Yesterday I was in a financial literacy meeting, a meeting dedicated to teaching college students how to understand and be responsible with their money. The idea behind the meeting was to establish a plan that would prevent students from dropping out of school. The number one reason students drop out of college is because of money. When students drop out, statistically, they won’t come back.
We talked about teaching budgets, bank accounts, investing, interest, and federal financial aid. All of this is good. It’s all necessary. Based on a video I saw on Facebook not too long ago, it’s an education that most need. I am in support of anything we can do to help better the lives of others.
This is a joke right?
Then it dawned on me…how many of us around that table are really financially literate?
Of course, I can only speak for myself.
I have a savings accounts, a 401(k), and I even have some investments (is that dirt on my shoulder?). I’ve even set up a budget, that I have almost religiously not kept. As an average, I think I’m doing pretty good. But my concern is how do I move from average to the next level?
I had a conversation the other day with a friend of mine about minorities and going to college. He happens to be one and beat all the odds by getting a masters degree. The conversation revolved around how he was able to break away from the cultural norms and accomplish what he wanted to accomplish opposed to what his peers were accomplishing or what the culture expected him to accomplish.
This is no different from the poverty cycle. What’s to stop a kid in the projects from getting on a bus and getting a job at McDonald's? There should be nothing. Getting a job a McDonalds to most of seems like a no-brainer. It feels accessible. It might even be something that we’ve all done (I’ve got three months at Burger King under my belt).
Because that option is a real possibility for me it makes sense. For those kids, it probably doesn’t. It’s not something their friends talk about or do. It’s no something that their parents talk about or do. The kids that try to break the norm by getting a job at McDonald’s are likely ridiculed for being a “goodie goodie” or thinking they’re better than everyone else. Social and peer pressure feels juvenile but it is very real and happens all the time.
Let me use another example.
I was at a friends the other day. He just happens to be a surgeon. He makes a lot of money. A lot is a relative term. He makes more than me but probably less than Bill Gates. His kids who aren’t 5 yet have season ski passes. They own a boat and big house. My friend is setting up a certain reality for them. Probably the same reality he grew up in.
I don’t know a lot about him but he’s from Park City. His brothers and his dad are professionals (lawyers and doctors I think).
The details of his life aren’t too important. But there is likely one distinction, he likely thinks about money very differently than I do. Right there is the rub.
That’s what separating the kid in the projects from McDonald's and getting out, and me from making $400,000 a year. It’s all my perception of money. What’s important and what’s valuable. What risks and investments we’re willing to make in order to make money. All of that makes a huge difference.
Money is like religion. We believe only what we’ve been taught or observe until we take responsibility for it and change it into what we want.
I was told at a very early age that I was a spender and my brother was a saver. Weird that I have a hard time saving and sticking to a budget. That belief is deeper than I care to admit. It’s a part of who I am.
But if I want to really be financially literate, more importantly, if I want my kids to be financially literate, than I have got to change the way I think and feel about money. I have to stop giving it so much power over me.
Maybe I need to talk to a therapist about this.
What are some of your beliefs about money that have helped or hindered you? If you were able to change believe how were you able to do it?