We all know the struggle of staring at busy work or painstakingly learning something with little idea for how to apply it in the real world. As a math major, I can remember countless proofs that I solely memorized, regurgitated, and immediately forgot after the test. But unlike memorizing poems or learning how to prove that there is an infinite number of prime numbers, learning personal finance has tangible benefits for both students and society as a whole.
Because at the end of the day, financial fluency is the key to success in an economy driven by money.
On a high level, financial fluency is the general understanding of financial concepts and principles and entails making informed personal decisions on investing, real estate, insurance, budgeting, tax planning, and saving for retirement. Everyone one has their own individual goals both financially and professionally. The easiest way to reach our financial goals is to organize an efficient and effective financial plan to sustain your chosen quality of life.
And while that sounds simple, it really isn’t. Unfortunately, most Americans cannot stake the claim to personal financial savviness as our education system has failed to understand the importance of this topic. Recent studies show that American students spend roughly 1000 hours in school a year until college. Of those 1000 hours, only a few are spent learning about personal financial management, typically in the latter part of high school, if at all.
While learning about the 16th Henry to rule over England might sound interesting, classes on tax filing might be a little more helpful in the long run. Ultimately, financial fluency is an investment in human capital and, to put it simply, our country is not investing enough. 60% of Americans cannot properly calculate interest payments and over a quarter make the minimum payments on their credit cards.
The lack of financial fluency in the United States has several deeply-influencing consequences on our country’s citizens and economy. First and foremost, financially-savvy individuals are more inclined to invest their savings from an early age, allowing them to be better prepared for future expenses and ultimately their imminent retirement. People with a stronger sense of financial fluency set themselves up to sustain their lifestyles and have a higher quality of life for a greater period of time.
By being financially stagnant, you are effectively setting yourself up to miss out on the ever-increasing returns of the market. The opportunity cost of not knowing how to properly manage your money severely outweighs the time needed to achieve a strong level of financial fluency.
As for the effect on the economy, individuals lacking financial fluency are more likely to not organize, nor understand, an effective plan to manage a mortgage on a house. Financial fluency is the key to a strong and sustainable lifestyle. While many people in our country lack a true understanding of finance, this does not have to be the case for everyone. Help yourself and your future dependents by learning now how to effectively manage your personal financial decisions. Every financially literate individual has to start somewhere, so why not start by investing smarter, together?