If You Can’t Brush Your Teeth, You Likely Can’t Manage Money: Why Financial Literacy Is Important

Image_1This blog wouldn’t exist if I didn’t have stories to share about the lessons I have learned when it comes to years of managing my money. I say my money but I should include my husband and call it our money.

This past year has been monumentally huge for us. Last June we had our baby girl and since then I have been on maternity leave (Thank you Canada for allowing me to be off for a year). Having our daughter was a huge wake-up call for us and our finances. Sure we always paid our bills on time but if I’m being honest we lived our lives with our heads in the sand. I talked previous about how not owning up to my debt was a huge mistake. It took bringing our daughter into the world to grow up in terms of our finances.

I’m not going to pass blame on anyone for my debt since I was an adult when the debt was accumulated. I accept that there was an onus on me to educate myself about anything and everything related to my money. From budgeting to investing, I should have known more than I did. Hindsight is 20/20 they say. I can honestly say that had I received financial education in high school, things would be different.

Need For Financial Literacy 

The argument about who should teach financial education continues to be discussed. Parents or school? People continue to argue that the curriculum in high schools is already too full, not enough teachers, more training for teachers blah,blah,blah. Here’s the thing. We don’t know what goes on in a child’s life outside of the protected brick walls of a school. They may not have someone to teach them. We send our children to school to learn all skills needed for life so upon graduation we can send them into this big bad (and down right terrifying) world with all the basic skills they need.

In my opinion, teaching financial skills like how to make a budget, organizing finances, basic investment knowledge, how to file a tax return and managing with debt is an absolute necessity. These are invaluable skills that need to be taught if we want to ensure the utmost success for our children.

If we don’t teach these skills, and kids have no one at home to teach them these skills, and they’re overwhelmed with LIFE (because let’s be honest, being a kid in today’s world is anything but easy) who will teach our children?

If you’re reading this blog you don’t count. The very fact that you care enough about money to read a personal finance blog puts you well above the average individual. As a university educated person, who is usually surrounded by well-educated friends and family, it is easy to forget the general public knowledge base. I see it everyday at work. Any job that deals with the public will ground you and you gain a new respect for how little people know. Just to put things into perspective, on more than one occasion I have had parents gasp in honest surprise when I instructed their child to brush all surfaces of their teeth. ”What do you mean Mrs?! You don’t just brush the top bits?!” This is the general public.

If they can’t properly brush their teeth, they likely can’t properly manage money. Let alone teach money management skills to their kids.

Where We Are Today

It’s taken us many years and many mistakes but can finally say that we’re comfortable for the first time with our money. We know where it comes from and where it goes because we have a monthly budget. Just tonight we sat down and figured out our ”Catherine back to work” budget in a worst case scenario which really excites me. It means any penny I make over what we budgeted will go towards debt- what I’m calling bonus money.

We still have a ways to go (like actually get out of debt and establish retirement funds) but once we have a better idea about my income, and how much extra we will comfortably be able to put towards debt, we will sit down and finalize a ”debt free date”.

It takes NO time at all to get into debt, I just need to remind myself how far we’ve come and that it’s all about baby steps. I’m constantly learning from all you amazing PF bloggers. I would be nowhere near where I am without all of you.

A special thanks to Shannon to putting this carnival together for Financial Literacy Awareness Month.

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  1. Isn’t it amazing how becoming a parent can completely change your mindset? We didn’t have our financial awakening until I was pregnant with my second child….but better late than never!

  2. Love this post, Catherine! It’s scary to me that some of your clients don’t have the basics of brushing their childrens’ teeth down – oh, how we’ve failed to teach in so many ways!!! I’m so happy for you that you guys have found your way to financial literacy, and that we’ve found our way too. Life is good! 🙂

  3. I totally agree that financial literacy should be taught in schools – it should be a core course! I’m glad you had your financial awakening relatively early in life – the earlier the better!

  4. “In my opinion, teaching financial skills like how to make a budget, organizing finances, basic investment knowledge, how to file a tax return and managing with debt is an absolute necessity.” Great point Catherine & I could not agree more. I think it’s vital to teach kids this and think it’s the loving thing to do.

  5. I like your analogy. It is so much easier to learn as a child than to change a bad habit as adults.

  6. “If you’re reading this blog you don’t count. The very fact that you care enough about money to read a personal finance blog puts you well above the average individual. ”

    Haha so true!

    I’m all about PF education in high school. Every single one of those kids is going to need those skills to make it in life. AP History? Admirable, but not necessarily as essential.

  7. I think teaching kids about finances needs to be done on both fronts. It needs to be taught by schools and by parents. The big issue is that some parents don’t know about how to manage their money, so they won’t be able to teach their children. This is where schools can come in. If a child is taught in school, maybe they can pass that knowledge onto their parents. It is a cycle that needs to be done.

    • Catherine says:

      Oh I completely agree, I’m simply saying that if we’re being realistic it needs to start with the kids since we have no idea what their home life is like. If we could force education upon adults somehow too, I would!

