The (Totally Unfair) Secret Advantage of the 1% — and How to Level the Field

174

Want to know why the top 1% of Americans are super rich and why the gap keeps getting wider and wider between them and the rest of us?

It’s because money is a competitive sport and they know the rules — and then they teach them to their children at an early age.

That’s not fair.

When I was growing up, I was a pretty good student. I got decent grades in Math, English, and Science, though I was certainly lacking talent in the Art and Music departments. But there was one subject that I didn’t master. I didn’t even get the basics down. In fact, I was never even taught it.

That subject was Finance (aka “Wealth Creation”).

How to Invest in Real Estate While Working a Full-Time Job

Many investors think that they need to quit their job to get started in real estate. Not true! Many investors successfully build large portfolios over the years while enjoying the stability of their full-time job. If that’s something you are interested in, then this investor’s story of how he built a real estate business while keeping his 9-5 might be helpful.

Click Here For Your Free ebook

A Lack of Education

I blame my lack of structured financial education squarely on the Maryland Public School System (I’m from a small town called Clarksville, MD). They gave millions of students, including myself, a crippling disadvantage in entering the workforce. I blame that system — and every single leader in our education system — for the incredible head start you gave to the private school children, including the sons and daughters of the 1%, who were taught core financial concepts that were reinforced throughout their childhoods.

Related: 6 Lessons My Work Life Has Taught Me About Managing Finances

It has taken me years of self-study to develop any semblance of understanding on personal finance. I shouldn’t have had to do that on my own time. You should have taught me.

I graduated from high school not having been taught the following:

  • What “investing” actually means
  • How to balance a checkbook
  • How to prepare taxes
  • How to set up a brokerage/retirement/checking account
  • How to calculate ROI
  • How to apply for a loan
  • Pretty much everything else related to money

Like it or not, in our capitalist society, food, shelter, transportation, wealth, and power stem largely from one thing: money. The fact that we don’t absolutely mandate the education of all things money through the duration of our children’s schooling is totally mind-boggling. Apparently, I’m supposed to compete in the economy to earn money and build a portfolio for the duration of my life with zero formal preparation.

What is the purpose of education? To prepare children to contribute to society? To prepare them to take care of themselves? To prepare them to further industry? What is the single most important thing that they can learn (aside from basic forms of communication and mathematics)?

Finance.

The Importance of Starting Young

I also want to point out that it’s an open secret that human beings learn best at an early age. Try teaching people to speak English at ages 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, and 24 — I’ve got a good guess as to which individual from that list is going to speak the language more like a native.

Or look at our famous athletes. Yes, some of them are naturally, beautifully, and outrageously talented. But even among that select group, even with athletes that win the genetic lottery, I’d bet that they still might not have be able to perform at that pinnacle of athletic prowess had they not started practicing and playing at an early age.

Here’s a surprise (read: not actually a surprise): 60-70% of NFL players played pop-warner football at an early age. The NBA, MLB, NHL, etc. exhibit similar patterns. Yes, there are exceptions, but I’d argue that professional athletes who pick up their trade later in life, even past the ages of just 12-13, are just that: incredible exceptions — and not the rule.

Early education is just as important with finance. Wealthy children are some of the only ones to play this “sport” starting very young in life, yet we all have to play it for the duration of our lives. 60% of the Forbes 400 come from “substantial privilege” — funny how that is remarkably close to the number of NFL players that started young.

The article that provided the data on the Forbes 400 calls these “self-made” aristocrats “the hallucinating rich.” I think that’s a little harsh, but it certainly seems that, even if these tycoons didn’t inherit their net worth, they inherited their parents’ wealth of knowledge on the subject of making and investing money — which is just as valuable and just as rare.

So, what’s my point here?

Assuming that we’ve agreed upon the paramount importance of the study of money and on the incredible statistical advantages of early education on success in a given field, the next question is this:

How can we remedy educational inequality and give every child a chance to compete fairly with the children of the 1% in terms of financial literacy?

The answer is very simple: We have to mandate education of this subject to the children in our public schools.

Even a lousy financial education would have set me up to compete in the economy better than my excellent education in subjects like advanced biology, calculus, chemistry, literature, history, art, etc. How is this missed? I truly don’t understand: Why is this critical component of our children’s education missing?

Having researched and debated this topic extensively, there seems to be three reasons that finance is not taught in any material fashion at public schools. Just in case you weren’t able to infer my opinion on the subject already,  I think these reasons are silly and hope that you aren’t surprised that I attempt to systematically dismantle the logic behind them.

3 Reasons to NOT Teach Finance (With Rebuttals)

Reason Number 1: “It’s the Parent’s Job to Teach Finance!”

I’ve often heard it suggested that Financial Education is the job of parents, not schools. In my opinion, that is a ludicrous proposition. Think about this: 40% of American households will never exceed $10,000 in net worth. How the heck can these parents who have never and will never master basic finance give their kids a competitive education in this field? Are you kidding me?

I don’t have the stats on this one (I tried!), but how many parents have the capability to pass a basic personal finance course? How many can teach an advanced course? Are you telling me that those are the people that are supposed to teach children about money?

The shame of it all is that the children of the financially illiterate will one day be forced out into the real world to compete with the children of the 1%, children who were given a lifelong education on the study of money by experts (assuming that you agree with me on the definition of “expert” being “someone in the top 1% of his/her field”). Who do you think is going to win in a life-long wealth-creation competition — and by a wider and wider margin with each passing generation?

It’s not fair.

If we can’t expect parents to teach their children to read, do arithmetic, or teach science, history, or language, then it is ridiculous to ask them to teach their children a subject that is arguably even more important AND that they’ve never learned themselves!

Reason Number 2: “Finance Will Bore Our Kids to Tears!”

I’ve also heard that there are some people out there who think that finance is boring, that it is a study children might not enjoy, and that they might not comprehend. I have a much simpler rebuttal to that point:

Too bad.

A lot of kids don’t like ANY courses in school. We make them take those classes anyway, even if they don’t like them, aren’t good at them, or don’t understand them at all. That’s because we believe that these are important. Well, what about money matters? How can they not be at or near the top of the list of subjects we consider critical to our children’s development into effective citizens?

I’m not suggesting that other subjects aren’t important, but I am suggesting that we squeeze them, shorten them, or otherwise give finance just as much priority, if not make it a central focus of our childrens’ education, just like language, math, and science.

Reason Number 3: “Finance in Schools Just Isn’t Feasible!”

The last dismissal of personal finance in public schools I’ve heard is that implementing system change is nearly impossible. Apparently, there will just be too much controversy over curriculum development, a lack of teachers qualified to teach the subject matter, and a bureaucracy with too much red tape to cut through for serious change to be worth it. I think that these arguments are amazingly simpleminded.

First of all, finance is not a controversial subject. It’s just not.

Here are a few subjects that are actually controversial:

Try telling me that your interpretation of sound financial strategy vs. mine is going to be more controversial than the subjects above. I don’t believe you. Finance all comes down to Earnings, Expenses, and Investments. The strategies involved in mastering each of those categories are just that — strategies — and can be taught without bias much more easily than history, language, or even science in many cases.

Second, finance curriculums have already been produced; there are dozens of courses out there already, and I’d argue that even a bad financial course is a huge improvement over no course at all! Luckily, we don’t have to choose from bad courses.

Here are three courses that teach basic personal finance that are AWESOME, and FREE (sorry, I’m a Coursera fanboy!):

Are you telling me that a professional educator, someone who has spent years studying childhood development, can’t alter the material in these courses in less than a year to make them worthwhile for children of all ages? The best part of all this is that because we have “the internet,” every teacher in the country can learn the material remotely prior to delivering it to children in the classroom.

Finally, there’s the bureaucracy argument. Admittedly, the school system and teachers’ unions can be an obstacle to implementing change. I think that this one comes down to making the issue a priority. It’s simple laziness to blame this on the bureaucrats.

Related: 10 Things Only Personal Finance Nerds Would Understand

If you are on BiggerPockets, you understand the importance of financial education, but you might be surprised to hear that the rest of America agrees! Time magazine reports that a staggering 99% of Americans believe that personal finance should be taught in high school. That’s it right there, folks: the people want it. They just don’t want it bad enough. I hope that this article makes even just a handful of you want it a little more.

Conclusion

Income Inequality is a massive problem in the United States. I fundamentally believe that. I think that it becomes a huge societal problem when too much power is concentrated in the hands of too few. Further, I don’t believe that income inequality is caused by people getting paid too much (though some are) or because sleazy bankers are screwing the rest of the country (that’s part of life; get used to it).

No, the fundamental problem causing the widening income gap in the United States is this:

99% of us don’t know the first thing about basic money management. We don’t create the wealth that the 1% do because we weren’t taught how.

