From the moment we are born, we are learning to live life. Our first lessons are about verbal and non-verbal communication through human interactions. Then, as we grow, we learn to write and do things such as ride a bike, draw pictures, and tie our shoes. Once we enter our school age years, we begin to learn about reading, writing, math, history, science, art, music, and much more.
Most of what we learn in school is valuable and helps us toward living independent, productive adult lives. Or, at least, that is the goal. One skill that is often ignored or is given limited attention is personal finance - how to manage one's personal money. The sad thing about the lack of attention given to personal financial education is that every person will deal with personal finances on a daily basis for their entire lives. Well, except for those wealthy enough to pay others to manage their personal finances.
Every time we get paid, purchase a latte, put money in savings, fill up our gas tanks, pay bills, get a soda from a machine, buy clothes, invest in stocks, eat out, go to the movies, etc., we are making a conscience decision about how to manage our money. When spending isn't planned by creating a budget or consciously making an effort to manage it, finances have the potential to get into a tangled mess.
Of course, there are many people who are good at controlling their spending and don't use a budget and do a great job at managing their money. However, this isn't the case for most people. Many of us go day-by-day, week-by-week, and month-by-month not really knowing where all of our money went. This can be frustrating for most people!
So, what is the big deal about learning about personal finance? Personal financial success! As stated on the Home Page of this website, personal financial success isn’t about being wealthy. It’s about accomplishing one’s financial goals, whether that’s obtaining a certain level of savings, having no debt, purchasing a house, buying a car, putting kids through college, or all of the above and more. Personal financial success is different for each person; however, it’s rarely possible without understanding financial matters.
Learning about personal finance takes time and requires studying. Sure, a one-day seminar to get motivated to save money and start budgeting is great, but more is required to truly be successful. In my own experience, reading Larry Burkett’s personal finance materials and attending various seminars that inspired budgeting were a terrific starting point, but when I really began learning/studying and digging deep into personal finance, I learned just how much I didn’t know about the subject. I learned I didn't understand much of the terminology, understand debt, or the negative impact of credit card debt.
The biggest realization was learning that successful personal finance doesn't happen through a one-day workshop, but rather through a daily conscious effort that can be exhausting, but can also be rewarding. It’s truly a journey! Initially, I thought if I learned a few ideas and followed a couple of examples I’d be good to go. However, there is so much more to personal finance. I probably just made the whole idea very unappealing, but it does get easier as time goes on. Just like learning most new things, it’s challenging in the beginning, but as more information is learned and we apply what we have learned, it begins to become easier and some habits begin to become second nature.
Learning about personal finance in elementary and secondary schools would help many set good habits early on. Or, at the very least, give a solid foundation to help individuals make better financial decisions. However, it's never too late to begin learning about personal finance, and implementing good financial habits, which will hopefully led to less stress, better relationships, less debt, and much more.