Smartphones, video games, expensive energy drinks, and other frivolous items find their way into the hands of young people every day of their lives. As an Investment Management & Wealth Management teacher at a Pennsylvania High School, I regularly experience our young generation fitting the stereotypical model of a consumer in the United States. They want these “necessary” products now and they feel like they can’t live without them. Young people tend to emulate their parents as well as many entertainers and high-profile sports figures when it comes to financial responsibility. Of course, this is certainly not the case with every teenager and their parents. However, we all could do a better job in teaching our children the value of money. For example, my three sons somehow broke the remote for our brand new television we bought just a few weeks ago. Instead of just handing out a punishment, along with a few choice words, I decided to react calmly and tell them that they had to give me the money it would cost to replace it. My oldest son began relentlessly searching for the remote online to find the best price (a good exercise in shopping!). After he found the best deal ($10 brand new and free shipping on eBay), all three of my kids begrudgingly marched upstairs and collected the money. I actually felt like I did the right thing instead of giving them the normal punishment which usually consists of losing an hour or two of video games on the weekend and dealing with the sighs, frowns, and grumbling for the foreseeable future.
Financial literacy has become a vital topic in recent years given the continuous struggles in the economy. Until recently, our children have continuously been brainwashed into thinking that the only way to be successful is to get straight A’s in all academic courses such as Math, Science, Social Studies, and English. While these courses are obviously important, as is achieving good grades, it does not necessarily translate into financial success. There have been many stories about athletes, entertainers, and even our friends and relatives who generate a large income from their jobs, but have nothing to show for it except a large amount of debt. They are not wealthy and are living paycheck to paycheck. There are also many book-smart students who achieve success in high school and college, but are ignorant when it comes to managing their finances. Furthermore, I find it interesting that many millionaires in this country were average students throughout their years in school. However, they knew how to prepare a budget, live within their means, build an emergency fund, and invest wisely.
I recently published a book through Amazon.com entitled ‘The Early Investor (How Teens & Young Adults Can Become Wealthy)’. It discusses many of the issues mentioned above along with topics such as Stock, Bond, & Mutual Fund Basics, 401ks, IRAs, Managing Your Investments, and more. Additionally, you can purchase the book and learn about financial literacy through BecomeAnEarlyInvestor.com. 10% of all profits are donated to the Save the Children Foundation.
Let’s take the lead as parents and teach our kids the fundamentals of financial literacy and responsibility. It is a wonderful gift we can give them that will last a lifetime and will certainly pay off (no pun intended) in their futures.
Mike Zisa, Financial Literacy Educator & Author