by Dr. Brenda Cude, College of Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Georgia
How much do you—and your children and grandchildren—know about managing money? If you’re like most others around the world, the answer is not enough. Most—young, old, educated or not—have failed “financial literacy” tests given to measure their financial knowledge. Perhaps some fail because the tests don’t measure what we do know about managing money. But, odds are that most of us don’t know as much as we should. After all, financial decisions have become ever more complex with new options appearing often.
How can your children and grandchildren learn about managing money? An obvious answer is that they learn from you—and not just from what you say, but also from what you do. If you want your child to wait until he or she has saved enough to buy a desired item, show that you are doing the same.
Realize though that every child is different. For some, saving up for something is a fun challenge. For others, it’s pure torture. (For fun, search the Internet for YouTube videos about the “Marshmallow Test.”) While you’re online, search for resources to teach children about money—there are lots of options. Resources from University Cooperative Extension Services are unbiased and peer-reviewed.
Children can and should learn about money management in school. According to the Council for Economic Education, 17 states require public high school students to take a course in personal finance. In 22 states, high schools are required to offer a personal finance course.
In some states, including Georgia, money management concepts are required to be taught in K-12. One popular way to teach children concepts about money is through a Bank-at-School program. With the cooperation of a local financial institution, children can open accounts and make deposits at school, often with students serving as the bank tellers. Another popular way is through the Stock Market Game, in which children work in teams to invest a hypothetical fund into a portfolio of stocks. The accompanying resources for teachers (and sometimes parents) increase the students’ knowledge from the experience.
What if money management isn’t being taught in your schools? Ask—no demand —that it be taught—and offer to help. Contact a local credit union or University Cooperative Extension Service. Both have educational missions and may be helpful to bring money management education to your schools.
College students also have opportunities to continue to learn about money. They can inquire about in-person or online courses that teach money management concepts or even peer-led groups with a personal finance focus.
What about you? How can you learn more about managing money? For those who feel they don’t even know the basics, the answer is to start with the basics. Read (or listen to) one of the many, easy-to-read popular personal finance books. Search for “best personal finance books” and choose one that sounds right for you. You also can look for a money management course in your community or online.
If you think you know the basics but just need to update and keep your knowledge current, popular media sources can be surprisingly helpful and generally accurate. For example, last fall TV and newspaper outlets did a great job of covering the credit card conversion from “swipe and sign” to “chip and pin.”
Learning about personal finance from the Internet can be tricky, though. There are too many who write online from a perspective that may not work for most, advocating, for example, no debt other than a mortgage or investment strategies that violate one of the most basic rules of investing—diversification or investing in many different types of assets. Search “best personal finance websites” and read the reviews. Choose experts who write for your life situation. Follow them on Twitter to learn something every day.
Even those who know a good bit about money management also rely on experts. Ask your insurance agent to explain your insurance policies to you. Call your financial institution or loan servicers and ask questions about your mortgage, car loan, and student loans. Consider an appointment with a fee-only financial planner (one who charges by the hour instead of earning money from commissions on financial products). Look for one with the designation “Certified Financial Planner.”
In 2016, none of us can afford to say, “I just don’t know anything about managing money.” Start today to change that!