I never thought too much about money when I was growing up. We certainly weren’t rich, so it’s not that money wasn’t an object. And we weren’t poor either, so I never had to think about a lack of money, or wish for more of it to buy food or the pay the rent or mortgage.
From an early age my mother tried to instill the concept of saving your pennies in me. For the most part it took pretty well. When I was old enough to receive an allowance for doing chores around the house, which I think was five dollars a week, I would add the money to my piggy bank. I would also save any money I received as gifts during birthdays or holidays. All of this money was almost invariably used to buy a toy or similar object of desire once I had decided I had pined for it enough. Now being older I understand that begging my mom to take me to Toys’R’Us so I could buy a toy myself was not normal, but it seemed to work for us.
There was very little in the way of further money conversations with my family. School provided some framework and guidance through my 6th grade ‘mini-economics’ experience. This was where everyone in the class chose or was handed a profession (grocery manager, realtor, pilot, etc) and we would practice writing checks for bills, buying a home, and other rudimentary life lessons on how the economy works.
Later, in high school, I took a semester of economics. I remember very little of this class other than generally enjoying it. I believe we talked some about the stock market. Perhaps there was even a class or two on budgeting. I can’t remember.
In college I actually took several classes in economics, both micro and macro. Now, if you’ve never taken college level economics you might think that this would very much count as a class about money. Well, it does, and it doesn’t. Economics is often very much more theoretical and conceptual than practical or relevant. Take this popular joke about economists as proof:
A physicist, a chemist and an economist are stranded on an island, with nothing to eat. A can of soup washes ashore. The physicist says, “Lets smash the can open with a rock.” The chemist says, “Let’s build a fire and heat the can first.” The economist says, “Lets assume that we have a can-opener…”
What I didn’t learn at all up to that point, and what would have saved me tons of grief since include the following:
- Staying out of credit card debt
- How to budget effectively
- How to get health insurance
- How home buying works
- How taxes are calculated
- The power of saving and investing
- How retirement accounts work
- and on and on…
Everything a person would really want to know to be successful with their money at 18, 40 or 65 is primarily learned on one’s own after they’ve completed their education. We read books. We ask Suze or listen to Dave. We might even get some some advice from friends or family.
But how great would it be to have learned much of this in high school? What if we had a whole generation who learned early on not to get sucked into the traps of credit card debt, keeping up with the Joneses, or other wasteful spending habits? Surely this would have been more beneficial to me than the ceramics class I took in its place. I could make you a piggy bank, but I couldn’t tell you how to fill it or why you should.
This site is to here to help anyone who didn’t learn what they needed early enough.