If you were taught finance, and you weren’t born into privilege, it’s probably because you taught yourself — though I’m certain there are many parents out there that did a fine job in spite of limited means. If you did teach yourself, you are at a HUGE disadvantage to the children of the 1%!

The mistakes they made decades earlier than you and the knowledge they possess from years of being around finance and wealth creation give them a very measurable advantage… which perpetuates to make an even larger compounding difference in the next generation!

That is simply not fair. Everybody deserves to start life with the same opportunity to access that knowledge and experience.

There is some good news though: this is a very correctable problem. Are you ready for the long-term solution to income inequality?

Here it is: Teach Finance.

What do you think: Should finance finally be added to school curriculums? If you disagree, I’d love to hear your argument!

Don’t forget to leave a comment below with your thoughts, opinions, arguments, support, etc.!

About Author

Scott Trench

A longtime fan of BiggerPockets and a Real Estate Investor managing his first property, Scott is the company’s Director of Operations. BiggerPockets is a BIG website, and Scott’s background in finance and big data analysis will be instrumental in the next phases of company growth and in helping to bring the resources of BiggerPockets to more investors worldwide. Scott is passionate about helping others build wealth and serving his community in whatever ways he can. In his spare time, Scott enjoys skiing, biking, and cooking, and he is a lifelong rugger.

174 Comments

  1. I’ll admit I did some scanning here just now – but can you just give the Cliff Notes version of what it is that is unfair? Actually I think you wrote “totally unfair”. And why it is unfair?

    Proper parenting consists entirely in teaching and preparing the child to be separate from the parents. With the end goal of that separation being the production of a fully functioning and independent person.

    I don’t think the kind of ‘finance’ that you mean can be taught academically as it is a mindset and a lifestyle of habits which cannot be easily, if at all, conveyed in an academic setting.

    stephen
    ————-

    .

    • Scott Trench

      Stephen – I hope that you decide to read the full article. I describe education inequality (education with respect to wealth creation) as unfair.

      I believe that it is “totally unfair” that children of parents who emphasize wealth creation education are better prepared to be financially successful than those who don’t get the same upbringing.

      • Pierre Streat

        Couldn’t agree with you more here Scott. I am one of those now playing catch up to the 1% because I was not taught basic financial skills at home or in school. School prepares you to be an employee not an employer. Chances are I probably will not catch up to my 1% friends who are generations ahead of me but it is good to know that my children will be way better off when they reach my age. Great article.

        • Jay Ritchie

          Look back at the history and sociology of education in this country and others and you will see that this is in fact how and why the schools were designed. Even the time structure was selected to mirror/train for future employment.

      • Dale Plant

        I disagree with Stephen point that these things cannot be taught in a academic setting. I also disagree with Scott’s contention that it is unfair. Do we consider it unfair that a carpenter, mechanic or plumber passes on their skills and aptitudes to their children?

        I will qualify this point by saying that I believe that financial literacy should be part of the school curriculum from an early age. The benefits to the individual and society as a whole would be immeasurable.

        I feel that schools can lay a foundation by exposing children to the basics and the value of money and helping them form action plans where they establish goals and implement measures to reach those goals.

        Couple that with the mechanics of finance such as setting up savings accounts or applying for loans (home economics) would be a great start.

      • Garrison Householder

        Saying that the financial acumen of the 1% is “totally unfair” is like saying it’s unfair that Steph Curry is better at basketball than you are. As though because Curry’s dad taught him how to shoot properly and yours didn’t and then the school system didn’t pick up the slack in basketball education that means now that he’s making millions in the NBA and you’re not it’s “totally unfair”? You’re greatly diminishing the fact that, like Curry, it took natural talent, lessons from parents and family, and then years of hard work, like shooting 500 3-pointers a day, in order for most in the 1% to get where they are.

        I bet that putting “the 1%” and “unfair” in your headline got a whole bunch of clicks though, so kudos.

        • Jim Han

          The author used “Unfair” … actually “Totally Unfair”…. to draw in readers and comments.
          However, many of the points are valid. Teaching children basic finances would be a better use of time than “what is a dangling participle?” You will uses finance education ten thousand more times than the dangling participle.

          With that said, public education is designed to make you a good worker, not to make you financially independent. So until the entire education system is re-vamped to develop value creators instead of servants, it is a mute point.

        • Paul MacInnis

          Garrison – financial literacy for youth and shooting 3-pointers are not at all comparable.
          One is 100% necessary if you hope to build wealth for yourself and the other is obviously irrelevant for most of the planets population.

          The article that Scott wrote simply outlines the fact that there is significant resistance to implementing financial literacy courses in schools…not sure that’s arguable?

    • Susan Maneck

      Stephen and Scott,

      We may not be able to teach everyone how to do become part of the 1%. If we could they wouldn’t be the 1% anymore. And let’s face it, the 1% weren’t just taught how to handle money, most of them were given money to start them on their way. Donald Trump was given a 40 million dollar share of his father’s company when he was made president. That was before he inherited anything. However, we certainly can teach young people how not to be part of that 40% with virtually no savings at all. I teach a historically black university where students are burdened with a plethora of general education courses in an apparent attempt to make up what they didn’t learn in high school. Surely they can forgo an art or music appreciation to take a course in home economics, no not the old kind that taught cooking and sewing, but one that actually teaches the basics of economics so these students don’t fall prey to predatory lending . I tell my students, “You don’t want to stay poor. Don’t drink. Don’t do drugs. Don’t rent furniture.”
      I am an employee, a government employee at that and proud of it. I never aspired to be anything but a college professor and I spent half my life preparing to do just that. I got into real estate investing, partly because of the opportunity, and partly because I realize I am approaching the end of my working life. While I was fine living off a government salary, relying on a government pension didn’t appeal to me.
      What I hope for my students, is not so much that they become part of the 1% but that they buy one of those houses that I get for 35K and rent for $850. If they want to invest in real estate fine, but for me they will be a success if they get one of those houses to live in, and stop paying rent. If they learn to get their furniture at the Good Will or Salvation Army until they can afford to pay cash for new stuff. If they establish checking accounts at credit unions which pay interest instead of paying fees just to cash their pay checks. If they learn to keep track of their credit scores, and know how to improve them. Yes, these are things that can be taught in a classroom, as well as more complicated stuff like the rule of 72 (which my son could explain when he was six years old), how to establish a small business, etc. There is a great little book written in the midst of the recession entitled *How the Poor Can Save Capitalism.* I’d like it to be required reading at my university.

  2. Scott, another great article…one which is very sad but true I might add..I had to teach myself about finance as well and totally agree that the schools don’t prepare the average student for succeeding financially in the real world…keep the articles coming..the last one you did on wholesaling was superb

  3. Curtis Bidwell

    Scott, Great thoughts in your article. I couldn’t agree more that financial education must begin early. The limits of my financial education through my schooling years was limited to writing checks and balancing a checkbook. I think they assumed if you learned math you could figure the rest of it out. So, yes, I agree the school system should do more. However, I’ve never assumed it was the school system’s responsibility to educate my children in any discipline. It is the parent’s responsibility. Sometimes we delegate portions of their education to the public or private education systems, but ultimately the responsibility lies square on the parent’s shoulder to fill the gaps (and correct the misinformation!).

    I hit on some of this in my recent podcast interview (#95). We taught our children informally at home through many discussions, open communication about household and investor finances and creative ways to make things happen. Then we took it a step further to engage them in business activities. These were things they asked to do and we gave them permission, opportunity and guidance. They ran businesses and had to learn how to communicate with customers, determine the value of their product/service, handle their finances, and not overspend their profits. We guided them so they would experience some ‘wins’, giving them confidence to do more. Sometimes they lost money, but those were learning experiences that helped motivate them to be wiser and plan more carefully. We engaged business people in their lives that could give insight, encouragement and guidance.
    Experience is the best teacher when accompanied by solid mentors.

    • Scott Trench

      Curtis – thank you for your reply. The fundamental thing that my article argues against is the concept that it is “the parents responsibility”. I completely understand that you are more than capable of educating your children on finance. What about the other children without financially literate parents? What about the rest of society?

      In my opinion, it’s “totally unfair” that the child of a single mother with no financial background will one day have to compete with your child in a capitalist society. Who will be that child’s mentor?

      Obviously this is not an attempt to discredit you! I think that your approach to teaching your children about finance and wealth creation is something to be admired. I simply think that it is a shame that other children don’t get the same advantages that yours will.

      • Curtis Bidwell

        Sorry Scott, I just can’t let that go! As soon as you conceive a child you have inherited a responsibility to do what is in that child’s best interest until they become independent of you. It is no one else’s responsibility, it is yours. To assume a government system can do better than an actual parent is ludicrous and societally risky. Look at the great success of The Projects, or how many fewer people are on government aid today versus 50 years ago. The beauty of our system is that parents get to choose what they value for their kids. Not everyone values financial independence. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s a choice. To abrogate your responsibility to a system that certainly can’t control its own finances (check the growth of debt over the past 6years), or do much of anything efficiently is to relegate the future of our nation to the least common denominator – not excellence, creativity or wealth expansion. I’m all for improving financial education, but I will never “blame that system — and every single leader in our education system” for not making my priorities their own.

