CHEYENNE -- Financial literacy and rock music have a lot in common. But the fables of opulence and overindulgence often take the spotlight away from their inextricable relationship. Rockers either manage or mismanage their money when the shows are over. Many wind up bankrupt, said Gooding, the namesake of the lead guitar player and band that performed at Cheyenne South High School on Wednesday. The images of lavish lifestyles are what live on in the minds of fans. But the glamour is not the reality, he said.
More than 250 students from South High and Triumph High School dragged their feet early in the school day to the South High auditorium for an assembly on financial planning. There was yawning and restlessness. Then Gooding and his rock ‘n’ roll brethren appeared on stage. All members are tall and gritty — nothing like a local banker. Their jeans and T-shirts were like those of the students in the crowd. They struck the first chord and the electric ran through the veins of the students. They were hooked. After playing a set of original rock songs, Gooding stood on stage and told the students “financial literacy is Latin for freedom.”
The band Gooding works to provide musical entertainment and financial knowledge to students throughout the country. The trio is no stranger to life on the road and the lifestyle that comes with it. Gooding has played more than 750 shows in more than 150 cities, opening for bands like Blues Traveler and writing music for numerous television ads and films. The band has watched friends burn out from star-studded careers with nothing to show for their work. Every dollar the band earns goes “straight to the bank,” he said.
“We got to make smart sexy again,” he said. Gooding borrowed the line from music legend Quincy Jones. The band is a part of Operation HOPE, a nonprofit organization started by Jones that teaches financial literacy and economic empowerment in more than 275 underserved communities in the U.S.
Students hear from their parents and teachers the importance of being fiscally responsible. But they don’t often hear it from rock stars, said Michelle DeHoff, vice president of US Bank. Teenagers need to know how to save, budget and live within their means, she said. But many of them go off to college without that knowledge.
Students should “be aware of the magnitude of the financial decisions starting out that can follow them through life,” she said.
To many young people in the nation, credit card offers bring an easy allure of free money. Payday loans provide a sense of quick money. And budgeting is something that doesn’t matter.
Before Mike Helenbolt was the principal of Triumph High School, he was teaching in Casper. He knew nothing about investing or saving. But one day he started saving $25 per month and investing it. Today that fund provides him a modest nest egg that is there if her really needs it, he said.
Many of his students are facing financial difficulties at home. Some can’t eat, but they have enough money for a tattoo or cell phone. Their parents don’t teach them.
“Financial literacy is sometimes very simple,” Helenbolt said.
Hardships are part of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. Gooding and his band mates have had their gear stolen, vans break down and a number of other surprises during their tours. On their trip from Albuquerque, N.M., to Cheyenne, their vehicle blew an oil line. The only way to rebound, Gooding said, is having money in the bank.
“Create for yourself some kind of life where you can move forward from setbacks,” he told the crowd.
How is it that Michael Jackson, Nicholas Cage and 78 percent of retired NFL stars making millions per year go broke? Gooding asked the crowd. The teenagers shook their heads. They don’t plan and they don’t budget, he responded. “Nic Cage spent $500,000 on a Ferrari. And look what happened to him.”
The mixture of music and finance had an effect on the crowd after the show.
“I think it kind of shocked them,” Helenbolt said. “We figured we could hook them with rock ‘n’ roll.”
South High offers personal finance, business and accounting classes. “The kids are thinking about the economy in general,” said Louis Sisemore, assistant principal for South High. “A lot of younger kids are having trouble getting jobs. It’s tough getting money.”
Taylor Berry is a senior at South High. He has a job but no savings account. After the performance he said he was going to heed Gooding's advice.
“It keeps the money safe, and I’ll be less likely go into debt.”
One of Gooding’s favorite sayings is, “The geeks shall inherit the earth.”
“There’s nothing wrong with applying yourself — there’s nothing wrong with discipline.”
When the show was over students lined up for CDs and other band paraphernalia. Students were promising the rock star they would take responsibility of their financial lives.
“It’s the little changes that can reverberate from them,” Gooding said.