How Did You Learn to Manage Money?

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“Uncle Steve, we aren’t taught anything about saving in Fiji.” I said, “I hear the same thing in America.”

It was my great pleasure to have been invited by the director of a nonprofit organization to speak to their relatively well-paid staff (relative to impoverished Fiji standards) about the importance of saving. I learned of significant Fijian cultural obstacles that would have to be overcome, but even so, there seems to be a global deficit of basic financial education. Reflecting back, I was fortunate to have had a financially prudent dad to learn from. I also took a Home Economics class in high school. (I was the only boy in the class, causing me to be both mocked…AND envied!)

Not to toot my horn, but for reasons unknown, I CHOSE to imitate Dad and to take “Home Ec”, which none of my siblings nor few of my friends did. This begs the question: Whenever someone blames their lack of financial knowledge on a lack of educational opportunities, is it an excuse or a reason? IRAs were established in 1974. I opened mine a year later (after asking Dad if it was a good idea). I was paying for college and working at a grocery store and, like all my friends, had several more fun ways to spend money! Yet I MADE a way to contribute the maximum $2000 year after year. Now I think, “Thank you, young Steve, for making those sacrifices!”

Perhaps it is true that money management “isn’t taught anymore”. And while I don’t expect to change Fiji–let alone the world–if there is anything we can do to educate those who are genuinely interested, I want to try. I have had friends and clients send their children, grandchildren, and their friends to help get them started in the right direction but have never really promoted it. In the coming months, Jordan and I intend to offer (pro-bono) educational opportunities on a selected basis.

Frankly, one of the things that concerns me is the amount of “Baby Boomer” money that will be passed down to their untrained and unready heirs. I have a saying: Show me someone who has never handled their own money well and I’ll show you someone who will squander their inheritance. Let’s do what we can to keep that from happening!