When it comes to what we learn in K-12 schooling, most of us probably wouldn’t claim to have retained all or even the majority of what was taught to us. However, many of us can readily come up with examples of what we didn’t learn. Maybe the most glaring one comes with the complete lack of education on how to build our financial standing. No matter where you start, barring economic collapse, there are sure ways to build your wealth and it starts with simple everyday decisions.
You could very well write volumes of books on how to save and make money on the margins, and many have, but for now let’s start with a few easy-to-provide lessons or classes that everyone will use more than the pythagorean theorem.
Taxes and Economics
One thing most of us have lamented, at least early on in adulthood, is why we weren’t taught how to do our taxes. This year alone, Americans officially left 1.5 billion dollars on the table from not completing their taxes in 2018, as there is a three year expiration on the money. Couple that with people doing their own taxes and being unaware of tax breaks or making mistakes, and we can be sure there’s much more money left on the table. Inputting the wrong information can be the difference between owing thousands or receiving money. That’s a significant sum, especially when you’re just getting started.
Beyond the taxes, is what we do to get us to them every year. While some high schools certainly offer classes on economics, rarely are they framed in a way relative to the student’s everyday life. One concept that is a prime example, is inflation, which is mostly just feared rather than understood. Even the simple lesson that inflation is to be expected and that you have to prepare for it with investments and an income that stays consistent would be more than most come out of school with now.
One economic lesson that savvy consumers would be wise to learn is the concept of use value. Use value encourages you to question the long term impact of your purchases. When you consider the use value of things, it can drastically change your perception on what’s worth your money. Eating out is an easy expense to lament, and when you consider the use value, it makes sense why. Let’s say you spend 60 as a couple at a middle tier restaurant and compare that to a few other options.
Sixty dollars at the grocery store, a concert or excursion, or on a considerable asset like a tool or kitchen appliance, could all be argued as having a higher use value based on a number of things. The grocery store provides more meals and more nutrition, a concert or outdoor excursion could be argued to be more enriching physically and mentally, and an asset like a tool or kitchen appliance could save you time and money in the future. When you lay out how long one purchase will serve you vs. another, it can really put your purchases in perspective. It’s also a way of voting with your dollar. It means you’re choosing to have more benefits and at a lower cost than you would have gotten for more glitzy and easy, impulsive purchases.
Real Home Economics
One of the ways educators could help hammer home the concept of use value is by demonstrating it in a revamped version of Home Economics, with real emphasis on how decisions surrounding the home can affect your finances. The class could even start with purchasing a home, getting it insured, etc; and then you move into the everyday topics and decision making that can help you save money. Home repairs, cooking at home, how to shop for one vs. a family, car care, etc. are all areas of traditional Home Economics that have a rollover effect on your finances. When you can take care of things yourself, they cost you less, and if you’re building the tools to do that from a young age, then your savings can grow exponentially and in accordance with how much you increase your efficiency.
Common Sense In a Complicated World
To some, these classes may seem rudimentary compared to some of our educational priorities. I mean why worry about responsible, everyday decision making when there’s computers to design and science to be done? The answer is that there are very smart people who don’t understand how simple arithmetic and consideration can change their lives and finances for the better, because they’ve never been told. The answer is that there are people living better on 40,000 than others do on 70 because the latter doesn’t accurately assess cost and value. There are potentially simple solutions to making the average American a smarter consumer, and simple lessons like these could be a big step in the right direction.