        • Sorry Curtis, I can’t let that go, The same way parents cannot teach sciences , they won’t be able to teach how to run a business or improve financial knowledge, ROI, cash slow, etc…,
          It’s ridiculus to ask a parent to provide knowledge and education that he does not have.
          Parents are to provide and support Morals, help kids choose their path,, make the best choices. Not teach academic knowledge.
          Schools puspose is not choosing what to teach or not, or tell you what to do , they should provide knowledge , then it;s up to you what to do with that knowledge, agree with it or not.

          If your interest is to help your child to become independent from you, then by choosing what your child learns or not is actually making her dependent from you. he will be limited by what you want from him.
          For me You can do whatever you want with your kids education, but as a public school system I am totally against that idea.

          The Projects have nothing to do with school, and providing knowledge.

          Good schools tell us to think with our own minds , even discuss and confront theories that are considered truth but who knows, maybe are not .
          The more knowledge the better.

          I only expect someone to be against schools teaching this if they have political or idealogical reasons. in that case then you have home school as solution.

          The biggest risk is when groups, government , parents, religions decide what to tell people….
          I do not see providing knowledge a risk, specially when that knowledge presents several theories and make you think about options.

          Conspiracy Theory: Is there anyone that thinks who is against this, is someone that does only want that knowledge for himself and their “network”?
          I still hear some people saying rich people have better brains and are better managers…:)

          PS: If parents were choosing what to teach or not, maybe we would be still saying The Earth is square.

          Cheers

        • Scott Trench

          Curtis – I agree with you on a fundamental level. I am totally for completely allowing parents to determine the welfare of their children and to give them choice. My views are extremely freedom oriented ideologically, and parents should have the right to teach their children whatever they damn well please!

          That said, I also believe in practicality. Currently, our system mandates that the majority of our children go to public schools, schools where children are forced to take classes that have little bearing on their success in society (in my view), and where the parents have little oversight.

          Given the current system, I say that you might as well teach ’em finance instead of the other subjects which in my view have less bearing on children’s societal success.

        • Frankie Woods

          This is one of my favority comments: “If parents were choosing what to teach or not, maybe we would be still saying The Earth is square.” Priceless! I agree that it’s the parents should have the primary responsibility over their children; but in all honesty, there are many indiviudals who have no business having them. So to me, if you don’t provide the opportunity at school, it’s almost like double jeopardy. Let’s not punish the son/daughter for the mistakes of his/her father/mother.

  4. Jerry Kisasonak

    I know there’s a lot of people who think teaching about money is the parent’s job and not the school’s. I don’t believe that financial matters should be left to be taught by parents because it is obvious that many of them don’t have a clue either. But just like the stock market wasn’t created to make stockholders money – it was created by business owners to raise capital – schools aren’t designed to teach students how to become wealthy – they teach people how to be skilled enough to make a decent living as an employee working in someone else’s business.
    The system is rigged. I believe that if someone really wants to study wealth they will, and, in doing so they will find their way out. It is sort of a game. The wealthy say to themselves, “If someone really has a strong enough desire to find the doorway out they will – and that is the rite of passage.” Personally, I agree with that. If you really want it, go get it! Don’t expect someone to keep throwing it in your face.

    • Scott Trench

      Jerry – I agree with your last point – “if you really want it, go get it!” However, that’s true in any field. The best competitor in the field will always find a way to win. I think that the real problem isn’t that people don’t want it, but that people aren’t taught it.

      The school system shouldn’t teach children to become billionaires necessarily, but it SHOULD teach them the skillset that they could apply to become wealthy. An education system that produces skilled wealth creators would at least allow true competition, and prevent wealthy families from forming dynasties that pass wealth and power seamlessly through the generations.

      • Ashley Harrison

        I totally agree with Jerry. The system is rigged. Its a revolving door. The education system is sponsored by and dependent on the donations of the wealthy. It is in the wealthy’s best interest to make sure schools do not teach the masses the skills it takes to become wealthy and in return the wealthy get a constant crop of potential employees year after year and the schools get their donations.

        • Brandon McCombs

          If the wealthy are able to rig the system to ensure new generations of wealthy people aren’t created in order to ensure the existing wealthy populace continues to get wealthier then how do you explain the fact that people newly wealthy every year? Do you explain it by considering those people outliers who can beat the system? But then again, aren’t those who become wealthy in the first place by using their intelligence, risk taking ability, ingenuity, motivation, and work ethic by definition outliers who don’t rely on others to teach them but rather will figure it out on their own?

          Also, there are hundreds of state sponsored universities and colleges in the US. By definition they aren’t 100% dependent on wealthy contributors. Also by definition the wealthy represent a very small percentage of the population which is not offset by the fact they can make larger donations. This is why students pay tuition. Donations help but they aren’t the only source.

  5. Scott,

    I agree with Curtis. I believe our education system is accomplishing exactly what it was designed to do…produce workers not entrepreneurs. I, like you, didn’t receive much financial training in school or at home. However, in my humble opinion, the quality of education is a burden that rests solely on the shoulders of parents. I’m not saying that the parent has to have all the answers. They are the leaders and just like a good leader they must make sure that the ones they lead are set up for success.

    I’m reminded of an interview with Dr. Ben Carson. His mother had basically no education at all. She was poor and illiterate, but did not let that stop her from making sure that her boys received the best education she could give. Just like a true entrepreneur, she found a way despite her own shortcomings.

    While I agree that the education needs to be reformed I believe that the real education starts at home.

    • Scott Trench

      Kevin I believe that parents can and should have the impact you describe on their children’s educations. I think you describe a select group of entrepreneurial people that have a very strong willpower. That said, I believe that parents that go above and beyond to give their kids the best financial education are an exception – not the rule.

      In my view, a good system is one where the people are interchangeable and the system still produces the intended result. Relying on individual efforts of parents seems like a poor choice for a system where millions of families are no longer “traditional” and where most families don’t have a strong financial background. I think that to improve the system, we need to produce individuals in masse that have the capability to compete. To produce these individuals in masse with our current system, we have to change the curriculum in schools.

      • Kevin Edwards

        I agree to some extent with what your saying, but the problem isn’t just them system itself. I think a basic financial education should be more of a focal point in our education system, but anything beyond that is dangerous in my opinion. I only say that because when you get into entrepreneurship and investing wouldn’t you want that being taught by people that both understand and have experienced both? I wouldn’t want to attend shop class with a teacher that has never done any kind of woodworking or a class on mechanics with someone who hasn’t worked on a car. They would just be teaching theory. I have friends that are in the education field and, no offense to them, they aren’t equipped to teach my children on some of the basic financial aspects of life. The reality is that the majority of these teachers that are in charge of educating our children are also the parents that aren’t equipped to teach their own children about finance.

        I would love to come up with some grand solution to this issue myself. Maybe someone smarter than I am can come up with something viable. However, in the mean time, I can only take responsibility for my children and try to help as many people as I can personally. Thanks for such a great post that is spurning on a much needed discussion!

  6. Scott

    I understand your point. However you are presenting it in a socialist fashion. There is no such thing as income inequality. The wealthy people are wealthy because of many variables, but majority is because of hard work somewhere along the way. And just because they are wealthy doesn’t mean that can’t loose it all, because many have. And going to a private school doesn’t give someone more of an advantage over another. Its the motivation within the individual that makes you want to do better, to want to succeed.

    And unfortunately life is unfair, it always will be, as you know its up to you to make your life different for yourself. Yes, we go to school to learn, but I didn’t really start learning till I got out of college and joined the workforce. I have learned more through living my life than any school would have taught me. But you have to be open to learning and growing, that is key.

    And you have missed one big factor. Behavior. Money is about 80% behavior and 20% math. It isn’t about the 99% against the 1% because any of those 99% can be in the 1%. You can try to teach someone who is “poor” the basics of finance and how to invest and how to manage their money, but unless they want to learn and grow and figure out how to be successful they will never learn. Being “poor” is a state of mind. Money behavior and lifestyle is taught at home.

    If parents are big time spenders and put materialistic things in front of necessities, then the possibility that their children grow up the same way are pretty good and vice versa, if you teach your child how to manage and budget their money then hopefully they will take that knowledge and build wealth for themselves.

    So to answer your question. Do I think finance should be added to high school curriculum. It wouldn’t hurt and it might help some kids. In fact Dave Ramsey has a course for high schools that teach about managing money and living within your means. But at the end of the day, the behavior starts at home. Its the parents job to raise productive adults that contribute, not the schools.

