Learning how to write checks in the 6th grade.
Now that I look back on my childhood and adolescence, that was the extent of financial education I had in school. Fortunately, I did have fiscally responsible parents that showed me the basics as of money management. I also grew up in a lower-middle to middle class environment which had its majority share of inhabitants who bought liabilities as social trophies like crazy (think expensive urban brand clothes, shiny car accessories and the cable package with ALL the channels). But, regarding school, where I was expanding my mind in science, literature and history, there was no curriculum on the thing that drives the society we live in-money. To be truly well versed in the realm of money, it was thought one had to desire a career in finance for that to be worth covering. Reflecting on that now makes me realize how myopic our administrators were on the topic of money as it is a root of everyone’s lives rather we want to admit to that or not. Not teaching financial literacy in school to everyone is like not teaching drivers ed except to those who have a potential career as a racecar driver. Don’t we think it would be best if everyone had that lesson and not just a few?
The issue I believe so many teachers and administrators face is that for their own survival, they must meet minimum standards which means teaching to not fail, instead of teaching to succeed as high as possible and beyond. This includes making sure kids know the quadratic equation but not the difference between an asset and a liability. I get that finance may seem a bit boring of a topic at a relatively young age but so is reading The Great Gatsby when you’re forced to do so in 9th grade and find no interest in it even after several chapters (yes, I never finished the book…no regrets). After english lit could be financial lit-why not?
It took me well into my late 20s to fully grasp the power of being educated in the realm of finances. That is far too late in my opinion, but I’m still very glad to get the understanding now rather than any later. What gives me the most grief is that my lack of understanding stemmed from a lack of exposure. That means there are literally millions of young people who may not get that understanding until late, if at all, solely because they were never exposed to it. I currently have the privilege of mentoring a high schooler and one piece of knowledge I shared with him is to simply know the difference between an asset and a liability. It wasn’t to “preach the gospel” to him at young age but to let him know what those things are and how one can accumulate either of them; of course, one of those can help build personal wealth and open opportunities to a slew of growth in all areas of a life, and the other never puts a dollar in your pocket in investing terms.
What can we do then?
Always advocate for personal growth through objective education. Our school system may still lag in the implementation of financial education but that is no excuse for it not to be taught in life. Those in the know, it is not a charitable gift, but your duty to inform the next generation of financial education. It benefits everyone overall.