Interns get personal-finance pointers

Isaac Rose once had a credit card.

But he canceled it after discovering Capitol One tacked on a $2 monthly fee.

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“I thought it was a card without a fee, but somehow they still managed to add one on there,” Rose said Tuesday while attending a breakfast seminar on personal finance. Reps. Mike Castle (R-Del.) and Al Green (D-Texas) sponsored the event along with MasterCard Worldwide.

Rose, an intern for the House Financial Services Committee, munched on a cinnamon raisin bagel and sipped coffee as he joined a table of fellow interns at the seminar, which was intended to help young people manage their money.

“Do you have any idea what we’re going to be learning here?” said Rose to a fellow intern at the table.

“How not to do what I always do,” his companion replied before biting into her pastry.

Rose, who dubbed himself fairly savvy in the realm of personal finance, said he came to the seminar expecting the panel to stress financial awareness in the wake of the current economic freefall, especially since one of the culprits of the downturn was a lack of financial literacy.

Other interns were enticed by the free breakfast, along with hopes to pick up a tip or two. Most had their plates filled with an assortment of bagels, muffins, Danishes and fruit.

“The free breakfast was an incentive,” said Elizabeth Lochhead, an intern for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who said she has a credit card but never carries over a balance and mainly uses her debit card for spending to help her stay disciplined.

Green told the crowd of interns, a majority of whom admitted to having a credit card but being ignorant of the card’s interest rate, that they should value their credit now, not when they are older and are generating a higher income.

Castle stressed the importance of students living within their means and not spending more than they make.

“It’s very easy when you hand over that card. It’s not so easy when you open the envelope when the bill arrives,” he said.

But the seminar dished more than advice on budget and money management.

It was primarily a thinly veiled promotion for interns to apply for MasterCard’s Are You Credit Wise? internship, a peer-to-peer literacy initiative that focuses on spreading on-campus financial awareness and offers a $1,000 stipend at the program’s completion.

Rose, who spent the bulk of the presentation filling out the program’s application, said he plans to apply.

Patrick Dwyer, vice president for Global Public Policy, stressed the program as a résumé-builder and the “next step” to the crowd of Capitol Hill interns, some of whom admitted to rarely balancing their checkbook.

“Isn’t that what online banking is for?” one attendee asked while spreading cream cheese on a plain bagel.