You know how things seem to come in batches? Or swarms? These last few weeks, I have had the same conversation with a bunch of different people, and it baffles me.
“I have three kids, and one is good with money, one is OK with money, and one is terrible with money.”
“My wife just isn’t good with money.”
“What can I do? I just don’t understand how this all works.”
Seriously, the same variation over and over and over again.
I don’t get it.
Yes, we’re all born with different natural talents. Some have beautiful voices, some shouldn’t even be allowed to sing in the shower (that’s me!) Some teach themselves to read when they’re three, others struggle with reading their whole lives. There’s nothing wrong with not being naturally talented at something.
However, when we’re talking about essential life skills, it’s not OK to just accept that you can’t do something, or that someone you love can’t do something. If your child can’t read, you work with a reading specialist, have their eyes checked, and put in the hours until they can read, even if it isn’t easy for them. If your spouse has a stroke, and loses strength in one side of their body, you go to physical therapy and do exercises at home until they’ve recovered as much as physically possible. You don’t let your kids grow up without teaching them to cook and do laundry and drive.
Why don’t we do the same thing for financial education? Why do some people find it OK that they, or their loved ones, don’t understand how interest works, or can’t put together the relationship between overspending today and not having any money tomorrow?
Is it easy? Sometimes yes, often no. Is it frustrating? Frequently. Is it fun? Rarely. Is it essential? Absolutely. There’s no reason that capable older children, young adults, and full-fledged adults can’t learn about money, develop habits of self-control, and practice good financial habits until they become routine.
Obviously, you can’t help your neighbor or your second cousin or even your parents unless they want your help. But if these are your kids we’re talking about, and they’re still young enough that you have any sway whatsoever, it’s your responsibility to do everything you can to help them become financially proficient adults. If it’s you, put on your And if it is your spouse, then you need to seriously consider their capacity for growth, and whether that’s something that can happen without causing trouble in your marriage. Because just accepting financial mediocrity isn’t fair to them, and in the long run it probably won’t be very helpful for you, either.
Everyone is capable of learning good money skills and habits. Don’t let the people you love pass through life without them. (That includes you!)
Not sure where to start? I’d like to think I do a good job of helping people find their financial footing. But if I’m not the right person, there are a lot of other choices. Your base has financial educators who would be glad to help. The Military Family Advisory Network has a great program called MilCents, that you do totally online. Your local community college might have basic personal finance classes. You probably have a money-savvy friend or family member who would be glad to help. I disagree with a lot of what Dave Ramsey says when he moves into insurance, investing, and more complex topics, but his advice on basic personal finance is spot on. Not into Dave Ramsey? That’s cool – there are plenty of other smart programs that you can follow, whether it’s The Budgetnista Tiffany Aliche and her Live Richer Challenge or Chris Peach from Peach Money or whomever else floats your boat. The world, especially the internet, is full of amazing resources to teach you everything you could ever need to learn. You can do this!
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