One of the most critical factors in life is finances. More importantly, how you manage them. Odds are, if you didn’t grow up with a financially responsible parent, you might not be either.
Finances are another great equalizer in life. They can determine your quality of life, to an extent anyway, as I believe you can fully enjoy your life without an extreme amount of money; nevertheless, financial responsibility matters. It can mean the difference between you retiring in your 50’s or 80’s. It can also mean the difference between your ability to purchase items for those you love, taking vacations for yourself, and donating to charitable organizations whose mission matches your passion. Of course, these all fall under the quality of life, but it’s worth mentioning money isn’t everything.
There are plenty of millionaires who don’t have to worry about working another day in their lives if they don’t want to. Yet, many of them are miserable. Why is this? Well, I just want to clear the air for anyone who equates money to happiness. The two don’t equal each other and never will. Now that that’s taken care of let’s discuss monetary measures. How much money do you have saved up? Do you have debt? Have you started a retirement account? Do you have an emergency fund? If you couldn’t work right now, would you be okay? How about those around you?
Somewhere between 50 and 78 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. At the same time, only 3 in 10 Americans have emergency savings, which shows you how critical it is for you to be financially responsible. However, for many children who grow up in less than fortunate circumstances, the path to financial responsibility isn’t always instilled in them.
Most children who come from single-family homes didn’t have an affluent upbringing. They had one parent who worked diligently, doing everything they could to make ends meet and put food on the table. Even then, many dual-parent homes face challenges teaching their children about financials, simply because they don’t have or take the time to. Often, these parents are so consumed in creating a better life for their children by working long hours and attempting to climb the career ladder; they don’t equip themselves with the financial knowledge necessary to pass down to their children to get ahead. You see, if the only wisdom given to a child is to work hard, a vicious cycle can and most likely will take place. The child will heed the advice of the parent, working hard, but never creating separation between living paycheck to paycheck and even poverty, by using the resources at their disposal.
The older the child gets, the more responsible they become for learning about the tools readily available to them to create a more sustainable future because life doesn’t care. Life doesn’t worry about whether you come from a wealthy background or were homeless. There have been homeless people who’ve become millionaires and successful millionaires who’ve lost it all. But somewhere along the way, most successful individuals had someone pass along some financial wisdom to them. This person, in many respects, was a mentor for them. Due to the intricacies of finance, you should always seek out a mentor or industry expert.
Pass it on
However, just as there should be a digital well-being course offered in middle school, high school, and college, there should be a financial literacy course as a part of the curriculum around the world. Far too often, children are asked to know who the 52nd President of the United States was, what an atom is, or why y=mx+b. Yet, when many teenagers graduate from high school, they don’t have the slightest idea about taxes and why they pay them, local and national level financial amendment changes, and the basics of opening a Roth-IRA or any other retirement account, etc. Why is this?
Sure, plenty of public schools teach economics, but even those classes focus on the wrong things, such as the cost of gold 20 years ago. Yes, that could be valuable knowledge if a student had a basic understanding of the economy in general, but often they don’t. Additionally, many students won’t be able to purchase stocks for years to come, so while they should know about investing, establishing a general idea of saving when they receive their first paycheck from their first job is where the importance lies, and the focus should be.
As with any wisdom, financial wisdom should be passed down through generations. Learn from the mistakes of your parents and grandparents, don’t continue them. The path to generational wealth involves a lot of self-discipline and hard work, but it’s not taken by going down the same road. Use the lessons learned from those before you and capitalize on them, only to share your newly found financial success with the ones who helped you, of course. Whatever you do, make sure you always pass on your financial literacy and wealth of knowledge gained over the years to those around you, as a little help goes a long way.