“Financial fitness is not a pipe dream or a state of mind. It’s a reality if you are willing to pursue it and embrace it.” ~ Will Robinson
Bills. Debts. Payments. Interest rates. Cash flow. Income. Expenses. Student loans. Bank loans. Credit cards. Taxes.
Those words have the ability to make people cringe. Finances and how to handle them are no longer taught in schools. I recall learning this important life skill in a class at school. I also learned a lot from my mother. As a single-parent, single income family, she had to learn to budget and thrift and save. She passed those skills along; I now pass them along to my children.
All of my children homeschooled off-and-on for different grades, and differing reasons. One of my daughters, with the exception of kindergarten, was completely homeschooled. As one of her high school classes, we focused on “Life Skills.”
She had to determine what type of job she was interested in, searching the want ads for listings. She then had to actually contact the job listing, explain that she was a student and, as part of her assignment, was required to complete a job interview. Putting together a resume was part of the assignment. Completing the interview, including choosing appropriate clothing and filling out the application was also required.
She was able to learn the rate of pay for the type of work that interested her during her interview including benefits and then proceeded with the assignment. Learning how to calculate her weekly and bi-weekly pay, included estimating taxes. How to select a bank account and checking account was next on the list. Then we got down to the nitty gritty.
We discussed renting versus owning and she was able to look at apartment ads and calculate her rent and whether (or what) utilities were included. Contact with the utility companies to determine what deposits would be required and what the projected monthly payment would be for the area in which she was looking was her next step. Of necessity, the housing would need to be near her job as she didn’t yet have a car (that was coming).
Next on the list after housing and utilities was looking for a car. She really enjoyed pricing different cars until we went to the bank and she discussed loan options with the bank and learned about interest. We also covered the cost of licensing and registering a vehicle as well as obtaining insurance.
All of this covered the course of a year. The first month was spent on the job search. The second month was spent on housing, and the third on car shopping. The fourth month, being December, we discussed budgeting money for gifts in addition to living expenses, since Christmas was an actual event in her virtual world of learning life skills. In January, we threw in having to prepare taxes. February we started with how to invest by learning the differences between stocks, bonds, money market accounts, savings, and annuities. She was told to choose several stocks from the NYSE and follow them for the month, charting the gains and losses based on a minimal investment.
By March, she had been calculating living expenses and taxes for 6 months. It was time to throw in the art of meal planning and budgeting for groceries. She became a sale ad aficionado for the grocery stores, comparing prices, looking for sales and cutting coupons. This was probably the most exciting month for me as her teacher — we did a lot of cooking and batch freezing of meals.
April brought with it the anticipated virtual tax return. While minimal for a first-time employee, she had to determine what to do with the money. By this point, based on everything she had learned so far, she decided to save part, invest part and spend a small part. Finally, the year came to a close, and in May she wrote a paper about the importance of life skills to a young high school student. This was probably the highlight of my homeschool career, and she remembers that year well and is highly successful as a wife, mother and nurse manager. Even now as we discuss things, she shakes her head in amazement at how little young people know about financial fitness.
Last night, I had a discussion with my youngest daughter. We have several unexpected expenses that have arisen. Her father has made noise about helping pay for medical and college expenses but the noise has never evolved into action, nor do I expect it to do so. While she’s no longer homeschooled, I have made no secret about our expenses and she is learning to thrift, use coupons, special offers, discounts and rewards programs as well.
Financial fitness . . . do you have it?