We live in the age of information and big data. As a result, there is no shortage of ways to obtain information about any matter of personal finance. Sometimes the information that you find is relevant and useful, and other times it is outdated and not germane to your topic or need. The problem is recognizing whether the information that you are digesting or acting on is completely applicable to you. An appreciation and understanding for all of the moving parts in your financial life will give better context to all financial decisions.
One of my fondest memories about money as a child was when the local banker actually came into the classroom. Each week, the students who could bring in a dollar and give it to the banker would have that dollar added to their account. Every now and then, we’d also bring our passbooks to school for updating and learn about the concept of interest. (Sorry to those of you who are too young to know about passbook savings accounts.) I can’t say that this early ritual made me the best saver in the world, but it definitely engrained deeply in my subconscious that saving was fun. Somehow make it fun for your kids and teach them some early lessons to last a lifetime.
Everyone has dreams. When the reality wears off that you may not be the next bonus baby to the NBA, you begin to realize that for many dreams there is a financial connection. In addition to Blondie telling rock fans that “Dreaming is Free”, I can tell you that it is also healthy. Without a clear vision of what your dream looks like, you’ll never find it. In the pursuit of dreams, we’ve all done something stupid. Whether it was not buying insurance, betting too much on an investment or tanking a business, stuff happens. These are examples of the most costly of ways to receive your financial education.
Not even the smartest person alive will be flawless in their financial decision making. The best laid plans to get derailed and changed by reality. These realities include life, interest rates, economies, markets, employment, health etc.
A lesson in needs and wants is valuable at any age. Understanding the distinction between needs and wants when it comes to spending is important for those wanting to be fiscally fit. This lesson is also best learned at a young age. The most creative program that I’ve seen for youngsters comes from a local savings bank that has created a Broadway style play for grade school children about good financial habits. It is entertaining, informative and memorable.
If you think that it’s too late for you to learn a few new tricks about anything financial, guess again. I learn something new nearly every day and I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. Financial education is for everyone and making its way into your neighborhood schools. Ask your school superintendent what you can do to help.
John P. Napolitano CFP®, CPA, PFS, MST is Founder and Chairman of Napier Financial in Braintree, MA. Visit napierfinancial.com for more information. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Investment and financial planning advice offered through US Financial Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor.