2.06.2010

When will I use this in life?

Remember how you asked that question like a bizillion times when your were smart-assing out in high school? And the teacher would then have some vague example of how really, algebra is something you will be called upon to do in order to survive a trip to the grocery store? Yeah, well that was all a bunch of crap. I mean, I'm glad I learned what little I did of algebra, because it was difficult for me and it's good to discipline your mind in concepts that don't come naturally to it. It builds character, and increases your ability to think in new ways, which is always valuable, blah blah blah. But never once have I needed to find"X" while plodding thru my day-to-day world.

But you know what I have needed to know? How to do my taxes. And to budget myself. And save money. And how mortgages work. And not ONE of those things were even touched on in all my education. And that is just plain stupid.
My little brother, a very intelligent and worldly college-educated young man, told me today he has no earthly idea how to complete his tax return. Because why would he? No one ever taught him how.

Maybe it used to be the norm that parents taught you this kind of crap. But they don't anymore, at least not in my case, and in the cases of many of my peers. And even if they did, wouldn't that limit everyone to the financial status and standards of their parents? Wouldn't that keep the poor, poor? Doesn't that sort of fly in the face of that you-can-be-anything-you-want-to-be American ideal?

Ideas as basic as saving for a home, how mortgage rates work, how to correctly claim dependants on your W4s, and paying off the student loan debt most of us incur seem to me to be things that should be covered in say, a 'Life Economics' class in high school.
None of this stuff is rocket science. It's all stuff I myself have learned about under my own power, through both experience and research, and Lord knows, I am not mathematically or fiscally minded. But the unfortunate fact is that many people learn this kind of crap through their mistakes, rather than beginning their financial life informed and ready to rock and roll.

The ramifications of those personal financial mistakes are very clear, particularly today. In the aftermath of so many people taking out loans they couldn't afford and clearly didn't understand, thereby directly contributing to the near-collapse of the global economy, you'd think someone would be pushing for this kind of financial education, no? No. Politicians are too busy chastising the (very guilty) banking industry so that their constituents can see them looking morally outraged on their behalf.

Teaching our kids the basics in how to do well fiscally is an easy, straightforward, and implementable way to prevent them from making the mistakes that have resulted in so many Americans deep in debt, foreclosed on, and owing the IRS their firstborn children. So why doesn't it just happen?

4 comments:

Annie said...

And while we're at it teaching basic home finance to students, let's also teach them how to fill out a job application and how to dress when applying...and how to balance a check book. I could go on and on about this type of thing...blah blah blah

Optimus Primate said...

It's so weird: I was just thinking about this the other day. Mostly because I had to write a check (I know!), and thought back to my third-grade teacher who taught us how to write checks and balance checkbooks. In third grade. I can still remember her telling us that this is something we would do Every Single Day when we grew up. HA!

The Fitzlosopher: said...

OH Anne- credit score monitoring, preventing identity theft, saving for retirement (you know, just in case theres no social security left for us:), the list could go on forever. And still, home ec classes consist of making bagel pizzas. So stupes.
Yeah, Dennis, aint it weird about checks? I get so irrationally annoyed when someone at the grocery store ahead of me in line writes one.

Jody said...

We actually had a class for stuff like this at my Jr. High, called S.O.S. Living, S.O.S. standing for 'Secrets Of Successful'. With a name like that, it was obviously REALLY popular.