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This was no ordinary lesson on financial responsibility.

This was a rock 'n' roll concert on the Pound Middle School stage Thursday afternoon, a long-haired lead singer with torn jeans and a T-shirt who came into the auditorium with his band mates and filled the place with the steely rock that’s taken them around the world.

But the music was a hook, the opening act for the headliner: A lesson on saving and credit scores, on predatory lenders and the perils of running up credit card debt.

“You all know what we’re here to talk about today?” he asked a crowd of middle school students who were, notably, not squirming in their seats.

The future. Money. How to get ahead.

And then the rock star -- who goes by Gooding, the same name as his band -- became the teacher.

He showed a short video about his band and the movies, TV shows, commercials in which its music has been featured. And he told them how he grew up in Wichita, Kansas, and met drummer Jesse Rich in seventh grade. They started playing together then, won a talent show and haven't stopped.

He told his audience how he managed to graduate from high school knowing more about geometry than balancing a checkbook, and, because of that, ran up his own credit card debt.

Eventually, he realized how the financial decisions he made -- and how he approached money -- was keeping him from realizing his dreams.

“You guys have every possibility to do whatever you want to do, to live out your dreams,” he said, but it’s important to understand the basics of managing money.

“Everything you do in life is going to be a little bit harder if you don’t.”

Several years ago, Gooding helped start Funding the Future, a nonprofit committed to teaching financial literacy to middle and high school students. The band's visit to Pound was sponsored by the local branch of Wealth Solutions of Raymond James and the Nebraska Council for Economic Education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

He told the students how credit scores work. How finding a job, working hard and saving money starting now will open up opportunities in the future.

The problem, he said, is that people think about the future, but not about the present.

“What happens is we just don’t think today matters,” he said.

But it’s important to budget, to set goals and figure out exactly what it will cost to get there, Gooding said. It’s important to make sure to set aside money for emergencies.

He listed several people who made millions and then lost the money because they didn't understand financial literacy. 

He warned of the dangers of predatory lending, the easy availability of credit cards and how building up debt means giving one's money to someone else instead of earning interest for oneself.

Payday loans are particularly predatory, he said. Paycards, which some employers offer instead of paychecks, carry hidden, high fees for transferring money to checking accounts or for checking balances.

He encouraged the students to find their passion and pursue it, but said this: Slow and steady works.

After a standing ovation from his middle school fans, Gooding said lots of people know more about finances than he does, but he hopes hearing it from a rock musician will help. 

“I always say music makes the medicine go down.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSreist.

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Education reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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