Financial skills are life skills. Most people just don’t treat them that way. We teach our kids manners, multiplication tables, how to read, and about relationships, but financial literacy is too often left off the table.
It’s not that responsible money management is somehow less important than other lessons that we pass along to our children. In fact, “financial literacy in today’s world is almost as important as learning to read and write,” according to Jennifer Collet, president and CEO of the Missouri Council on Economic Education, who adds that “a student’s credit history is far more important to his or her future than grade point average.”
Money is just a historically taboo subject, and a lot of us don’t feel confident opining on it since we aren’t all that confident in our own abilities to begin with. Unfortunately, we have a Great Recession and more than $73 billion in credit card debt incurred since 2012 that can attest to that belief.
Our recent financial shortcomings shouldn’t serve as a reason to hide from the problem, though. Rather, they should serve as the impetus for change. Not only should we begin talking to our kids about money, but we should also take steps to shore up our own financial literacy. Doing so, as you’ll see below, will have positive ramifications across your life.
The Money-Stress Connection
Money is the leading cause of stress. Stress causes roughly one million people to miss work each day, costing the economy $300 billion in productivity each year. Stress is also known to make people irritable, tired, and averse to exercise. Learning about personal finance and addressing the financial issues that are weighing on your brain is therefore conducive to overall wellness.
Interestingly enough, that’s why many employers would be well-served to consider offering workplace financial literacy programs.
“If an employee is bringing financial stress to work, they are not being as productive as they could be,” says Dean Obenauer, assistant director of financial Aid at Creighton University. “By providing basic education or resources, the employer may help them overcome some of that stress by identifying possible options to pursue.”
Excellent Credit Is The Ticket To Everything
The $400 or so that certain credit card companies are paying people with excellent credit just to open new credit cards is merely a tangible example of what top-tier credit can get you. The truth is that your credit standing affects far more than the credit card and mortgage terms you’re able to garner. It also impacts how much you pay in insurance premiums, whether or not you can rent an apartment or lease a car, and your eligibility for jobs that involve a security clearance or the handling of money.
When all is said and done, the difference between good and bad credit likely amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Luckily, the credit building process is rather straightforward – even if you’ve encountered problems spending within your means or remembering to pay your bill on time every month.
In fact, you don’t even need to make any purchases or maintain a balance to benefit. You can lock your card in a drawer or cut it into a million pieces and still benefit from the account information being reported to the major credit bureaus each month. If you decide to actively use your card, you can set up automatic monthly ACH payments from a bank account to ensure that you never miss a monthly minimum.
Cause & Effect Thinking Promotes Better Choices
Financial success is ultimately the product of good decision-making. We are faced with countless financial decisions every day, and too often we choose with little consideration to the long-term consequences. Wasteful, impulsive saving is an obvious example of this, but it extends all the way to major decisions like where to attend school.
“The student who falls in love with a college because it has a cool campus and a new $80 million dollar fitness center, but borrows through the nose to go there, sets their life on a very limiting path,” says Peter Bielagus, financial author and speaker. “Likewise, the new employee who waits just a few years to start their retirement fund cuts themself off from hundreds of thousands of dollars in compound interest earnings.”
In other words, we all need to get better at thinking about how our actions or inaction today will affect us not only tomorrow, but decades down the road.
Who’s Got Your Back In Old Age?
As of 2011, 4.6 million Americans were living with their adult children, and that number is sure to rise along with our aging population in the years to come. With that in mind, we all have to ask ourselves some tough questions – namely, what are we going to do to avoid being a burden on our kids? The best ways to avoid that are to shore up our finances and to teach our kids their financial P’s and Q’s.
Hopefully, we can all save enough to support ourselves for life, but if we can’t achieve that we must ensure that our kids are in a position to help out without breaking the bank.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that our physical, mental and financial health is all intertwined. One affects the other, and we can afford to forget none if we wish to enjoy a happy, healthy, and financially secure life.
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