    And if you are really so passionate about it, then start a side tutoring course for high school kids. Or you can start and entrepreneur school, that teaches kids how to be resourceful and use their talents and ingenuity to either run their own business or to be successful in whatever they do. Teach them to get rid of the victim mentality, be proactive and take accountability for ones life and do great things.

    • Scott Trench

      Nicole thanks for your well thought out reply. I appreciate that.

      I actually am passionate about financial education and volunteer to help those in financial crisis through my church. I’m definitely looking to make more of an impact on the educational aspect by working with children and teaching courses – I will take you up on your suggestion in the near future.

      With regards to the behavioral aspect, I think that knowledge absolutely impacts behavior. In the past year alone, I have made several life decisions that alter my lifestyle slightly, but that I believe will have a significant positive financial impact. I wouldn’t have altered my lifestyle in that way without seeing the mathematical impact on my finances, which I coudln’t have done without my financial background.

  7. cheryl c.

    Wow. There is some secret that only the one percent know? (btw – not to upset you further, I think that in order to be “rich” you have to be in the 1/2% or higher). School should teach you how to become rich? It’s unfair? ( Not to insult you, but that is a phrase used mainly by 5yr olds). I wasn’t born into any wealth. I’ve never been given or inherited one cent (I did get a 4 yr college education). My husband was born into a lower-middle class family of 10. He is now in the one percent (so, I guess I am too). Should I complain that I didn’t get any secret info from my parents? Ah…no. No complaints here and I couldn’t make heads nor tails out of calculus. Could you tell us what you learned from your (unfair) years of studying what others were taught by their parents and their prep schools?

    Are you serious? Do people really think the way you do? I have some close friends that are in the one percent. One didn’t even go to college and another was the first in his family to attend. I must have learned “the secret” while working 50hrs a week and attending Law School at night (and acquiring 4 properties in our early-mid 20’s). Good grief.

    Yes, there are people who are born into money and have an inside track. If you took a poll here, I doubt many fall into that category.

    • Scott Trench

      Cherly, thank you for your reply. I’m sorry you didn’t like my article. I actually am “someone who thinks the way I do”. Like I pointed out in my article, there are always incredible exceptions in the wealth creation game, and I have no doubt that your friends are two of them.

      That said, I think that pointing out exceptions is not something that I would consider a strong rebuttal to the point of my argument. Statistically speaking, you are far more likely to be wealthy if you come from a wealthy background. Furthermore, you are far more likely to continue to increase your wealth. That is “totally unfair” . I fundamentally believe that I and my children (and all children) have a right to the same strong educational background on wealth creation as the children of the rich.

      On BiggerPockets, you are correct – not many of our audience was born on the inside track. If they were, they wouldn’t need BiggerPockets! Their Real Estate and Investing Education was lifelong, and we have little to offer them!

      • cheryl c.

        “Incredible exceptions” are not what I pointed out. I don’t know why you chose to cite the Forbes 400 (where the entry is 1.55 Billion). As an aside, the September article states that 276 of the 400 were “self-made”. I think a better point of reference is a, granted, dated, book entitled The Millionaire Next Door. This group would be a closer match to the 1%. The research conducted for that book revealed that 80% of these millionaires were first generation affluent and I believe that less than 10% inherited anything. This puts in doubt your entire thesis of wealth of parents, special learning, etc. Granted, the children of the 1% will have better opportunities, but I do think that for those here trying to achieve that level of wealth, time is better spent looking inward and upward toward reaching that goal rather than making excuses about why they can’t get there.

        Google the book. I believe that you will find some helpful guidance (in the first page or two) relating to the way these people think vs. people who believe that the cards are stacked against them – as well as the ramifications of these opposing thought processes.

        • Scott Trench

          Cheryl,

          I think the article was putting their definitions of “self-made” into doubt. As for the millionaire next door – I’ve read the book and respect the premise. I think that it is a superb path to wealth creation. And I think that it should be taught to all children and it should be a mentality that they’ve been exposed to for years before they enter the workforce. I’m not saying that wealth creation is impossible without a wealthy background – I’m saying its harder. I believe that some of that added difficulty can be attributed to the lack of education on the subject, if not the majority, and that I believe that people who aren’t exposed to that type of knowledge early in life are unfairly disadvantaged.

          I can see we aren’t going to agree. I truly appreciate your feedback and hope that you continue to read my articles and provide insights! I get better at writing when I have intelligent counterpoints like yours.

  8. Brandon McCombs

    Hi Scott

    Great article and probably controversial to some degree at various points. I have a lot of comments though because I disagree with your premise.

    Managing money (spending and saving) involves knowledge but also behavior. I won’t be bold enough to specify what the proportion is of those 2 things to properly managing money but I will say that one can have all the knowledge in the world but if your behavior has been shaped by your upbringing (i.e. society, parents, school, friends, etc.) to horde money or spend money then that will override your knowledge of how to manage it. This goes for anyone and explains impulse buys and ‘retail therapy’ and many other things I mention below.

    So, although I agree wholeheartedly that finances should be taught in the US public education system I can tell you that improper behaviors taught with respect to money can negate that knowledge because we will do things subconsciously or we’ll simply rationalize our behavior to justify it despite our knowledge to the contrary. With that said, the public education system should only be enhancing or supplementing what parents should already be teaching their children just as mine did (see below). We shouldn’t *have* to look to the public school system for all our financial knowledge but sadly many children do. And even though I believe the public education system should provide supplemental financial education it isn’t because I believe the gov’t has a responsibility to even the playing field but rather just because it makes sense to provide that type of education to prepare children for the real world (no less so than parents).

    I taught myself to manage money as far as the basics are concerned but I did have initial help from my parents. It was only logical for me to keep track of my expenses, don’t spend more than I have, etc. but not everyone is like that. My step-dad assists with investment related issues since he is my de-facto financial advisor because that’s what he does for a living. My mom assisted with checking account stuff to get stuff started but it only made sense to me to track things because I didn’t want to spend what I didn’t have.

    Now, here is where I’ll start the controversial part of my response.

    As I stated above, managing money is behavioral. But that simple statement is taking a 1000 ft view of the situation. The 50000 ft view would be that managing money is about religion or lack thereof, which involves a certain mindset and moral code that dictates behavior, which is how what I’m about to discuss is all related. It’s a mindset involving God vs gov’t. How the hell do I make that leap you may ask?

    Generally speaking, people who believe they control their own destiny, who believe they aren’t victims, who believe it’s their individual responsibility to take care of themselves, are the ones who succeed. They don’t care what the circumstances are, they just find a way. They may ask friends or family but they know not to expect help from the gov’t because 1) gov’t isn’t intended to be the provider and 2) they use Godly principles (e.g. the individual is more important than society; don’t be a slave to lenders, etc.) to guide their actions. This describes a large portion of the population. I won’t try to put a % on that but it is large. If you throw in a little bit of risk taking and creativity then you have just identified the people who worked their way to the top 1%.

    Then we have the people who, generally speaking, have a mindset of being the victim, that the world is against them, that they must rely on the gov’t for everything, that the gov’t will make things fair and right the wrongs that God has bestowed upon them. You could argue where this mindset originates but using a religious justification would dictate that these people fall victim to Satan convincing them God doesn’t exist otherwise they wouldn’t have trials and tribulations. They believe the gov’t should provide them everything that they currently can’t afford but should still have to the same extent as the people who *can* afford them. No matter that the gov’t can only provide a certain (low) standard of living when it has limited funds that must be distributed to this other *larger* group of people who submit to this incorrect mindset that they are victims of society (rather than rightly realizing their destiny is their own responsibility).

    So, we end up with people who believe *God* will provide when you work hard vs people who believe the *gov’t* will provide so you don’t have to work hard (because if you do it won’t matter since society, and the 1%, is out to get you). This is what you are suggesting Scott, that it’s the fault of the 1% that the income inequality gap is getting larger. This perpetuate a victim society and sets the stage for Democrats to cater to those people to win votes.

    The gov’t becomes an enabler in this respect. Why wouldn’t it? The people in power become more powerful as people come to depend on them. The gov’t endorses debt. And society as a whole endorses debt through advocating student loans, car loans, house loans, credit cards etc. to the point children nowadays believe those things are normal and expected. But they aren’t. People *used* to have to save for years for a house. Or they would *BUILD* their home, and those homes would stay in the family to be passed down so that their children didn’t need to take on a mortgage. We have raised children who view themselves as victims who claim that an inheritance (money, home, or both) is evil and greedy and that they shouldn’t get stuff for free, and what’s worse, many of those people believe the inheritance should be taken by the gov’t to be distributed. The Millennials have also been conditioned to get things *now*, not 5, 10 or 20 years from now, and that society owes them, even if it means someone else who already has it must do without.