  8. Yep, I think school should be as much about teaching kids mental-like math/English skills as real-life day-to-day skills. We need to teach kids about LIFE! About what happens when they graduate. But we don’t. We put our heads in the sand and teach them only about Shakespeare and long division thinking that this will make them a genius and successful person outside of school. But it won’t. They need to know about the real world and the realities of the world! It’s sucky that home ec is gone, shop class is gone, and financial classes never were.

    • Catherine says:

      YES. Exactly what I’m talking about.

    • We definitely need to take a look at our school’s curriculum. The goal should be to prepare them to thrive in the REAL world, which means they need REAL LIFE skills. In some ways, we shouldn’t be surprised so many kids find school boring and do so poorly – they aren’t being taught the things that really matter, such as personal finance. I believe if kids saw a better correlation between what they are being taught and how it applies to their future success in the real world – they would be more interested.

  9. I also agree that budgeting and basic financial literacy should be taught in schools. My parents did a horrible job! 😉

  10. We’ll try our best to teach our kid how to manage money. It shouldn’t be the central focus of your life, but you need to be good enough to get by. You’re doing great. I’m sure you’ll get there someday. Keep working at it.

  11. I agree that there are so many practical financial skills that should be taught in schools but rarely is. It is all about teaching history, geography, science. Any information that they think a person will need to be able to find a job, but what do people do once they find a job and make all kinds of money. If they don’t know any better, they most likely spend it.

  12. So true! i mean they make us learn algebra, why not personal finance? Seems that that is going to be relevant to everyone when they graduate!

  13. I’m still having a tough time comprehending the lack of knowledge around brushing your teeth. YIKES! Given that – I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by the general lack of knowledge around personal finances. Oh, in my perfect world, kids would go to school and be required to take a personal finance class where they learned exactly what you outlined, then went home where their parents modeled how to do what they just learned in real life. Where parents helped their kids think about how they wanted to use their money in goal-focused way rather than just mass consumption. It’s a dream now, but every day I’d like to believe we inch our way closer to it being a reality. And thanks to people like you sharing their stories – it’s another step closer to happening. Thank you again for your participation – I really appreciate it!

  14. Catherine, I totally agree with learning financial literacy in school. I came from a two-parent household. We owned two cars and a house, and still I was not taught one thing about money except Make It! I love my parents deeply, but were they really prepared to instruct me on financial matters at the level that a trained educator could? Unless parents are financial experts or very, very invested in seeking this knowledge, kids go without. Many of my habits were formed in my early years – luckily I had frugal parents! But, I would have loved to learn about budgeting, taxes, student loans, etc. BEFORE I hit the ground running at 22. I would love to see it in high school curricula. Really, is calculus more important than bankruptcy?

  15. Financial literacy should definitely be taught in schools, but I think it should be more than just High School. Children should be learning these skills from Elementary all the way through College. In my opinion, very few “standard” classes are more important than finances.

    • Catherine says:

      Yes I totally agree. My point about high school is just that it’s usually the age when kids start making their own money and real responsibilities start.

  16. I’m always amazed at how many hours people spend working for their money. Yet, they spend less than an hour per month planning what to do with the money. Most of the time is spent paying bills and debt.
    If parents are also financially illiterate, then it would be a good time for them to learn along with their children through books or websites.

  17. Like many who believe finance should be taught in the home I’v e mentioned it’s a catch 22. If we have parents that can’t manage their money nor are learning how to manage their money how can they teach their kids. kids see and hear everything and if we try to teach them something that we ourselves are not doing or leading by example will they take us seriously. I don’t have any kids but I once was a kid and I certainly would question the validity of if my parents are saying this why are they not doing it. On the other hand the school system is there to teach the kids so it can’t be that hard to factor in the basic skills of finance. It’s a place where kids trust they are getting the best education that they should learn from. It’s s tough call… Thanks for sharing!

  18. YOU GET A YEAR OFF?! *mind blown*

    That awesomeness aside, enjoyed your post. There is certainly a general consensus in the PF blogging world about needing to integrate financial education into school systems. We also really need to focus on educating the millennial generation because, as the next round of parents, we should also be bringing financial literacy into homes. No matter what kids are taught in school, so many lessons are going to be learned from Mom & Dad. Not sure the best way to get the message to the masses already out of high school/college, but hopefully we can.

    I never had a home ec or shop class in my high school, I do see the value in them now. In addition to finance courses, it would be nice to have a better foundation with sewing or construction so I don’t feel the need to go a tailor or call up a repairman.

    • Catherine says:

      We do get 52 weeks in Canada- the last 35 can be taken by dad or mom…this doesn’t include sick leave either!

      I had home ec in jr high and shop all the way through but they’re a dying breed for sure. Given the foolishness kids are up to and how little they know (like how to boil water) I think we need them back!

  19. I really wish they would teach more financial literacy in school. The closest thing I had was an accounting class, and that was nothing more than balancing a checkbook. If I knew then what I know now about the basics of compound interest, I would have started an IRA when I was 16 and been able to retire by now.


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