I’ve seen firsthand the lack of financial literacy in our country. I’ve discovered that it doesn’t discriminate. People from all backgrounds are lacking when it comes to skills such as balancing a check book, preparing a family budget, handling debt or determining how much to save for retirement.
I think about this a lot. Maybe it’s because I help people make smart decisions concerning their money or maybe it’s because I have two daughters transitioning into the “real” world. It’s probably a little of both. So, I began searching for answers to questions like “How do people learn about money?”, “Who taught you about money?” and “Who are you teaching about money?”
What I found was that in most cases financial knowledge didn’t begin in a classroom or a book. It started with someone who cared, someone who learned the “hard” way, or someone who was fortunate enough to have a person in their lives that wanted more for them. The lessons were often subtle, introduced quietly, realized years later, and appreciated for lifetimes.
My own experience was much the same.
I learned about how money works from people who loved me and wanted me to have a better life. My Pap was one of those people. Pap was a simple man. He didn’t read the Wall Street Journal. He only finished the 7th grade. He drove a coal truck and later became a mail carrier. He never had much: a small house, a small farm, and an even smaller bank account. But he did have “time”. Time was his gift to me. We spent hours on his farm putting up hay and feeding the cows. As a five year old, I lived for the moment he would pull me up by my arm into his lap and let me “drive” the tractor. Countless afternoons and weekends were spent fishing and hunting or sometimes just taking a long walk.
Time together allowed for what I now affectionately call, “Lessons from Pap”. These lessons were straight forward. He once taught me about the downside of debt by explaining the old expression “Never buy anything on time”. This saying makes me smile with its simplicity and truth. I guess that’s why it stuck with me. If you don’t have the cash, you don’t buy it. No matter what “it” is.
Why did my Pap take the time to teach me these lessons in his simple, humble way? He cared. He wanted me to learn from his mistakes and his triumphs. He knew it was important that I understood how money works. He wanted my life to be full. He wanted me to experience financial peace.
Financial literacy may always be a problem but you can make difference. Just like my Pap.
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