    Anyway, in the last 15 years or so it’s become unfair to not own your own home so lending practices were lowered. People were taught to take on large amounts of debt, to be slaves to their money and lenders, in order to be equals with those who worked hard by saving for their home.

    It’s expected for kids to rack up thousands in student loans to get an education that cost more than their first house. Why do we advocate that in our society? We want to create slaves to gov’t.

    So it’s anti-thetical to the goal of the progressive/liberal/socialist US federal gov’t (and state gov’t to some degree) to want to teach proper finance management to our children. Because proper financial management would entail not spending money you don’t have, that credit cards aren’t normal, that spending money on new cars is a waste of money, that saving to pay cash outright for a used car is much better in the long run, etc. This would make teaching how to apply for a loan a moot point. We have created a debt-based society and a victim-based society. The people who realize the gov’t can only provide a very low minimum standard of living and want more than that are willing to work for it and learn by whatever means necessary, regardless of whether the public school system teaches it to them. That’s why 40% of households won’t exceed 10k net worth. They don’t care to because that 10k will be given to them for free by the gov’t anyway and they are okay with that. We’ve made them okay with that by creating a gov’t that will provide for them instead of maintaining the Godly principle that the individual is responsible for himself and is more important than society.

    Those 10k net worth households had parents that at some point held these traditional views but eventually the children (or grandchildren) were won over by the free stuff that gov’t (i.e. society) is willing to give them, careof our tax dollars. We thus created a dumbed down society whose majority participants only know what the gov’t is willing to teach them lest they realize that the gov’t can only provide so much. Until we break that cycle those participants’ children will not know what they should know about finances because their parents will only know as much as the gov’t tells them, which means home schooling is out of the question to save those children. And unfortunately, even if the parents knew the gov’t can only provide so much, it’s enough for the parents to not have to work and therefore it’s sufficient to not have to break that cycle.

    It’s altruistic to want to help those who are ignorant of something but you can only help those willing to learn. Democrats believe throwing money at a problem will fix it but if that were the case then why do we still have so many homeless people and a record # of people on gov’t assistance? It’s because those people have learned to accept gov’t as their provider rather than God, and they are quite happy to live that way because it’s easier. If the gov’t didn’t provide so much those people would be forced to actually fend for themselves. And no, I’m not advocating sick and disabled people be forced to work. But the people who feed off the system cannot be helped by throwing more money at them; that only confirms that gov’t is a provider. That’s not being altruistic because you can’t help people that way but rather only force them into a minimum standard of living which is detrimental to their lives and perpetuates the idea that the 1% put them into that situation rather than the fact that they are allowing themselves to stay in that situation.

    • Scott Trench

      Brandon – thank you for your awesome response!

      I think that you are talking about those who are dependent vs those who are independent (in terms of a mindset). I accept that and definitely agree strongly with some of the consequences of enabling dependency on the government!

      Here’s my thing though – when it comes to children, our society currently forces them to attend school. Children are dependent by nature. Their behavior and knowledge base comes from parents, but also from interactions at school.

      Finally – I want to comment on the “behavior” argument. While I agree that personal finance is 80% behavior and 20% knowledge, I think that knowledge shapes behavior. Understanding that a behavior costs you thousands of dollars may impact your decision to make that purchase. Yes, you’d need to kick that behavioral problem, but in my personal experience, I’ve found that it becomes much easier to say no to lifestyles that are financially unacceptable when I have a true and complete understanding of the costs of that behavior (including opportunity costs).

      • Knowledge shapes behavior. Of course, it’s true…but only so far. Every behavior we do is shaped by knowledge. (Why do you drive on the side of the street that you drive on?)

        “Everyone” knows smoking is bad for you. This has been taught for what, forty years now? Yet we still have new generations of smokers, declining yes, but still new smokers. So, tell me, how much knowledge matters?

        Ask all your friends (the five year olds too!): Will you get wealthier spending more than you earn or earning more than you spend? I bet you they will ALL give the correct answer. So why won’t they all see be wealthy? Behavior. PERIOD.

        The knowledge needed to improve your financial position can be learned in few weeks (hours?). The problems start with applying the knowledge.

        • Scott Trench

          Jason,

          I think that smoking is a wonderful case study on the effectiveness of increasing awareness about a topic and the impact of that on behavior.

          Teaching children about the dangers of smoking has had an incredible impact over the last 40 years. In fact, the improvement is staggering:

          http://www.clinicaladvisor.com/heavy-smoking-dramatically-decreasing-in-the-united-states/article/198478/

          As to your point on the simplicity of finance, I think that the basic concepts that scream in your face like “earn more than you spend” are universally understood. It’s the subtle power of compound interest and the enormous potential of long term sound financial strategy that are elusive and take years to fully grasp. I firmly believe that an effort as comprehensive of that of the anti-smoking activists would have incredible results on fiscal behavior in America.

  9. I have always been a proponent of schools teaching an actual basic home economics class. I think one reason I have missed in the past is those that would teach this. The public school teachers would by and large have to show the basic mathimatics that their pension is not a great deal, it is stupid to use payday lenders and rent to own shops, the downside of taking on the crushing student loan debt, and a wide variety of other things that many of the teachers might not be doing themselves. This would also work against the goals of the Union in which most are a member of. Unions want their members to need the membership, to work until they are sixty-five because that keeps them with money flowing. I love teaching my son (3 years old) about money basics and construction stuff. He does knkw more in these areas than some folks already…

  10. Michael Ran

    I loved the article! I born in to a military family. My father was a dairy farm kid who made it in to West Point. He switched to the oil industry due to my mother saying ” I will not be a career military wife!” RESERVES it is! It took him 25 years in the business to get to the top 1%(I think the 1% are people making more the $100k a year by government stats. He got a raise then was called up for Afghanistan about 3 months later).

    However, he taught me a few basics concepts. Some of them make far more sense now then when I was young. He did one thing that helped me more then anything.
    “You want a car or to go to college? Well, here is $4,000 dollars.” He taught me the basics of the stock market. Then had me make my own college fund by investing. He did this when I was 8 years old. By the time I was 17 I had more then enough to pay tuition(I already had a car). Haha talk about a surprise to him and my mother! (He even fought with me about some of my investment choices) He only had to take the time to try and teach me. Now I am not saying this is normal or that he knew half of the answers to the questions I asked (till he asked someone else) but this did start me off better then 95% of the people in my generation. I can only imagine what a starting 1%er learns but ask my future children!
    My little brother who hated hearing about business and finance knows more then all of his friend and parents, to the point they ask his advice! “My friends parents have started asking me questions about business and stuff… The worst part is I know the answers and it’s all your fault!”(He just now turned 21, owns his own business and only works 3 days a week.) He learned everything just by listening to my talks with my mother and father(till he wanted to start his business)… Say what you want but there may something to the idea of teaching finance.

    What could be the negative to trying it out? Even in college there are no requirements to learn basic finance!(at least not at the university of Arizona where I went. You couldn’t even get in to a finance class unless you were in the school of business!) Unless you count SOCIAL Economic and you can bet that there was nothing about finance. There are classes in high school and college that have little to no real world uses but finance is something everyone will need to know… No finance classes but we teach keyboarding( but your child is better with a keyboard and computer then the teachers). There are even free web classes to teach finance and on YouTube, how hard would it be for a teacher to uses these resources to design a short class? Some families may not be able to teach it due to not having computers or Internet (and/or don’t know finance themselves) but how hard would it be to go to the public library? I was taught with a news paper, library card, and dictionary/encyclopedia.
    There may have been less people hurt by ARM mortgages if they learned about how interest works or that inflation can be bad for flex rates.( who would really think a 30 year loan that follows interest rates for long term home loans would be bad… Someone that knows finance and the economic history of the world! Or maybe just remember the 1980s) People were fooled by the numbers that they were shown but very few understood how it worked. There would be less chance for that to happen again if people were taught basic economics and finance. Not everyone but more people would have done fixed interest to protect themselves.
    Or the stock crash… Oh no, my stocks are going down! I should sell! I knew when prices were falling I was ok. I picked solid stocks that if they failed, money would be the least of my worries!(Exxon is a good example) It is only paper money and even on Black Tuesday(1929, Great Depression) there was a came back, it just took time. There are people that lost more by pulling out then if they had just not touched it. If I had pulled out my money, I would have bought back in way before the price of my stocks went back up to what I had sold at.

    I tell you all of this extra stuff just to prove a point! (and I have a habit of being long winded)
    Teaching finance could save people that just don’t know any better. It could create more business growth then you could ever imagine. Understanding finance would build a stronger(more educated) middle class then any that has ever been seen.
    And even if it didn’t.
    How many people could it help? Show me a downside!

    The end thank you for bearing with me.

