When Danny Singh, now 20, was still in elementary school, he was
managing the household bills, negotiating with lenders and
collection agencies and building his mother's credit rating.
A real life Alex Keaton, perhaps? Not exactly. Singh's also a
philanthropist. Profits from his second book, "Finance 101: The
Whiz Kid's Strategies to Fight Foreclosure," published in October
2012, will be donated to the Children's National Medical Center for
HIV research. His first book, "Finance 101: The Whiz Kid's Perfect
Credit Guide" was published in August 2012.
CreditCards.com sat down with Singh to get his take on all
things money and credit -- and why he's so angry about for-profit
Let's start at the beginning: Did you have a piggy bank when you
were very young?
Contrary to what some people think, before I was 11, I used to love
spending money on Slurpees at the gas station, candy, junk food and
Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. I did not really understand the importance of
saving money, what individuals do with money besides purchasing
items, and always thought the purpose of earning money was just to
I did have a piggy bank in which I would put money I received
from birthdays and holidays, but I was more interested in credit
cards. I used to witness my mom swiping her credit card without
fully understanding what it was. I would ask her if I could swipe
it at the checkout counters. She would let me do it sometimes to
make me happy. I thought the credit card logos such as
were neat. I felt like an adult whenever I swiped her cards because
I always witnessed adults using credit cards.
How did you end up delving into your mom's financial affairs?
My stepfather was unsuccessful in paying the bills in a timely
manner and there were always angry representatives of companies and
collection agencies calling for my mom because the house and all
the bills were under her name. I would answer the phone. The
companies would call almost every day and revealed information to
me that some account or bill is past due and will be reported to
the credit agencies if the payment is not received soon and they
told me to have my mom call them back.
My mom started working longer hours at work so she could make
more money. She was not good with computers so she would hand me
her checkbook, ask me to open the mail and log in to her online
account so I could pay the bill.
In the beginning, I was only paying one credit card that my mom
was using, but as time passed and my mom became increasingly busy,
I started to handle all the bills of the household because
unknowingly, I started developing a love for credit and
And your money and credit management duties escalated from
My mom did not carry cash, so she didn't give me paper money as an
allowance. Instead, she added me as an
on her credit card account when I was 11. Afterwards, I would use
my mother's checkbook to pay off the credit card immediately. I was
monitoring my mom's checking account online for any fees or unusual
activity and if there were fees, then I would call the bank and ask
them to be refunded.
When you assumed communication duties, did the banks have any
inkling they were speaking with a child?
Many of the companies had her sign a confidentiality form saying it
was OK for them to release her financial information to me. None of
the companies knew or asked about my age. They just verified my
mom's information and confirmed I was the authorized party on the
account to whom they can release information, and I had the power
to make changes.
Tell me about how you were able to help raise your mother's credit
My mom and I
pull her credit reports
together every six to seven months, and I study them to better
understand how financial institutions and the credit agencies
interpret credit. I keep copies of her credit reports and credit
scores to monitor the growth.
I also have my mom keep all her credit cards open, and I monitor
them for fraud. I have her use all of them once every year so they
do not get closed for inactivity.
My mom and I use one credit card for our everyday purchases and
save money through its
. During the holidays, the store credit card providers send useful
coupons that do save money, and I encourage my mom to use them.
Afterwards, I pay off the balances immediately to avoid getting
charged interest. I asked my mom to
freeze all her credit reports
so she is not tempted to apply for credit because new credit checks
make it harder to get cheap insurance (due to the temporary ding a
credit checks will cause on her credit score).
Because so many adults are facing foreclosure. In Florida, where I
live, there's a bunch of signs on the road, reading "save your
home!" and a lot are scams. They try to get the homeowner to sign
the homes over to them or they take the money, promise to pay and
then don't. I want to educate people on these scams and what they
can really do. I don't want people to be worried every day about
how to save their home. I want to help.
I understand that you're donating the proceeds from the sales of
the foreclosure book to HIV research. Why this particular
My friend passed away from the virus. I'm doing it in his honor.
Also, I'm Indian and the disease is dominating India. In the
beginning I wanted to be a doctor and that changed, but I'm still
interested in medicine and healthcare.
I'm at Seminole State College of Florida. My mom and grandfather
saved up for me and helped me pay for it. They didn't want me to
take student loans. My grandpa is a businessman and he saw the
student loan problems and didn't want me to have them too. Seminole
is a good price so I'm saving what I don't spend for my master's
degree program. I want to go to University of Central
Student loans are rife with problems. What's your bird's eye
Student loans will be the next housing crisis because unlike home
loans, student loans are not dischargeable in most cases in any
type of bankruptcy or debt settlement.
I do not think some students understand how difficult it will be
to repay them. Many students are living off their loans and are
using them to pay for all their expenses -- including expenses not
related to school. They have the attitude they will make
enough money in the future to repay them.
What's the root of the student loan crisis, in your opinion?
For-profit schools are part of the root of the crisis because they
target adults who work and have kids. These adults can do online
classes with a community college at a fraction of the cost, they
can even do get their bachelor's degree at a community college.
Most of the federal aid money supports the for-profit schools
and this takes away money from students who are attending nonprofit
schools. Many students that graduate from for-profit schools
default on their student loans because employers are reluctant to
grant them jobs based on the performance they saw from previous
employees with degrees from a for-profit school.
For-profit schools also convince students to accept private
student loans from banks and companies when they cannot get enough
federal aid money. The providers of the private student loans give
for-profit schools an incentive for getting them new customers and
they make up for this incentive by charging students high interest
rates and fees. The variable interest rates go up to 18
Another problem is that some students come to college just to
get financial aid and use the money to buy wants such as drugs,
electronics or pay for personal expenses. They are not academically
motivated because some of the grant programs do not require the
students to maintain certain grades.
What are you majoring in now and what do you ultimately want to do
I have a double major: finance and business management. My career
goals are to work at a bank, start my own independent credit
advising agency, and then do independent business consulting. Maybe
even have my own credit card company!
Do you think many kids have trouble learning about money and credit
management because they see their own parents floundering with
If kids notice their parents are getting phone calls from debt
collectors, then this is a sign their parents are not paying all or
some of their bills. Kids need to understand the significance of
paying bills on time, and the serious consequences if they do not.
This can cost them a job or cause them to end up paying thousands
more than they have to due to expensive insurance or high monthly
Parents need to be honest with their children about their
financial mistakes so kids avoid making the same mistakes.
Unfortunately, some kids get misconceptions from their parents that
it is OK not to pay the insurance or some type of bill, and they
become more prone to become fiscally irresponsible without knowing
What are the three financial skills every young adult ought to
possess before leaving home?
1.) Have the ability to seek out the best deals. For example, if
they want an item in the store, they should check the Internet to
see which merchant sells the same item of the same quality at the
cheapest price. 2.) Be responsible. Students should not develop a
bad habit of using services, loans or credit cards and not repaying
them. Good credit will allow them to save money faster for
retirement and other financial goals such as buying a house. 3.)
Save money for retirement immediately when you get a job. Some
parents stress because they waited too long to save for retirement
or wasted too much of their money.
5 lessons to teach kids how interest works
8 games that clarify credit for kids
Overexposing kids to money problems is a bad