Advisor helps graduates

Published 4:25 pm Monday, May 17, 2010

Michael Dunigan, a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch, believes it is more important than ever to raise financially-aware children to become responsible adults. Putting his mouth where his money is, Dunigan volunteered through Junior Achievement to teach Calera High School seniors about financial planning.

The program, “JA presents: The NEFE Financial Planning program,” is designed to introduce students to the importance of making wise financial choices, helping them to explore the role money plays in achieving personal goals throughout life.

“It’s essential for children to understand budgeting, the credit market, job prospects-basically how money works,” Dunigan stated. “I emphasize if they mess-up their credit, it’s not a one- or two-year problem. It could take 10 years to straighten it out.”

A major factor in the current economic downturn is an over-extended credit market. Children model their parent’s behavior and will mimic the overuse of credit through secured and unsecured debt, lines of credit and credit cards if not taught to use them properly.

Wiley McKeller, CHS economics teacher, agrees with Dunigan. “Junior Achievement and Mr. Dunigan have done a fantastic job of taking curriculum that mirrors our course of study.” He believes the program will aid students in making sound economic decisions when they leave school.

“I introduce them to financial planning by having them list what they consider essential living expenses,” Dunigan said. “Their list is primarily clothing, food and gas. I add expenses such as health insurance, pet care, entertainment and savings.”

“The class has really opened my eyes to my financial future,” CHS senior Nyosha Ruffin said. “I’ve learned to budget my money between needs and wants.”

Adrian Hernandez, another student, explains, “I realize if I don’t have cash money to buy something, I shouldn’t use a piece of plastic.”

Dunigan and his family have lived in Calera for two years. “I consider it a privilege to be able to give back to my community through volunteerism with JA.”

Junior Achievement, a national non-profit agency, provides students in grades 1-12 an opportunity to learn real-world application on workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. National statistics indicate a higher graduation rate among students involved in JA programs.

Programs offered are on For classroom mentoring information, contact Rosemary Gustin, or 290-9365, ext. 110.

Mollie Brown can be reached at