  11. Jerry W.

    Great article. The truth of the matter is that many families do not have any idea about how to handle money. The idea of investing vs just saving is a foreign concept. that it is only for the rich. It is kind of like being the queen, or prince in England. Say what you will they did nothing to become the prince except to be born into the right family. They are taught from a young age how they will act and how they will conduct their finances. Their wealth would have drained away ages ago but for careful management and teaching every generation gets. You don’t hear much about the German royalty since a prince squandered most of the family fortune. it was ancestors who gave them the start but it was teaching each generation that kept it.

    • Scott Trench

      Jerry – thanks for the support! I agree completely with your point about wealth management skills being passed through the generations, creating more and more monopolization and concentration in the hands of “dynasties”, though I think that if I had compared the 1% to monarchy, I would have gotten some very angry folks replying to me here!

  12. Frankie Woods

    What a great topic! I, too, believe that education in finance is absolutely critical. However, I would say that it’s in the 1%’s best interest to keep most individual’s uneducated because 70% of the US economy is based on consumerism. Hence, saving to increase wealth doesn’t help “Big Business”….

    • Scott Trench

      Frankie – thanks for the support! I’d actually say that saving and investing is even better for big business! It means that I’m going to buy products that help me manage my investments and portfolio, instead of lunch every day or a new pair of boots or whatever.

      I think that having a whole country full of investors is actually way MORE profitable!

  13. I agree that the current public education curriculum is mostly a waste of time and should include some form of financial education. I read somewhere, maybe rich dad poor dad, that the curriculum was created by the wealthy to churn out workers that will follow orders and not become entrepreneurs. I remember when guidance counselors would ask you if you had a million dollars what would you want to do for the rest of your life. Whatever you chose should be your career. I don’t remember what I said but I’m sure most people never got to make a career out of their passion. The question is great but if we aren’t taught how to actually make a career of that choice then what are we supposed to do. If we had more people with a passion for their jobs then we would live in a much happier and more productive society.

    Just a side note, do you really think people who live in the projects and are on welfare should be the ones to teach their kids about finance? Hence the vicious cycle.

    • cheryl c.

      Chris, I totally agree that a basic personal finance course should be a part of the High School curriculum. Budgets, IRA’s, 401’s, cc debt, HS vs College life-time earnings, checking accounts, various forms of insurance, basic stock market investing, etc., should be taught in High School. I do not believe that this was the main point of the author. Many of us pay (taxes) to support people who make bad choices. The concept of “unfair” advantages totally dismisses the extreme effort and sacrifice of those who “achieve” without 1% parents. The thought that “public” schools should teach wealth creation and the fact that the author, after years of self study, blames public school education is what is so incomprehensible to me. I’ll again ask, what secret info did the author learn after several years of (unfair) study? Several years? And, as to your comment that the one percent want to keep the rest down(?). Where does that come from?

      • Regarding the comment about the one percent wanting to keep the rest down I said I can’t remember where I read it but it makes perfect sense. Back in the JP Morgan, Rockefeller, Carnegie days this is what they wanted. They wanted to keep their monopolies and have good workers that weren’t taught to compete with them. I’m not saying that’s what the one percent wants now but that’s what they wanted back then. Why hasn’t the curriculum changed after all this time? Why do we learn trigonometry but not about how to start a business or invest? Because it would require a complete overhaul of the entire US education system.

        And sure there are people who achieve without one percent parents but usually their parents at least push them in the right direction and give them guidance. I would say it is the exception to the rule for a person to achieve without proper guidance or at least someone supporting them in their goal to achieve.

        Everyone says how important it is to have a real estate mentor. Well if your parents are real estate investors then you were born with mentors and have a big advantage over others.

      • Scott Trench

        Cheryl – I think that we agree on my premise here, but you don’t like my tone and style? Is that correct?

        I’m not saying that the 1% are doing anything wrong, that they are intentionally keeping others down, or that their stories aren’t remarkable. I’m simply saying that they are exposed to financial education early in life, where others often aren’t.

        That’s not a bad thing for them – its just a shame that everyone else doesn’t get that same education. As for secrets – I didn’t learn any “secrets” about finance. I just have slowly developed knowledge on how to live and dress, how to commute, how to put my money to work in better risk-adjusted investments, and countless other layers of personal financial strategy. It’s a knowledge base that I believe could be very easily transferred to children, and that would give them a head start. Many wealthy children receive, that type of knowledge passively from their parents, while most low income kids probably don’t. I think that’s unfair.

        Again – I can see we probably are at odds here, but I’m thinking you agree with the premise of financial education, you just are offended that my tone suggests that this is a conspiracy by wealthy people. I don’t think that’s the case, I think that this “education inequality is a byproduct of a system, not a byproduct of wrongdoing on the part of the wealthy or anyone else.

  14. The one and only thing I disagree with is public school. Public school has nothing to do with actual education. The schools were founded in order to ensure a low-quality education to the vast majority of students, who would then end up as factory workers and soldiers who would obey orders.

    The system is working exactly the way it was supposed to, and the fact that finance is not taught in public school is DELIBERATE.

    Do not go to government to try to change any of this, they are happy to teach their own kids in private schools and keep the elite to be the elite. The whole “income inequality” argument is a rubrick to divide people and make them easier to rule.

    So do yourself and your kids a favor, get them OUT of the government day prisons. Teach them finance, teach them industry, teach them to think for themselves. These are things that the government schools will never teach.

    • Scott Trench

      Bob – I guess I’m just more optimistic than you. I think that its better for everyone (even the wealthy) when we have a society full of businessmen and producers. I’d hate to think that the government deliberately keeps children down with the education system – I prefer to think that it is an accidental result of an aging system that becomes less and less relevant and effective as time goes on.

  15. Corwin Smith

    Hi Scott,

    Good, common sense article. I’ve never before posted a comment on a blog but felt compelled to do so on this subject. I completely agree with your premise and am amazed at how far afield the rebuttals against it ranged. One example is the argument that being poor (in the bottom 99%) is due to bad behavior and a lack of drive and motivation and that financial ignorance has little, if any, effect on these things. In many cases this is obviously true but what is overlooked is that education can, and clearly very often does, change ambitions and behavior.

    For example, a child raised on an Iowa farm would have been unable to “behave” like an electronic engineer without the proper education that developed his technical skills and made him “behave” like an engineer, rather than a farmer. This change in behavior, and also financial status, was made possible by being taught the technical skills needed. His parents could not have provided that knowledge no matter how badly they may have wanted to do so, because they “behaved” like farmers all their lives and did not know how to “behave” like an engineer.

    I am unable to believe that improved financial literacy would be less effective in creating better financial “behavior” than improved technical literacy improves technical “behavior”.

    A similar argument could, I think, be made about drive and motivation. When you are not aware of, or knowledgeable of, a subject (basic financial literacy, in this case) it’s very unlikely you will be driven or motivated by it.

    As is true in all the other disciplines, it would seem to me, that not having the fundamentals, the basic foundations and adequate financial tools, it is nearly impossible to be very proficient, let alone in the top 1%, of that field. If this is true for the various other professional disciplines, why is it not true in the area of investments, business and personal finance?

    • Scott Trench

      Corwin – Thanks for pointing this out. A number of other commenters point out that financial success is “80% behavior, 20% knowledge”. I agree completely with your rebuttal to this – that behavior is driven by knowledge.

      Your Iowa farmer example is a perfect way to demonstrate the point – his behavior cannot be influenced because he has never and will never be exposed to finance!

      In my personal experience I absolutely believe that I behave differently as a result of my study of personal finance. The places I live, the things I do recreationally, and the way I conduct myself have all been altered to ensure that I maximize both my lifestyle and my finances!

  16. I agree with the premise of the topic. Children should learn the important aspect of finance before they touch the real world.
    I disagree to associate finance learning to language learning. Finance can be learned when the logic capabilities are enhanced. Thus, it is best suited for the later years.

    I had volunteered as a Junior Achievement coach one year. I went to the middle school and tought kids about the finance for a couple of weeks. It was nice to see that kids get engaged when you teach them connecting the finance to their actual life.

    If you look at the high school math book, you will realize that the curriculum topics also have practical applications. It does not have to be called finance to teach finance in schools. Sometime the learning is disguised in different subject matters.

    • Scott Trench

      Prempal – thanks for your comment. I appreciate the feedback. I’ll disagree with the point that finance can be layered in. I think that it should be a focus of education and that it should taught early and often. I think that it is the skill that children should come out of school with the greatest exposure to!

  17. Daniel Friedman on

    Great article Scott. I agree that in order to level the financial gap money courses in public school need to be offered. But you also have to realize that parents that have worked hard to learn about finance and want to leave a legacy to their children worked hard to purposefully do that. They started with a plan to build their wealth and then understood how to teach their own children about what they did that made them successful. The basics should definitely be taught in public schools and other, advanced topics should be taught by the parents.

