Preventing students from having to write “Dear Susan”

For a period of about ten years, I was known as “Susan.”

No, I wasn’t in the witness protection program. I was an online advice columnist for a company that helped people with financial problems. Thousands of people wrote to my Dear Susan column each year with questions about debt collection, bankruptcy and foreclosure and I answered every single one of them.

As expected, the letters were full of financial details. But what surprised me was the amount of emotional pain that came along with the dollar amounts and percentages. It became clear that financial problems don’t only impact finances. Words like depressed, worried, sleepless and even hopeless were common. I referred more people than you might imagine to a suicide prevention hotline.

People in debt do not get much sympathy. Most people assume that financial trouble is caused by irresponsibility. However, that is rarely the case. In reality, there are two main reasons people get into debt. The first is a life circumstance such as an illness, death or divorce. The second is a lack of education – this is why I believe in the power of Junior Achievement.

After years of reacting to problems that already exist, working at Junior Achievement allows me to be proactive. Thanks to 6,000+ volunteers, Junior Achievement students are better prepared to grow up to be financially savvy adults. I am proud to be part of a practical, proven solution to all of those hopeless emails.

Kim McGrigg
Director of Communications