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Young people need more financial literacy education

Editorial by

SETH DUKES

Newsroom Coordinator


When my mother was pregnant with me, she thought I was going to be a girl. Being a big Rod Stewart fan, she already had a name picked out for me: Maggie May. I’m glad I didn’t end up as Maggie May Dukes because I feel like I would have been obligated to just wear a cowboy hat and boots 24 hours a day based on my name alone. Perhaps I would have turned into a country music star.

I was never as big of a Rod Stewart fan as my mom was, but he did perform a cover of the song “Ooh La La” by Faces, a song that I’ve always enjoyed. The song has a famous chorus line that goes, “I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger.”

It’s an interesting thought experiment, wondering what life would be like if you were wiser when younger. It’s a subject I’ve actually thought about a lot.

If I could take a time machine back to become 18-year-old Seth, the very first thing I’d do is go and start an IRA. I know, pretty boring, but that’s one of the biggest regrets I have. I think that both in my youth and today, kids and young adults don’t get enough financial literacy education. I had no idea what a 401k was until I got my first “big boy” job, and I didn’t fully understand it until even later in life.

A lot of my peers have no prospect of retirement. They have no idea how or when they’re going to stop working. A lot of them are a lot smarter than I am, but no one taught them how to save or grow their money when they were younger.

Many people, myself included, could have been in infinitely better financial situations to date had we been educated on the most basic of financial principals at a young age. How do I get the most out of my extra money and savings? How much money should I put aside for an emergency? How and when should I get out of debt?

People make a boat load of money selling this information, usually to people who are already in deep trouble financially. In reality, this information should be pushed onto young people so that basic financial advice is not a profitable industry. I don’t expect teachers to teach students about options trading, but simple concepts should be a part of the core of a good education.

Talking about finances makes a lot of people really uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t. Despite what the pop moguls of today want you to think, most people don’t think less of you because you aren’t rich. In today’s society, lots of people are rich and have done nothing to earn that money, and lots of people are poor who have done nothing to deserve that depravity. If someone judges you based solely on your financial situation, then they aren’t worth having in your life anyway.

I challenge parents, educators and mentors to talk to young people about finances. You could be the catalyst that changes their life for the better.