits of using this tutorial would be really good,” she said. “If I use it, I don’t think I would be as likely to go into debt.”

Graf recently made some large purchases and thinks the Money Brains Tutorial can help her to stay on top of her money.

“I recently just bought a new computer, and I already have a lot of loans,” she said. “This program can help in the future when I make other big purchases.”

The Money Brains Tutorial is very hands-on and interactive, Robinson said. The program will prompt its users to enter numerical figures to allow for a better understanding of financial literacy.

“It explains hundreds of everyday topics in layman’s terms,” Robinson said. “It removes the mystery of what was complex, and it makes things simple and easy to understand.”

When students begin to establish credit, he said it is important to read fine print.

“At the beginning of the school year, students are bombarded with offers,” he said. “Take a look at the interest rate, overlimit fees, and the minimum payments.”

If you find yourself in a difficult time trying to make a payment, call the lender immediately, Robinson said.

“Rarely will a lender turn away a customer – they are willing to work with you to help you make your payments on time,” he said.

Robinson said making payments on time and catching up on back bills is essential.

“We are by nature, consumers,” Robinson said. “We tend to spend more than what we have, and we need to reverse that philosophy and become savers.”

Contact features correspondent Abby Fisher at [email protected].