If your parents neglected to teach you about money, you’re among the 74% of 13-21 year olds who weren’t taught about financial literacy either. Paradoxically, a whopping 75% of Americans consider themselves to be financially savvy. It’s obvious that there’s a major disconnect between our feelings and the reality regarding finances. But this didn’t happen in a vacuum; the process of financial socialization happens through cultural osmosis and deeply affects our perspective on money and overall consumption throughout life. These outside forces may contribute to financial literacy feeling like a mystery, but in actuality, being smart with money is a series of productive habits.
Research shows that there’s a strong association between self-control and smart personal financial decisions. However, our culture promotes consumption for social prestige and platforms like Instagram throw fuel on that fire. For many Americans, the cultural brew we’ve been immersed in can make it difficult to see the connection between self-control and financial literacy. But this skill has a tremendous impact on how much money a person saves, how they handle consumer temptation and even peer pressure. Of course it may suck to say no to an invitation from friends, or avoid buying treats that you enjoy, but as Dr. Amen Ra said, “subjecting yourself to self imposed discipline, is the surest way to increase the quality of your existence.” Good financial habits today are acts of empathy for your future self.
Research indicates that culture plays quite a significant role in financial educational programs. Most of us know that mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, but filing income taxes, investing and basic financial literacy aren’t taught in most schools. But, curiosity is free and it’s a powerful tool for educating yourself about money. Asking questions and researching financial concepts and knowledge is empowering because this widens your scope of understanding and subsequent options. For example, if you were unaware that the 99% can invest in equity crowdfunding as a means to build wealth, this information could open up a whole new financial path for someone who was previously unaware of this option.
Growing up, many of us were taught that “curiosity killed the cat…” but the most important part of the adage is, “and satisfaction brought it back.” Trial and error is how you succeed at any endeavour.
Generally, if something sounds too good to be true, then it might just be. This applies to everything from winning a million dollars from eating McDonald’s fries, to finding a stellar apartment on Craigslist that’s way below average rental prices. A healthy dose of skepticism and common sense can go a long way towards avoiding obvious money traps and building a strong financial future. However, being open about discussing money is necessary to remove our cultural discomfort surrounding the topic, but, don’t forget to examine the sources. Remember the 75% of Americans who consider themselves to be financially savvy, mentioned above? Chances are, most of them haven’t a clue about handling money – would you trust them to teach you about finances? Or investing? Or estate planning? No, and nor should you.
Question what people say about money, then go home and do your own research. Review different sources, ask the people in your network who are either good with money or well versed in the subject matter. Even enrolling in free online courses can provide a rich tapestry of information that can be used to navigate your financial future.
Remember, wealth is merely a byproduct of financial literacy. However, don’t confuse wealth with making money. You can accidentally trip and fall into a pile of cash, but growing it into a position of wealth requires diligence; especially right now as we are all in the same boat. But if we row together, we can navigate these seas of financial uncertainty.