I have, without a doubt, evolved into a financial nerd – Wednesday morning on my way to work my odometer turned “259952” just as I looked down at it. That numeric thrill kept me going for a full day. Take that Fibonacci (a little mathematical reference for my fellow numbers nerds…). The second was perusing the various articles that have popped up recently relating to Americans living paycheck to paycheck, housing costs skyrocketing, and the ever-widening wealth gap. What jumped out at me was the very simple thought that I was relatively alone in my ability to appreciate my little odometer experience because we, as a society, have placed trigonometry as an instructional priority over basic financial education in our schools.
Financial education, or the lack of, can be traced to the heart of nearly all of our human issues, right back to ancient times (and if you don’t believe me, do a little research on the whole last rites / church landownership thing – at least I got something out of that Criminal Justice degree…). More studies than I can count directly link our fear levels to our lack of understanding of the world around us – from “gods” throwing thunderbolts to the current predatory religious practice of “seed faith.” To use a Wizard of Oz metaphor, financial education is like throwing water on our fear witches – they simply can’t survive in the face of knowledge whether it’s knowledge about our budget, about our employment worth, or our ability to pass that knowledge on to those we love.
The unfortunate reality is that the need for financial education is all around us. Understanding your cash flow allows you to avoid late fees, making everything from your cellphone to your car / rent / mortgage payment cheaper. Understanding your investments helps you better cope with the impact of suddenly volatile markets. Better understanding your financial situation allows you to build a strong cash reserve, which then allows you to increase the deductible on your property/casualty insurance, thereby freeing up dollars in your monthly cash flow.
A majority (up to 90%!) of women will be solely responsible for their financial situation at some point in their lives. Without a solid baseline of financial literacy, it’s no wonder that women are the preferred targets for scammers. Taken to a more fantastical level, one could reasonably imagine that a more financially literate population would evaluate the quality of our politicians somewhat differently, particularly in recent years. Americans score a D on financial literacy – we’re not even in the top 10 countries when it comes to financial literacy which could help to explain why our percentage of the global GDP continues to drop.
As women, we can’t always rely on our partners to be there to handle the numbers “stuff” so here’s what I propose – if you have even a modicum of fear about your finances and your financial literacy, consider making a New Year’s resolution to do something about it. I’m not saying overhaul your financial life (unless you feel that’s the best thing to do); I’m saying take a class, read a book, or identify just one thing about your finances that you want to face head-on then give me a call and let’s do it together. There’s strength in numbers (pun intended) and quite honestly, the biggest compliment you could give me is not needing me anymore because you are just fine doing things on your own.
If strength in numbers is your thing, consider attending a class sponsored by the Foundation for Women’s Education, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2014 for just this reason – women can learn together, without sales pushes or judgement, on the financial topics most important to them. Classes and seminars are offered by female financial experts every month – bring a friend and tackle that New Year’s resolution.