Arts, Culture & Media

Teen raps about financial responsibility

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Syretha Shirley, a high school sophomore from Las Vegas, raps about checks, credit and debt in her "Time is Money" song about fiscal responsibility. (Photo courtesy of Shirley's YouTube video.)

It’s a hip-hop song you might not expect to hear from a teenager.

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Syretha Shirley, a sophomore at Centennial High School in Las Vegas, won a contest sponsored by The Charles Schwab Foundation and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America asking teens to submit lyrics inspired by their “Money Matters” course.

In her song, 16-year-old Shirley raps about having a savings account and using a debit card instead of a credit card. She also writes about resisting pressure to buy expensive things that other students might have.

“It never phased me at all, how they flashed the diamonds and chains, got the Gucci suits on, the so-called finer things. See I don’t need Louie or Prada to feel like a million dollars, discount aisle is where I went. Got to have a little bit of fashion sense,” she raps.

Shirley hopes the song will inspire her peers to become financially responsible and more discerning in their spending choices. She warns against buying expensive clothes just because they are trendy or have designer labels.

“I see that a lot at my school — everybody thinks ‘Oh, I’m wearing the next new thing, so I’m cool or something.’ No. That doesn’t make you cool, that makes you like everybody else,” she said.

Shirley said having money troubles growing up has made her more independent, saving money by babysitting, braiding hair and selling candy at school.

“I grew up in a struggle. I knew what it was like not to have anything or have money. So that kind of forced me or motivated me to start to do things on my own,” she explained.

She also credits the “Money Matters” course with motivating her to have more financial responsibility. Through the course, she says she learned about money management and the difference between needs and wants.

She advised her peers to “Be careful because one minute, you may want something and the next week, you might not even wear it. So you need to be careful what you buy and think twice about it."

Shirley won $500 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Atlanta to have her song and a music video produced professionally.

She said she is excited about the extra money she has to put into her account, which will bring her one step closer to financial independence.

“I do most of the good things that you can think of that you can possibly do to make money, so that I don’t have to ask anyone for anything. That is my goal — to be so independent that I don’t have to ask anyone for anything," she said.

A Charles Schwab survey found that 86 percent of 16 to 18 year-olds would rather learn about money management in a class then make financial mistakes later in life.

However, Shirley said that although she and her friends are interested in money management, she is unsure that other teens are as concerned.

“I’m sure that most teens do not know about that because maybe they’re depending on their parents to do things for them and are worried about what their mom or dad is going to give them,” she said. “I’m thinking ahead about what I should do for my future. I try not to think about what I want now. I need to think about what I need. And most peers don’t do that because they’re caught up in the hype of what everyone else is doing.”

Shirley said she wants to save as much money as possible attend college and study psychology. She would also like to pursue a music career.

“Through music, you can help someone, because I’ve been helped through music, myself," she said.

She is also writing a book titled, “The Sound of My Teardrop,” which she hopes will inspire and help others.

“I just love helping people. That’s my passion.”