Learning Personal Finance

I was talking with my brother-in-law the other day regarding finances and parents.  We talked about a litany of topics but the one that resounded with me was how we both grew up with the lack of any learning personal finance.  It wasn’t taught in school and our parents both used the same line of thought.  “Save your money” and “If you want to do stuff or have things, you’ll have to get a job.”

How are you talking to teens about understanding money?  Have you used these same comments?

What are these two statements teaching?

Save for what? How are you saving money? Are you following up with goals or budgeting?  Introduce financial planning?

The second, “If you want to do stuff with your friends or buy things, you’ll have to get a job.”  I think this one is absolutely damaging.   It is framing the mindset that what you make, you spend if it’s not followed up with budgeting, paying yourself first, giving to charity and incorporating goal setting.

How it is so easy to make these comments! The lesson is there to be taught, but is hidden under layers of many teachable personal financial concepts. Talking about saving is great!  Why, who and what are you saving for? I don’t fault parents for these comments and most teens don’t listen past “Save”…and you lost them. How do we turn the tide?

People start talking about incorporating teaching earlier in life about money.  Thats great, but how practical?  The concept of money doesn’t usually hit until money is sitting in the wallet. Too late? I don’t think so!

I think this is the perfect time! Obviously, the earlier you start teaching the better.  Maybe you compensate for chores done around the house.  What does the child then do with his or her earnings?  Are they left to their wild imaginations?

I grew up not ever receiving any allowance and on odd occasions might get paid for a job that wasn’t a regular chore.  My grandparents rewarded good grades at the end of the marking period with money and on birthdays was another day we received money.   I find no fault in anyone’s system. It is training what to do with money after it reaches the earners pockets that is the challenge.  My mom would say, “Save.”  That was it.  This meant nothing to me in the early years.

I wasn’t making enough to buy a big ticket item in my head and it burnt a hole in my pocket just knowing I had it.  Again, due to the mindset of “if you want something you have to get a job.” I made money and I wanted to spend it.   The money I made would get squandered away on baseball cards, bubble gum and sweets.  Aye, what a waste!

Maybe my parents felt inadequate teaching us about personal finance. I know, as I’ve grown older and am now a parent, I get to ask my parent’s why they did or didn’t do something when we are growing up.  Most of the time, the response is,” We were never taught that either. We just had to figure it out.”

It is horrifying to me that we do not teach practical ways to learn personal finance in high school.  I had Economics and learned all about supply and demand yada yada… We should be teaching teens how to make and manage money to the betterment of themselves and society!  Money is what makes the world go round… sadly.  Why wouldn’t we educate and equip our students to better navigate the world of money?

Are you a student or a parent of a student that hasn’t learned personal finance?  Click here to download our free monthly budget download to get started! Want to learn more about the importance of budgeting?  Read here.

How do I plan on teaching my children about money?  As of this point, I want to focus on the giving time, energy and money to charity and church.  (My boys are 3 and 20 months… so start simple, right?)  Showing them the importance of donating time and money will slowly begin the conversation as they mature and understand more about money. Giving must come from the heart or it won’t happen very frequently, so teaching them the value of volunteering and helping is important on the road to learning personal finance at the very young ages they are.

Slowly we will incorporate more and more lessons on saving and budgeting and allowing them to direct what they want to save for and spend on. I also think that is a HUGE component of the learning curve.  Directing someone to save when they don’t have any goals or motive will lead to fruitless frustration.  Letting a student pick and choose what motivates them will allow so much growth for that individual.  As jobs come along and the value of money is understood, bigger conversations can be had on establishing budgets and long term saving and investing.

Thinking back to my complete ignorance on personal finances as I graduated high school, no wonder I was set up to struggle.

I wondered off to community college having no idea on what to major in; was working various jobs to pay for car insurance, gas and a very small car payment.  My bills were minimal and my income was close behind.

How do students get behind financially, so quickly?  Two words: mindset and ignorance.  Ignorance because I didn’t know, what I didn’t know.  I also had the naive euphoria coming out of high school that I could CONQUER the world.    My mindset was that I had to go to college to get a job in a career that would pay well.  How do you do that? Student loans.  So as I change to a four year college, so began the loans each semester.  Credit card applications quickly came pouring in as well.  I can’t tell you how many cards I had opened and had revolving payments with. What 18/19 year old without learning any personal finance can or could survive at that pace?

