Financial Education Deception?
Money. Accounts. Investing. Finances. Ignorance. All these things were brought to my attention and while I thought I had a solid foundation, it turned out that I really didn’t have a clue. Friend, I believe that our education system is failing our children, just as it failed me. How is it possible that a sound education failed to teach me anything about what life was like financially as an adult? Even more important is how can I teach my children today what the schools are not? I do not want them to struggle as I did.
Let’s get right to it. This Is going to be a confession, if you will. A little tale about my past, and how I became interested in my career choice, and ultimately, what drove that same passion away. Getting down to it, I want to share with you my personal beliefs about today’s educational system and what it lacks.
About 100 years ago, when I was 12, I remember sitting in my sixth grade classroom in the middle of a spelling lesson when a lightbulb went off inside my head. I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I knew that I had to get good grades, go to college, and get a good job that would last me a lifetime, and I had it all figured out! I was going to be a teacher and a teacher I eventually became.
As the oldest of three kids, you can imagine the pressure I felt as I got older. Because of the advice of my parents and grandparents, I knew it was important to them that I did my very best academically. I suppose looking back, I would agree that learning came relatively easy for me. I was able to graduate with honors, participate in sports each season, and was involved in a myriad of other clubs and organizations. The plan to go on to college, get a teaching degree, and spend the rest of my able life teaching, was on the horizon and I was happy to have some direction. Many of my friends didn’t have any idea yet what they wanted to be after high school.
My parents were high school sweethearts and my mother had me at the age of 18, while my father was taking classes at a technical college to get a degree in business management. It wasn’t an easy road for them early on, but they too, thought they had it all figured out. My father went on to manage a grocery store for a couple of years, dabbled in the sales of life insurance for a while, and finally landed a job as a builder. Looking back and if he were honest, he would have to admit the mistake in leaving the life insurance gig. My mother worked several different odd jobs from in-home daycare, working in daycare facilities, bank teller, factory worker, and now she’s settled working as the head of shipping for a factory.
While I didn’t ever see the difficulties in their choices of professions at the time, I know it wasn’t easy living paycheck to paycheck. The very few conversations we had about money were not positive ones. They just never had any money to spare. I remember friends who received allowances, got to go to restaurants to eat, or just because, would get new clothes whenever their parents went shopping. For my siblings and I, we looked forward to Christmas. That’s when our parents would go overboard and spoil us. It wasn’t until many years later, my mother admitted taking out loans in December each year, just to be able to buy Christmas gifts.
Imagine my family’s excitement as I was able to share with them my career choice. I had gotten good grades in high school and was accepted to a wonderful private University where I would learn what it took to become a teacher. Unlike many of my friends, I didn’t receive any financial help from my parents. Thanks to government aid and the little income my parents earned, I was able to obtain my degree. I remember hearing my father say several times, “You have your whole life to work and pay off the loans. It’s most important for you to follow through and get that degree.”
The next thirteen years were a whirlwind. After college, real life began. I got married (to a teacher), got my first teaching job, started a family, etc. You know all the things it takes to be a grown-up. I was sure I was ready to be a contributing adult to society and I didn’t have a worry in the world. I taught in a few schools, teaching many different subjects and grade levels. I loved it. It was my passion. Until - it wasn’t.
In a nutshell, I just really wish that I knew then what I know now. A friend shed some light on an author who wrote several books about financial intelligence, and after putting it all off for about a year, I decided I had nothing to lose, so I read the books. Let me tell you, that was the best decision I have made in a very long time. The information brought to the surface shed a very bright light on why I would have never been happy as a teacher, and how thankful I am that I was able to leave the profession behind. (My husband is still teaching, but I’m always looking for opportunities to get him away from it, too.)
Before I go on, you must understand that I am not at all against educators. I mean, our children attend a public school and they have phenomenal teachers. My husband works among some of the best educators I’ve met. I’m supportive of their efforts and dedication to our children. But as someone who was once very well trained in the profession, I’ve come to realize that teachers don’t get to pick and choose what is taught. There are curriculums and state-led initiatives that must be followed and they’re everchanging. Teachers must teach what the state or district says must be taught. After all, it is those things that students are tested on throughout the school year. I am of the belief that our educational system is failing our children.
I’m sure you’re wondering what that means. Well, I don’t feel as though what is being taught to our children in schools is putting them on the path toward a successful future. Sure, there are some students (and I was lucky to be one) who excel in school. There are several others (perhaps your own child) who struggle in a classroom setting. It’s difficult for some children to find value not only in what is taught, but how it is taught. Regardless of whether or not a child is a good student in school, there are topics that have been avoided. Those topics arise after a child leaves high school and they become hit in the face with the weight of finances, reeling for ways to understand it and not create a financial disaster for the future.
Let me break it down. I’ll use myself as an example and perhaps you can relate. All throughout my childhood, I heard my parents harping on the idea that it was critical for me to get good grades in school, go on to college, and have my future set with a profession of my choosing. They approved of my becoming a teacher and knew it was a great option for the rest of my life. This way, I wouldn’t have to worry about insurance or financial struggles as they had. (That was also during a time when education was sought after and referred to as a noble profession. Things have changed over the years.) I wasn’t taught about how to balance a checkbook, what I needed to do to pay for my college courses, what any kind of bill looked like when sent a statement in the mail. I would find out all of these things on my own, while trying to survive college.
I basically left home with a savings account. I did have a job in retail as soon as I could drive, so I’d saved up a few cents. Everything I encountered, I had to learn on my own. I figured it all out the hard way, and let me tell you, when that first payment was due for my student loan, I cried. I had no idea how I would ever pay off my debt. I had read somewhere, in my naivety, that having a credit card would be good to build credit, so I signed myself up for one. Thankfully, I knew better than to run up the balance and always paid the full amount due each month.
With the mentality that I had the rest of my life to work off my debt (thanks to my dad), I worked several part- time jobs until I landed my first teaching job in a small district. As mentioned earlier, life went on. I taught, loved the students, and shared the passion with my husband and other teacher friends. We were set up for a financially free future, right? Wrong.
Bills were paid on time. We weren’t living beyond our means at all. We worked about 10 months of the year teaching. However, even when my grandiose student loans were paid, we felt like we still weren’t saving any money. Without sharing more detail, we knew something needed to change. That’s when I realized that there has to be something better. Both my husband and I were naive where finances were concerned, but we weren’t in debt, other than our mortgage and car payments.
I began to realize that my mind had been programmed in such a way that I was doing everything right, yet we weren’t building our savings. How could this be? I knew we weren’t over-spending. I also knew that I wanted to get to the bottom of it, or we’d have nothing left for our retirement at that rate.
Enter my lightbulb moment. Money. Accounts. Investing. Finances. Ignorance. All these things were brought to my attention and while I thought I had a solid foundation, it turned out that I really didn’t have a clue. Friend, I believe that our education system is failing our children, just as it failed me. How is it possible that a sound education failed to teach me anything about what life was like financially as an adult? Even more important is how can I teach my children today what the schools are not? I do not want them to struggle as I did. Take a look at this article to find out some stellar tips to gear your children up for a financially intelligent future.
by Lyric Anders, writer