I received my favorite gift ever for Christmas when I was 8 years old, when my uncle gave me the board game Monopoly. I had always known from a young age that money was important, as I noticed to buy and have “things” you needed money. I asked lots of questions when I was young so even at this point I understood why people needed to work, and that the house, food, cars, etc., cost money. Monopoly is a great learning tool for children as it teaches the concept of owning vs. renting, banks, money, trading, commerce, bankruptcy, and simple addition and multiplication. There were no credit cards in Monopoly, so I understood if you didn’t have the money for it you couldn’t buy anything (a concept which unfortunately many adults struggle with). I was mesmerized from the start and it helped paint a picture for me of finance and money at a young age, that probably would have been hard to do otherwise.
Until 5th grade, Monopoly was my only view into business, finance, and money, other than things I would learn from my family (of which have no business or finance education). But then in 5th grade we played a stock market game that in all honesty had a huge impact on me. I was hooked from the start. The fact you could buy shares in a business for sometimes a few dollars blew my mind. I could actually own a piece of McDonald’s!
But then there was a huge void in the education about anything related to personal finance and money. I took classes like economics and statistics in high school, and they offered accounting classes which I did not take, but they taught the basic accounting of debits and credits. But if I actually wanted to learn anything about investing or what a CD was, then I had to look it up online and teach myself. I declared as a Finance major before I even got to college as all of this was still very interesting to me, plus I felt there was so much for me to still learn (plus the stereotype that finance guys made the big bucks!). Luckily a professor who took interest in my college career persuaded me to go the accounting route, as I graduated when jobs were scarce and many of the finance majors couldn’t land jobs right out of school, I at least had a job even if it wasn’t in something I was all that passionate about.
So there I was, 21 years old in the work force, with a Bachelor’s degree from a business school and still had NO idea about money and personal finance. I thought I was doing great! I had a brokerage account where I traded stocks (traded not invested), had a car payment, was saving for retirement, all while chipping away at my student loans. But looking back now I just thought I was doing great, when in actuality I was far from it (at least the “me” five years later thinks so).
What scares me is that for someone who had always been interested in investing and personal finance, and had a degree from a business school, I really didn’t understand money and personal finance. Therefore I worry for other people who go through life and don’t take the time to educate themselves about personal finance. Many people think that everyone else has a car loan, a mortgage, and some student loans that they’ll be paying for most of their lives so it must be “right.” Or Bob who sits in the cube next to me contributes 5% of his pay to his 401k, and I contribute 6% so I must be GOLDEN and right on pace to retire at 55!
That’s exactly the problem with personal finance education, no one is ever taught it! Most people learn from family, friends, or coworkers who are most likely even more clueless than they are! I understand everyone’s situations are different, and people have different wants and needs, but even the basics would help. Sex-ed is was taught (awkwardly of course) in 6th grade, and again in more detail in 9th grade. Why isn’t Intro to Personal Finance taught at the high school level as a mandatory education requirement? And I’m just talking the basics such as what is a credit card, mortgage, 401k, CD, etc. Usually kids are first subjected to credit cards when they arrive on a college campus (if they go to college) and are approached by bank and credit card company reps with free t-shirts.
So you’re saying if I buy something now, you’ll bill me in a month, and I don’t even have to pay the full balance!?!?
As you can see by my enthusiasm on the topic, this is a subject that really frustrates me as I see people squandering their hard earned money away due to ignorance on the subject. People are raised thinking money is a taboo subject and you’re supposed to learn as you go. I think this needs to be challenged and changed, and personal finance needs to be taught at a young age. Luckily my parents were very open about their finances growing up so I at least at something to base my understanding off of. But unfortunately not everyone is as lucky, or willing to put in the time to ask questions, research, and take responsibility for their own personal finances.