“Education is not a tool for development – individual, community and the nation. It is the foundation for our future. It is empowerment to make choices and emboldens the youth to chase their dreams.” -Nita Ambani

I would like to a try a little exercise to start out this post. Think back to your days of high school. Pause. Wait just a few moments. Ok, now we’re back. The first thing that may have come to your mind was some great memories with friends, perhaps a few parties or football games you went to. You can see their faces in your mind’s eye. Ahh, the good days. Perhaps your biggest worry was who you were going to go to prom with.

Ok, ok…enough with the reminiscing of prom night. With your mind still set back in those high school days, the couple of years right before you are able to move out on your own, think back to that personal finance class you took that taught you all about making a living, reading your paystub, dealing with bills, staying out of debt and improving your professional life. You know, all the important stuff you need as you enter into adulthood.

I can see it right now, the crinkly forehead and the look of “what in the world is Paul talking about” on your face. If your high school experience was anything like mine, that class didn’t exist. Instead we are taught about square roots, the periodic table and how Columbus didn’t sail all the way across the world as he intended. Don’t get me wrong, these topics can be interesting if you’re into that kind of stuff. I think by now you can see my point here. In our youth, when we are getting ready to make our way into the financial world, we start our first job, receive that first paycheck and have no idea what it all means or what to do with it.  We know that credit cards exist, they have an interest rate and they require payments each month. But what do we know beyond this? How ready are we to make financial decisions?

I was lucky enough to have parents that did teach me about finance. They taught me that money was not given and needed to be earned. They taught me the importance of saving a percentage of my income (weekly allowance). They also taught me the importance of paying what I owe and to plan. (Thank you mom and dad for instilling this in me at a young age). On the other hand, I know that there are many out there that did not have this experience growing up. Many had to figure it out on their own. I certainly do not look down to anyone or blame them in any way. You can’t be blamed for something you never knew. You also can’t blame parents or the school system. I hate to say it, but it just is what it is. And even if we did blame someone, what good would that do now?

I believe that the debt epidemic is largely due to financial education; not only education we get from teachers, but also the lack of educating ourselves. We can only put into practice what we learn. Many people don’t realize what they are getting into until it’s too late and then they spend a large portion of their lives trying to get out. I am a prime example of this. So how do we fix this as a society? Perhaps as a start we practice the things we do learn and never be afraid to teach others. The topic of money is taboo in many families. If we do not talk about it, how are we ever going to change? How about implementing financial fundamental classes in schools? Could this help to allow youth to make informed decisions and perhaps be more prepared for life after high school?

Finance is obviously very personal. As a parent myself, I would be upset if the schools were teaching financial principles to my kids that I did not fully agree with. So where do we draw the line? How do we make sure our children are financially ready for adulthood? How do we educate before there are decisions made that they may later regret? In my financial life, I can only practice what I learn. But how do we know what we need to know, and better yet, where is this education going to come from?

As I continue to learn and grow in my financial journey, I have every intention to pass my experiences and knowledge down to my kids. I want them to be ready to be able to defeat normal and live their lives without financial worry. Some lessons may need to be learned the hard way, but I will always be on their side.

I know that this can be a touchy subject. Given that, I would still love to hear your thoughts on financial education. Please leave a comment or two below. I would also love to hear your experience and how you learned about finance. What were some things that you are glad you learned when you did and continue to practice? What are some things that you wish you had learned sooner?

Sharing can go a long way. I would greatly appreciate any and all support I can get. If you enjoyed this post, please share it. If you didn’t like this post, I would still love to know your thoughts. You can find me on both Facebook and Twitter @defeatingnormal. Thanks for reading and be sure to keep moving forward on your financial journey.

3 thoughts on “I Can Only Practice What I Learn”

  1. Hi Paul,

    It’s a real shame that kids aren’t taught finances in school. I remember in high school having an assignment where we had $10,000 (fake money) to invest in the stock market. Whoever guessed right and earned the most money after three months got the best grade and down the line it went. eenie meenie miney mo determined my grade in the class. I’m not sure there is a worse way to “educate” kids about saving, investing or life in general.

    I grew up with a Mother that spent more than we had and a Father that saved more than he should have. My Mom would hide her spending from my Dad and my Dad would hide their money from my Mom. My Mom spent money on wants so there wasn’t always enough for needs and my Dad hid money and wouldn’t take it out even to cover needs (I always had everything I wanted so I use the term “needs” loosely). I knew from an early age that neither was ideal but I picked sides and my Dad won.

    Depending on how busy I keep myself determines how much control I have over my finances. Over the past 20 years, I’ve had cycles of no control and too much control. There isn’t much in between. I have realized that I don’t want to live in a life of extremes (when it comes to money) and so I am trying to have less control. I’ve been having some success, especially by not checking my portfolio anymore than once a month (and sometimes not even that). We are currently living this year on our passive income (mostly from dividends) so I find myself checking my account on the 15th and 30th to confirm “income earned”. I’m fine with that.

    One area that I could improve on is spending. All I learned from my Dad was how to save (and I’m very good at that) but life is more than just how much money you have in your bank account. And so, I’m trying to make us spend the (meager) money allocated to entertainment/eating out every month and remind my kids that the 30% that they have to spend (they Save 50% and Gift 20%) can be used to buy things that they want (as their parents are in charge of and able to provide everything they need).

    I’m a work in progress but I’m happy that I’m trying for a healthy medium between my Mom’s spending and My Dad’s saving and I hope that my kids will see that we practice what we preach. We talk a lot about money but talk is cheap some times.

    Besos Sarah.

    1. That is quite a way to learn about the stock market (and an interesting way to grade). As kids, we also get unique perspectives from our parents, especially when they have opposite views.

      Way to go with the passive income! I am working to get there myself, as well as spending.

      Keep up the great work.

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