    • Scott Trench

      Thank you Friedman! I think that someone early called my view on this topic “socialist”. I know that’s a dirty word, but I guess you can call me a socialist when it comes to children’s education. I believe that if you are going to make them go to public schools, then you have to make them learn finance to an advanced level. Otherwise, graduates of public schools that don’t come from strong families have to compete with the children of financially literate parents, which doesn’t really solve the problem in my opinion.

      That said, I’d be in favor of even basic finance topics – it would at least be a first step in leveling the field.

  18. I love this post. I’ve taught Financial Math in public school for 5 years and I love it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t count towards our state’s tuition program and it’s usually populated only by those who the school chose not to allow in Calculus.

  19. Mark Kvam

    Scott,
    Excellent article. My three girls were taught all these things as part of our homeschool curriculum. My wife and I are both from self employed parents, we are currently self employed and all three girls either have now or have been in a business venture. Much of my knowledge was self taught and passed down through my parents. I agree children need to be taught finance but the children need parents modeling good financial decisions. We are still doing that. Great post.

    • Scott Trench

      Mark – thanks for your comment and I think what you do for your girls is great! I agree that the parents are a huge part of upbringing and developing sound financial sense. I just hope that schools and teachers can provide that for some of the families that aren’t as dedicated to financial literacy as yours.

  20. Wow lots of comments.
    So maybe I missed something but where do we learn the principles
    of finance and leverage?Polite society doesn’t even talk about money.
    Suzy Ormand I quess.Im looking for that magic ball that will just lead me down
    the path to riches, but I’m sorry I can’t trust anyone with my money
    Banks, Investment Brokers I don’t trust at all.So show me someone
    that’s honest please, and I’ll gobble it up.

  21. Jim Leithliter on

    Scott,

    Great article. Absolutely true. Public education is faulty on a lot of levels.

    A lack of understanding with regard to financial things is a huge part of whats wrong in our culture, be it the fault of the parents, the schools, or both (most likely).

    The whole concept of what is “fair” is another one. Emotional people make “fairness” their reason/excuse for most everything. Finance is about math, not emotion. The sooner people get their heads around that, the sooner they can move forward

    • Scott Trench

      Jim – I used the “unfair” term deliberately. I think it sparks debate and gets people’s blood pumping, which is what I want on a subject I’m passionate about. I believe its absolutely unfair that certain children are given that knowledge for free throughout their childhood, while it is denied to others. However, as adults it becomes our responsibility to determine our own fates. I definitely feel cheated by my public school education, but that is only fueling me more! I won’t make excuses for my lack of knowledge any longer and continue to develop my understanding of wealth and sound finance.

      That said, I also won’t stand for what I believe is unfair – I don’t think that children are capable of taking responsibility for their education in that way – it’s up to us to tell them what to learn, and then to teach them.

  22. All I have to say is the book – “The Millionaire Next Door.” It systematically counters all your arguments. We (Americans) are born in the best country in the world for wealth creation from nothing.

    • Scott Trench

      Andy – I’ve read the millionaire next door and believe that its point is that yes – it is the best country for wealth creation from nothing. By following basic sound financial strategy, it is remarkably easy to generate a large net worth in one lifetime! However, its only that easy if you have a strong knowledge base – you can get that from self-study by reading books like the millionaire next door, or we can teach that to children in school. I’m in favor of the latter to ensure that they all get the same exposure!

    • Scott Trench

      Daniel – thanks for your comment and support. I feel the same way and feel lucky to have made a study of this topic already. I don’t think its fair that I am starting now, but many of my peers won’t start until much later (if at all).

  23. My goodness, there sure are a lot of passionate replies to your article, Scott! I, for one, agree with your premise that financial literacy should be taught to all. I’ll agree that there is a lot of built-in advantage (a HECK of a lot!) to being born into a well-off family. It appears to me that much of the reaction to your article domes to your use of the word “unfair”. So, leaving that word out for a moment, I promise that it is INCREDIBLY SHORT-SIGHTED and unwise that our society does not teach financially literacy in the public schools. Somehow the use of the word “unfair” is being tied (mistakenly, I believe) to a “liberal” mindset. (I might argue that liberals historically are concerned with the good of the whole and conservatives with the good of the individual, but I digress. If wanting to educate the populace in a critical matter through our already-established educational system is perceived as “liberal”, so be it.) I would hope that most (although I’m sure not all) of us will agree that it is a) unwise for the long-term health of our society and our productivity as a nation, and b) short-sighted in view of the negative consequences of continued inaction, for us to continue to leave early financial education to those fortunate enough to be born into families with the means to do so.

    By the way, I homeschooled all three of my boys through the junior-high years. My oldest is a Stanford grad with honors in computer science, now working on a successful start-up. My middle son is a senior at Stanford in bioengineering, now applying to grad schools. My youngest just left the nest and is a freshman – also at Stanford, as luck would have it. I know something about personal responsibility. But I still watch out for the good of the whole.

    Lisa

    • Scott Trench

      Lisa – I agree that the “unfair” word is the source of a lot of the controversy. I used it deliberately to spark debate.

      In an ideal world – I’m a fan of homeschooling/vouchers/privatization of schooling. However, given our current model, I think that we have to apply a liberal or leftist approach to teaching conservative financial principles (very at odds with itself I know!). I use unfair here to point out that we mandate free, public education (liberal) but fail to teach children to care for themselves financially! I think that’s a model that is missing something. To fix that you have to either:

      Replace the System
      Tune the System

      Replacing the system is not a realistic goal in my opinion. But tuning the school system to better prepare children for the real world is more practical and achievable.

      • Thanks, Scott – I agree completely. I’m actually a huge fan of public schools and feel they should ALL be brought up to speed (don’t get me started on the lopsided funding of public schools through property taxes!). I am not a fan of vouchers, because unless free transportation is also provided, they are no benefit to most kids. I think homeschooling is a niche and it happened to work for our family… I only brought it up to show that I “get” the “personal responsibility” argument, but I still think it’s short-sighted. And for the record… I noticed there is another “Lisa” who posted above me… that isn’t me. I’m in San Antonio, just to distinguish myself. 🙂

        • Scott Trench

          Thanks Lisa – I noticed that there were two that looked very similar – thought I’d respond separately just in case! The “how to fix schools in general” argument could go on for days I’m sure!

  24. Hugh Scarlett

    Spot on Scott! AND it’s not just the US that suffers from this educational ignorance. I was educated in the UK and my daughter; Australia, all have the same failings. Everything emanates from the top and so long as we have non-capitalism orientated social engineers heading the bureaucracy that overseas education, nothing will change.

      • Jesse T.

        I think better financial education making the system work better is a good point. Even if the individual effect was small – it could have a large impact on the economy/society as a whole.

        Two areas where this seems pretty relevant are the Real Estate bubble and Student Loan burdens. I don’t think it would take too many individuals making different decisions for these situations to have been better.

        For the Real Estate bubble – what if typical down payments were 2% higher? There still would have been a roller coaster in housing values, but the peak wouldn’t have been as crazy and the dip wouldn’t have been as bad.

        For student loans – I don’t think it would take much on average for it to lessen the negative impacts on the economy. If a few students chose community colleges or cheaper degrees, it might decrease the average burden by $500. If those who took, significant loan picked degrees with a better return, that also could help.

        What does an economy with less of a student loan burden look like? I think we would see faster household formation, more first-time home buyer activity and more people willing/able to take career risks.

  25. Candyce Blodgett on

    We need a Progressive Tax on Capital Wealth, Not Personal Income! More capital and assets than ever are being collected and wealth multiplied at exponential rates, but very little is making its way back into the country in which it’s being made, and we as citizens of those respective countries are allowing it to happen. As a global society we need to start working together for the benefit of everyone. Currently, the super wealthy are making 8% return on their money, continuously because of access to specialized asset managers holding assets in gold/platinum mines, oil companies and the like, whereas the rest of us can only make a 4% return on our money, including our governments. So, our government is in debt to the super wealthy, and they are being charged interest! Guess who’s paying that bill? This is simply not sustainable. It is not unreasonable to require a 0.1% tax on wealth above a million dollars, with progressive rates applied to wealth as it climbs up the scale. Not unreasonable at all with the fact that they are making an 8% return on their money without having to do a thing. Even if they were only making half of that, a 4% return, this would not be unreasonable.

    We need to demand global bank reporting. We need a bipartisan group to collect the data from banks around the world, so taxes can be paid fairly on the basis of overall wealth the super wealthy aren’t reporting, not personal income people are trying to survive on. Typically more than 98 percent of ‘taxable’ income is wiped away in the form of capital, assets, bonds, real estate, equipment, insurance policies, as well as being hidden in other countries banks, so the super wealthy don’t have to pay much in taxes. When they do it’s very, very little and they’ve been doing this for centuries. It is perfectly legal because that’s how the tax systems are structured! And in fact, it’s encouraged. Corporate CEOs and money managers get paid ridiculous sums of money to do exactly that.