When I moved off to my first four year college, I had a small car payment, car insurance, gas, rent, various credit cards, payments for braces on my teeth and then suddenly I’m living with a room-mate and had the added expenses of utilities, cable, internet , cell phones and food bills.  I ended up juggling working 40 hours a week with a full credit course load at school and was obviously floundering financially.

I would pay off credit cards and cancel the accounts.  (NOT SMART) Again, I had no idea what credit history and usage was.    I would miss out on fun school events because I had to work to pay bills.  The car broke down. The summer was extra hot and the AC was cranked.  Every bill just seemed to get bigger and bigger.


I didn’t know how to tell myself no at 20/21.  I didn’t have goal setting, budgeting or saving at my reserve to learn from and use. Years of this lifestyle through college ended in mountains of student loans, car and credit card debt and the typical living expense bills.  It wasn’t going to lighten any time soon.

Post-graduation, the job hunt and time passed oh so quickly.  The student loans that arrived at the 6th month grace period mark, tallied up the cost of school.  I CRIED.  At 24, I was in a mountain of debt and working 2 part-time serving positions, while looking for the elusive full-time advertising job i had worked so hard for in college.

The longer the job search went, the more depressed and anxious I became.  It was a horrible time in life to come off a huge accomplishment of graduating college only to fall into the endless cycle of waking and working to not get anywhere either in the job search front and falling deeper and deeper into debt as each month rolled by. I contemplated so many awful options on how to change my situation.

Most 24 year old college grads are going out with friends, enjoying the start of a new career, dating and enjoying post college life.  I couldn’t even pay my bills, so a social life was out of the question. My time was spent going from job to job trying to pull as much cash together as possible. It was an endless cycle of getting nowhere.

So what changed?  A friend of mine got me a job interview at an investment bank in Silicon Valley.  I took the job offer, moved in with my sister for a few months to get on my feet, and did my utmost to whittle away at the pile of debt.  It was a long painful process.

It took months and years of being diligent on a plan of attack.  It was always a HUGE relief when a bill was forever gone!! Weight was slowing being lifted.

I’ll never forget how accomplished I had felt when i was able to pay cash for a set of new tires on the car.  No credit card and interest payment for years on an item that was meant for a few years use.  What a sense of relief!

What kept bugging me was that I was not working in the field I graduated college from.  I wanted to work in the world of advertising. Waiting tables, working at banks and managing restaurants was not fulfilling. I wanted a career.

learning personal finance

I made a connection on a date of all things and put myself out in the most uncomfortable, untested waters of my life.  I was a 27 year old with no experience in advertising, living in San Francisco, one of the major ad mecca’s in the US and did not know a soul in the industry.

I walked into a networking event, where everyone knew everyone else and each were all talking amongst each other. I knew I was hear to talk to people and network. I was sooo out of my comfort zone, I actually went to the ladies room and was staring at myself in the mirror contemplating my next move or to even stay.  I sat down for a Q & A session where the President of the association spoke followed by a panel.  All I knew, was after the speaking ended, that I was making a beeline to the President and introduce myself.   I did just that.  I was as nervous as anything. But, I persevered, stated my desire of what I wanted to do and just listened to her advice.  Not a week later, with her help and connections I had a three interviews set up and a job offer that followed.

I took that job, and moved into what I called my closet in a tiny room in an older woman’s house in San Francisco.  I was in survival mode.  I was up at 5 am to work a 40 hour week in the ad industry and then side hustled at the bar until 12-1am  to earn more cash to make bill payments each month.  I was wearing myself out and had absolutely no time for fun, dating, or anything remotely not linked to making money.

Why do I tell you all this?  These stories are a dime a dozen amongst so many millions of people these days.  That is exactly my point!  It should not be so!  Need to read more about the student loan crisis? We should be teaching personal finance to students before they exit high school to empowering them to make smart financial decisions. Are we setting them up for success or struggle?

So whats stopping you from educating your student or maybe yourself on learning personal finance? Lets stop this horrible credit/loan epidemic among young people set  strong foundations to a better tomorrow with learning personal finance. We will see better futures for our young people and a stronger, financially fit society that can thrive versus the ever-growing stats of more and more people that can’t save money or barely making it paycheck to paycheck each month. Lets set up our future generations on success, not struggle.

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