Personal finance is an essential life skill! Why oh why isn’t it taught in K-12 curriculum? Is it because that knowledge of personal finance could possibly lead us to independence from The Machine? *gasp*
Here’s a fun fact. Sex Ed became a public education issue after it was discovered that WWI solders didn’t know all that much about avoiding venereal disease, which was rampant in the ranks. A 1919 U.S. Department of Labor’s Children’s Bureau report suggested that soldiers would have been better off if they had received sex instruction in school. “The worries and doubts and brooding imposed on boys and girls of the adolescent period as a result of lack of simple knowledge is a cruelty on the part of any society that is able to furnish that instruction.” Nowadays, all states are somehow involved in sex education for public schoolchildren.
Honestly, whose duty is it to talk to children about sex? When you get right down to it, Sex Ed is taught in schools because parents are very uncomfortable having “the talk” with their kids, and parents may even be uninformed or mistakenly pass along false information, or even leave out huge swaths of information. How did you think those G.I.’s got sexually transmitted diseases?
And, whose duty is it to talk to children about personal finance? Here again, many parents are downright uncomfortable talking to their children about this. They don’t want their kids to know how much or how little money they make, or to talk about their past mistakes with money. They may not even have all that much knowledge to pass along, and could use some good advice themselves.
I’ve never asked my parents any questions about money or sex growing up, and they never talked about it with me. These discussions were tacitly off topic. It has been agony for me to come up the learning curve, really terrible. I’d read books that said one thing, and then read another book that said something else. This is particularly true in those personal investing books. All personal finance books, every single one, should start with the household budget.
For the public good, all individuals must have financial fluency, and thus should be a part of the K-12 education! Citizens should have a foundation for making informed financial decisions for their entire lifetime. Unfortunately, most of us only get started making the right decisions after some pretty terrible mistakes, and by then it may be tragically too late in life to ever catch up properly.
During the financial crisis of 2008, I heard this phrase a lot, “They bought too much house.” But how would a person really know when they were beyond their financial capacity to purchase, or even if their mortgage rate was competitive?
Not all of us are going to own a home and need to understand a mortgage. But all of us should know about how mortgages work, and similarly how credit cards work, and how to judge if the interest rate is too high or too low. For that matter, we need to understand how interest compounds. We need to know about investment theory and asset allocation because many of us have 401Ks or IRAs and no idea what to do there. We need to know how to make a household budget, and understand what the budget consequences will be if we purchase a home. We need to understand the tax code in at least a rudimentary manner and understand how to file basic taxes, even if we may someday rely on an accountant to do so. We need to understand how insurance works. We need to know how to ensure financial dignity for our lifetime.
We don’t know how to do these things, and it leaves us feeling helpless, confused, afraid, and even angry. The country would be stronger if citizens knew personal finance. This issue is so important to me, I just wrote my Representative about it.
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone knew how babies were made, plus how to make a budget and invest for the future, so those babies could have a more secure life? It would also be great if everyone had a living wage and steady work, but that’s another story.
The below is a link to how Sex Ed is taught in your state.