Thursday, March 13, 2008

There’s no money in teaching people about money

I’ve learned another reason why there is no emphasis in our society to teach personal finance to teens or anyone, for that matter – there’s no money in it! Well, I guess this isn’t true for Suze Orman or Robert Kiyosaki – I need to get that best selling book finished! But generally teaching the basics of personal finance does not a lucrative career make.

You’ll find people out there willing to teach all about insurance and annuities so that you will, in turn, buy some insurance or put money in an annuity. You can even find banks encouraging people to learn about checking accounts. But, as I’m sure some people in the banking industry have figured out, the less people understand about all the fees involved from not managing your checking account properly, the more the bank benefits. $$$

Now who in the credit card industry really wants us to understand – really understand – all the terms and conditions of a credit card agreement? This has become a much bigger issue over the last few years as there has been more and more emphasis on encouraging people to understand what happens if you go into too much debt. However, there’s so much more to know about credit cards than “don’t get into too much debt” –
· What’s the difference between credit cards, charge cards, debit cards, pre-paids?
· Where do you look to find out about all the fees BEFORE you sign up?
· What are all the fees that may take place if I do something wrong?
· What are some of the things that may go wrong?
· What does “No Payments, No Interest” really mean?
· How can I REALLY get my credit report for free?

I have not found anyone who teaches people how to stay organized so bills get paid. I think as a culture we haven’t come to the realization that this is something we don’t know. We still believe that paying bills is a money issue instead of an organizational issue. But that’s a whole other blog topic.

What about explaining what comes out of your paycheck when you get a job? Who would benefit from this knowledge? Obviously the employee, but who else? Pre-tax deductions, how taxes work, 401(k) accounts. Why would anyone take out the time to teach this to your kids? Teachers are already busy teaching stuff that kids need to know to go to college (which unfortunately does not include these topics). People who really understand these topics usually already have a job doing something else. Are they going to quit to do this? I did. But I think I’m the only crazy one out there.

As I lay in bed at 5AM thinking about all the stuff on my schedule – several workshops, networking events, even an appearance on a local cable show – very few of these activities actually pay me anything. So I can see why others who may have considered this path, would quickly scurry over to an alternative route.

But I’m on my mission. My path has been clearly defined and all obstacles have been removed to encourage me to stay on it. And even though the money is slow in coming, I’m sure it’ll be there in time. I tell my friends all the time, “I have the perfect life! Everything is going really, really well, except that we have no money.”