It’s one thing to learn about money, but what about scams and safety and technology? When do you learn how to deal with the kinds of problems you’ll encounter in your real life?

Each year, more than 8,000 high school students participate in the LifesmartsCompetition, which covers all of these areas and more.

“We live in such a complicated world. There are so many bad guys out there trying to rip these people off, or just have consumer problems. And many kids today haven’t the faintest idea of where to go to get help or what to do,” says Herb Weisbaum.

But not these kids. These high school students are here for the finals of the National Consumer League annual LifesmartsCompetition.

“There are five areas they have to learn for Lifesmarts: health and safety issues, environmental law, environmental issues, technology issues, personal finances and consumer responsibility and consumer law,” says Mark Guardalavene, Wisconsin team coach.

Throughout the year, these students read labels, study websites and learn about how to protect themselves from con artists.

“I’m very confident that they are probably more aware than most of us adults, I have to say,” Guardalavene says.

But being aware isn’t enough to win.

“A lot of it is practicing with the buzzers because we want to make sure that when we know the answer, we buzz in at the right time,” says Dan Bingham-Pankratz, Wisconsin team member.

It’s nice to win, but learning about technology and finance has long term benefits for all of the students who compete in the Lifesmarts competition.

“It’s not like random scholastic bowls where they’re pulling names and dates out of everywhere. It’s actual stuff you’ll have to use to get around in life. It’s credit, being safe, not getting taken on anything you buy, lemon laws with cars. It’s actual, practical use knowledge,” says Jacob Bermudez, Illinois team member.

“You get these kids early. You teach them how to be aware of things. What they should do to be smarter with their money. How to be a better consumer, that they can carry with them their whole lifetime,” Weisbaum says.

The annual Lifesmarts competition is sponsored by the National Consumers League. To find out how to enter next year’s competition, go to

Copyright 2004, WGN-TV