I few weeks ago, a Tweet from a football player caught my attention. Actually, it caught the attention of nearly 100,000 people who liked it:
I wish schools would teach us the essentials to life. Budgeting, how to file taxes, process of buying homes, cooking, life decisions, investing, generational wealth, single to married, soon to be mom or dad, and credit.
These should be basic requirements before choosing a major
— Tyler Lockett (@TDLockett12) October 30, 2018
I couldn’t agree with Tyler Lockett more. Lockett lists 10 items on his wish list. Of those, 6 are personal finance topics. I’ll cover them in a minute, but first I’ll tackle the 4 that aren’t about money.
- Cooking – My high school had “home ec” classes that included cooking, sewing, woodworking, and power mechanics (how combustion engines work for example). It wasn’t extensively covered, but it is covered in school. Today, my 6 year old has an optional cooking enrichment class at his school.
- Life Decisions – This is a really broad topic, and I’m not sure how you teach it school. Maybe it’s teaching critical thinking? Maybe it’s making a pros and cons list?
- Single to Married – I’m trying to think of what that curriculum would look like. It feels weird to teach how to make a marriage work in school.
- How to be a Parent – This may be taught in school. There are any number of sitcoms where kids bring home an egg and take care of it like a child. This isn’t parenting of course, but it is something.
With those out of the way, let’s dig into the 6 personal finance topics:
- Budgeting – My sister site, Be Better Now, has covered The Three Budget Systems. This would certainly be part of a personal finance curriculum.
- Filing Taxes – I’m not sure if this should be taught in school. After all, the current administration said they’d make it as easy as sending in a postcard. More importantly, the government can do taxes for us.
Put all that aside, most people can use very simple, free (or very cheap) software to do their taxes. Those people could also use tax preparation services that relatively cheap. If you have complex taxes, such as a football player who makes millions (in multiple states due to the football schedule), it’s unlikely that school is going to teach that special case.
- Buying Homes – This should be part of a personal finance curriculum in school. It’s much more complicated than I thought it would be. Fortunately, there are real estate agents who guide you through the process. That’s a bandage and I’d like to see our schools do better.
- Investing – Yet another topic that should be covered in a school’s personal finance class. The curriculum doesn’t need to be too extensive either. It could cover compound interest, low-expense index funds, and asset allocation/risk tolerance in probably a few hours. This is classic 80/20 rule… most people would get the basics with very little time.
- Generation Wealth – I don’t think this should be taught in school. I feel that if you get to the point where you care about generational wealth, you can afford to have financial advisors who can guide you through your specific circumstance. Nonetheless, this could be touched upon when explaining how compound interest works.
- Credit – Building good credit is important. This would be a core section in my hypothetical personal finance curriculum.
I find it interesting that most of the “why didn’t they teach us this in school” is related to money. And it seems like many people agree it is really important.
So why isn’t personal finance taught in school? I don’t know. If you have the answer, let me know in the comments.