The education system in the USA is flawed. That’s right, I said it.
My mother has been a teacher in New Jersey my whole life. I was engrained in education and finance as the son of a teacher and financial advisor. I now see how far removed those two professions are from each other.
The education system is meant to educate, teach, and prepare children for the real world. Many graduate high school and start their lives, jobs, and families soon after. Many kids move on to college. They choose majors that funnel them toward a career. A large number go from college to graduate school as they hone in on their future craft.
Our education system focuses on reading, writing, math, science and history, just to name a handful of the amazing topics we enlighten children on. We turn them into adults, but we forget critical things required for people to be prepared for a new life and journey.
1. We forget to teach about money.
What we spend almost zero time doing is preparing young adults for the real world when it comes to money. Sure, they can take a finance class. They can see the grand scale of how money works, to an extent. But the lack of instruction on the basics they will face in adult society is frankly unacceptable.
2. We don’t talk about healthcare or protecting oneself early enough.
Many who start their careers after high school have no idea what it means to select employee benefits — what health plans to choose, what a 401k is, how much to contribute, what life and disability options they need to pick, and more.
Growing up in the house of a financial advisor, these were things I digested at an early age. I may not have understood them then, but the repetition on financial preparation was something that made more and more sense as I got older. My craft became working in the financial services arena. I would practice all I preached. I was amazed at the amount of smart, successful people I would meet who had no idea what they had, what they needed, and what they should do. They were young, they thought they would live forever, and that they could worry about it later.
3. We need to teach them to think like financial advisors.
Later in life, when I was diagnosed with brain cancer at age 39 clarity set in. I was the shoemaker whose kids HAD SHOES. All the planning and preparation I had done allowed me to focus on the fight at hand, brain cancer, and avoid regret and resentment. I knew regardless of the outcome my family was financially taken care of. Every speech I gave on planning throughout my career, I learned was about me. What if I wasn’t born into this industry? What if it wasn’t my career?
The U.S. Education System should have requirements to explain what benefit options to take advantage of once they get in the real world. Our young adults need to be taught to think like financial advisors.
The ripple effect that the lack of planning can create is mind-blowing. Having the education to check the right boxes, to understand what you’re getting into or staying out of, and knowing that, at the deepest and darkest of times, you did all you could to protect your family, are truly ways to be prepared to enter the workforce.
With more education and frank talk, as our young adults build wealth, they’ll be prepared when things are bad. Prior to that, it is up to us to change the education system to include teaching the basics of financial planning and employee benefits. We owe it to our future generations.