Please Teach How Money Works

Roughly 50 years ago, I thought it would be fun to play the guitar.  Twelve weeks ago I decided to take lessons.  The instructor has pointed out that my knowledge of music structure is near zero and I may not become intuitive in either creating or even playing.  I can live with that because success with the guitar is a pleasure not a necessity.

Had I taken formal instruction in the beginning, even if I did not continue to use it, success today would be easier and likely more comprehensive.

How about math?  I use that and I have methods that are intuitive that I must have learned at one time or another.  I don’t recall a lot of detail, but the process is there.  If I had been required to learn math by trial and error, (adaptive management if you don’t like the idea of error,) I would struggle with even simple ideas like quadratic equations or probability chains.

I can show the Pythagorean theorem geometrically and in trigonometry terms, because someone taught it.  I know about metaphor and simile and onomatopoeia and irony because someone taught it.  I am sure these are good to know but I use them seldom.

Has anyone taught you, in school, about money and finance?  Do you know what money is for, how to get it, and where it first came from?  Do you know how to do a budget or assess mortgage terms?  Could you calculate the monthly saving required to replace the spendable value of 30% of your current pretax income at retirement? Assume inflation, yield, taxation and probability of living long enough to spend it.

I am not sure the details would matter to everyone, but I am sure that knowing that it could be done, leads to having a little insight into the process and that insight informs intuition.  The ability to get it right without knowing how exactly.  The ability to see the need. 

People who have been exposed to financial solutions are vastly more skeptical of government and other financial nonsense.  They stay on track without working through all the details.

Learning financial and money matters by experience is inefficient and expensive.  Formal education would be an asset.  The subject is not intellectually difficult and the payback is potentially very large.  Other priority subjects are dubious on the payback count.

Like the guitar.  Playing “Heart of Gold” is supposed to be easy but it is not if you begin to learn at the wrong time.  Muscle memory is zero, flexibility is poor, strength is only fair and for some reason my ring finger is stupid.  I think if I had learned to read simple music, understood the idea of a chord and learned some elementary physical skills long ago, I would not be having the trouble now.

It does not matter much with the guitar.  It might with money.  Think about how to catch up and/or teach your children or maybe clients.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario. Contact: 

One Comment on “Please Teach How Money Works

  1. I have long worried about the lack of financial literacy in school curriculums. Everyone agrees that the need for financial literacy is critical particularly in a consumer obsessed world where there are too many choices and too many opportunities to make a wrong decision, but very little progress has been made. My youngest is about to graduate high school and neither son can recall any real discussion about how money works throughout their education. That’s not good for our youth or for the economy in general. My kids are lucky. We talk about money on a regular basis but that’s not the case in many homes. I don’t believe that the problem is about developing more resources. Many exist. The problem is more about how to deliver and there’s no question in my mind that the answer is by utilizing technology and providing e-blended learning in the classroom to a generation that has grown up using technology for everything else . I’ve written more about this subject here

    Let’s just get it done already

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