This is a time of year when we to celebrate our high school and college graduates. It is an exciting, sometimes thrilling time for our young people as they step out on the edge of the nest, test their wings and leap into their future. And that is almost exactly how it works for many of our young people; future focused, idealistic, the world is their oyster (or so they were told at commencement). It is not until they test those wings and see the ground rising beneath them that they think about their finances and the responsibilities which lay before them.
I have many concerns about our educational system, and one of the primary ones is how financial literacy is not part of the curriculum, at all. We are good at preparing them for their chosen field and giving them the skills needed to enter the work force, but never taking the time to help them manage their resources once they land that job and begin their career. My own daughter got a job straight out of college, received a significant salary and a six-page job offer, which contained words, thoughts, notions, and benefits which were completely foreign to her. She at least had the option of asking me for help to understand the nuances of the financial world that she was now entering.
Most of our young people do not have a certified financial planner dad that they can call. Consequently, they enter blindly, often relying on their peers for financial advice and understanding. And these are the good examples of lack of financial literacy. By “good” I mean they have a job, with an income, and benefits.
The less positive examples of a lack of financial literacy are when these graduates find themselves buried in debt with no real means by which to pay it back. Meanwhile, they want to have a lifestyle, which their friends enjoy, causing more problems as the deploy their version of the solution with credit cards. Sadly, I have seen the consequences of this lack of knowledge up close and personal. It is on those days that I wished I were an emergency room surgeon instead of a wealth manager. (For the record it should be noted that I a) don’t like blood and b) don’t like emergency trauma. This should give you an idea of how uncomfortable conversations can be with debt ladened people.)
As realty sets in, the idealism that they may have had at commencement or at least when they got their first big girl or big boy paycheck dissipates quicker than morning dew in the Kalahari Desert. I remember when I was trying to figure all of this out for the first time. I remember it being a bit like constructing a bicycle while riding it. Challenging indeed. I also recall, not wanting to lean on my dad as I did not want to appear stupid or naïve. I had a fierce independent streak (which still exists) and wanted to figure it out on my own. As you know the rest of the story, I eventually did; but it took a lot of reading and mentoring from people in my profession who saw my desire and helped me to move forward.
I firmly believe it is our job to not only wish our graduates well on their accomplishment but to also make ourselves available to guide them in their financial literacy. We are fortunate to now have so many great resources which we can share… books, web sites, YouTube videos, and the like. If you are looking for some of these resources or would like help, feel free to contact our office for more information.