The Big Lie

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When we were little our parents sent us off to school and told us to study hard. Do your best in Math, English, History, Science, and Spelling. They said a good education would allow us to get a good job and be successful in life. But it wasn’t the whole truth. There was something they never taught us in school that has everything to do with being successful in America and is even more fundamental than all the subjects we studied. Without it, even degrees and piles of cash might still leave us bankrupt.

But it wasn’t the whole truth. There was something they never taught us in school that has everything to do with being successful in America and is even more fundamental than all the subjects we studied. Without it, even degrees and piles of cash might still leave us bankrupt.

There was something they never taught us in school that has everything to do with being successful in America and is even more fundamental than all the subjects we studied. Without it, even degrees and piles of cash might still leave us bankrupt.

I have hundreds of clients who pass through my office each year. Most of them are well-educated and very intelligent individuals. They come from all kinds of backgrounds and they were all told the same thing as kids: do well in school, and you will make money. They believed it. They did get good grades, and they went to good schools; they did their best. But for many of them, the thing they never learned in school has handicapped them throughout their lives. And truthfully, it isn’t their fault.

Just think for a second. Would you be comfortable asking your parents what their current salary is? Would you feel okay asking your coworkers how much is in their 401k or how much they have in debt or savings? If money is SO taboo that you can’t even ask your own family or friends about it, you aren’t likely to leave home knowing much about the subject.

In line with our standard curriculum, we head off to elementary school, and besides telling the difference between a penny and a quarter, do we learn anything about money? The same goes for middle school, and then for high school. To get your diploma do you have to know the difference between a Roth and a Traditional IRA? Do you have to understand interest or pass a test on credit ratings? Do you have to know how to pay a bill and are you tested on compound interest?

The answer is no. Most people don’t learn about money at home, in elementary school, middle school, high school or even college. But when you’re a little kid and buy your first popsicle, you need to know how to navigate money. And if you don’t know, you’re likely to end up paying too much for that popsicle or losing the money you have. And for most people, what happened to the 7-year-old, happens to them when they are 37: they end up paying too much or losing what they have.

“Most people don’t learn about money at home, in elementary school, middle school, high school or even college.”

The big lie is that calculus and diagramming sentences are more important than learning how to count back change. Not too many of us use calculus or diagramming in our adult lives but EVERY single one of us transacts almost every day of our lives, and we continue to do so mostly in the dark.

So let’s start telling the truth. Learning about money and how it works is one of the most fundamental things we need to know to be successful. It isn’t hard to learn and it isn’t hard to teach.

“Learning about money and how it works is one of the most fundamental things we need to know to be successful.”

If you have kids, begin by learning about money yourself. Then, pass that on to your children. Open the conversation. Destroy the taboo. Invite them to ask you questions and find out the answers together. Don’t be ashamed if you feel like you don’t know enough about money. Most everyone around you feels exactly the same; they just can’t mention it. ☺

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