    We also need to change the laws that allow corporate identities to be hidden in the form of layering companies around the world so that no one can be held responsible when disastrous results ensue or simply just to pay their fair share of taxes. It needs to change, and it needs to change pronto!

    We need to demand new laws requiring ALL banks around the world to report the assets they are hiding. No more tax havens! At the very least we need to get the process started by demanding it in our own respective countries. Honest bank reporting is the ONLY way the world’s wealth can be tracked, and YES we should be tracking it! It’s the only way we can expect fair reporting of wealth and have taxes paid fairly if we want our world to be a place we all want to live.

    • Scott Trench

      Candyce – I agree completely with your premise but not on the specifics of the tax reform. It is my belief that income inequality is caused by two reasons – one is lack of education, and two is complexity in the tax/business/legal codes. I think that knowledge is the real solution, but that simplification of the tax code would also go a long way towards reducing income inequaility!

      Here’s my belief – a flat tax code based on the exchange of money or assets in any form (earnings, investment purchases, inheritance, etc) would level the field considerably by making all forms of wealth creation fair game, and giving none a tax advantage. Perhaps that’s a topic for next week’s article…

    • Scott Trench

      Jerry – love the quote. I definitely agree, but I think that being self-educated creates the monstrosities of income inequality in today’s world only when the competition knows almost nothing.

      A financially literate person competes with a society who has literally no concept of wealth creation and spends all of their income each paycheck. That is child’s play. That self-educated person would at least have some competition if the rest of them were taught!

      • Jerry Kisasonak

        I totally disagree with your comment about the wealthy “being taught.” Approximately 80% of millionaires are first-generation millionaires. To me this means that they weren’t born and raised in a family that exuded the millionaire’s mindset and money habits. They sought the information out, so in effect they were self-educated. After all, this is why they are called self-made millionaires (Although I think those words are misleading because nobody becomes a millionaire by themselves – it takes many people for this to happen).
        You mentioned dynasties and intergenerational wealth. These account for a much smaller portion of the millionaires of today – somewhere around 20%.
        Concluding, if you were to say to the “average” millionaire: “Well of course you are a millionaire. Look at where you came from. You were taught how to be one!” I’m sure you’d get many many many laughs. In my opinion this is how the non-millionaires justify their position. “I would be one but I was never taught like they were.” This really stems from a fundamental ignorance of the path that these millionaires walked. If you knew the intricacies of their plight you would be saying, “Well of course they are wealthy. Look what they did. Anyone who goes through all of that and keeps going almost cannot fail.” This is America. As Napoleon Hill said, “Success requires no explanation; failure permits no alibis.” It’s time to stop playing the blame game.

        • Scott Trench

          Jerry – I fully plan to achieve great wealth in my life, and direct my financial strategy in pursuit of that agenda. I will not have been born a millionaire, but yes I plan on getting there just like everyone else on BiggerPockets.

          That said, I think that your point about 80% of millionaires being first-generation misses the larger point that millionaires aren’t even the big fish anymore. The true income inequality is between the top 0.1% and the rest of us. The top 400 families in the U.S. control more wealth than the bottom 150 million U.S. families. That’s a real problem if you believe that lopsided distribution of power is a bad thing.

          I think that this incredibly unequal distribution at the very top is the result of less and less financial literacy. It is literally child’s play for these tycoons at the top to compete with millions of people who have almost no understanding of even basic financial strategy.

  26. Anthony Hornbeck

    Scott,

    Thanks for taking the time to write the article, and I agree with SOME of your theme. Mainly, I feel strongly that personal finance should be taught to all students. Of course not all students want to be entrepreneurs, but personal finance (as pointed out above) teaches the importance of investing vs just saving, of why taking a payday loan is GENERALLY a bad idea, etc. I think personal finance grants children (and adults) the basic tools, and as with all things, the tool allows the wielder to create! This is in line with your thoughts on knowledge helping to shape behavior.

    I DISAGREE with the whole “victim” mentality in general, and would suggest that it dilutes your main point. Not really necessary, nor is it helpful in my opinion. Let’s get over what’s fair and what isn’t, because well – that’s just life as it is, and let’s get to solutions!

    Thought provoking article nonetheless. You’ve got folks thinking.

    • Scott Trench

      Anthony – I think that the reason I chose the victim language here was to engender debate. I think that too many BP readers would agree with my on the importance of financial literacy (that’s why they are on BP!!). That said, I think it is fair to use a victim mentality when discussing children’s education. I take no excuses for my lack of knowledge at this stage in life – I’m an adult and this is now my responsibility.

      I do think that it is our responsibility to look out for the interests of the children of our society and ensure that they are prepared to survive and thrive. If we don’t do that, then I think it is very fair to call them victims of a system that mandates their education in superflous subjects while ignoring those that are meaningful.

  27. Michael Woodward on

    Scott,

    The problem with the subject of “fairness” is that it goes against the grain of freedom. Our country is based on the fundamental premise of freedom…..freedom to sit on the couch and be a bum…..freedom to waste all your free time and money at the bar…. freedom to slack your way through school and take the least challenging “job” that comes along….OR…..freedom to work your butt off mentally and physically to create a better life for yourself.

    I was so poor when I was growing up that I always qualified for the “free” lunch program at my public school. Every morning at role call they made us respond to our name by either yelling “Paid”, “Reduced”, or “Free” (lunch status). Talk about humiliating!! Every day I was reminded that I was one of the poorest kids in a rural area made up of low income homes (bottom of the barrel)! I had no special advice or training…..no mentor to steer me in the right financial directions. Even though I was never taught about wealth, it didn’t stop me from deciding where I wanted to be and get busy working toward that goal. I knew I had a long way to go so I pulled up my boot straps and got busy. I worked my way through college and then set my sights real estate. 30 years later, I’ve almost reached the 1% mark. I never felt like life wasn’t “fair” because (at least here in the United States) you are free to make whatever life you want. So-what if someone else was spoon-fed all the right ways to make wealth. Who wouldn’t do that for their kids?

    I agree that our schools can do a better job of educating finance but you have to be careful how you approach the subject. The real danger in defining what’s fair and unfair is in trusting someone (or the government) to make the distinction. What if YOU work your butt off to get solidly in the 1% category and then the “Fairness Police” show up at your door to take some of it away. I would rather have my freedom than “fairness”!!!!

    • Scott Trench

      Michael – I love the response! I think that the “fairness” point is the most controversial language in my article, and it was certainly not an accident that I chose that word. I wouldn’t have gotten the feedback I got without using that type of language.

      That said, I stand by my use of that term. I think it gets people thinking, and I happen to believe that there is fair and unfair in the treatment of children. It’s not fair to mandate an education that has very little practical application (in my opinion) in today’s society. If your going to mandate education at all (a loss of freedom in some senses), you might as well make it a great one, a practical one, and one that benefits all citizens! Otherwise, it creates an unfair situation where some people enter the world better prepared on a knowledge basis than others, mostly based on income of their parents.

  28. Larry Weingarten on

    Hello: I’m a bit surprised the term “financial literacy” has not come up. If you take the term to Wikipedia, there are things of interest. Fairly recent research on quality of education places the US near the bottom of the educational barrel, with Finland and Japan doing best. If you look up “Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC)” you’ll see that study. Lack of ability with numbers has a direct impact on people’s well being as the study shows. The tech companies in Silicon Valley are having to import workers from other countries, because they cannot find sufficiently skilled people here.

    Despite the controversies above, if we are to do well here and in the global economy, we need our people to understand money. Scott did us all a service by writing about this.

    Yours, Larry Weingarten

    • Scott Trench

      Larry – thank you for the support and the great data! I just checked out the studies and the wikipedia page and found them extremely interesting. I agree that lack of financial literacy has a direct impact on the well being of the individual, and probably on the society as a whole as well.

  29. jen kurtz

    Scott, you brought up an excellent point that I literally think of daily. I manage a low-income and partially subsidized housing project. I have had some wonderful clients, but I cannot help but to constantly think how many lives I see could be different had he or she made different choices in life or EVER were taught about saving instead of spending everything you have til the next check. Then, I think about children, will their lives be different? Will anyone ever teach them? Will they listen? Or will they never know how to make their own lives easier?

    I am so glad my parents instilled in me responsible spending. They did not have investments beyond a company 401k and a savings account. However, I did see the benefits to spending less than you make and always having a savings plan, because I saw my aunts and uncles who did not follow suit struggle. I was taught to value relationships and experiences, and to be thankful- not to want every brand new fad. It wasn’t til college that for whatever reason, I personally because very interested in investing.

    I enjoy property mgmt as a day job, but if I could figure out a way to make a living by helping people learn personal finance and investing (without being a financial products salesperson), I would leap at it!

    (Of course keeping RE investing in the combination 🙂

    • Scott Trench

      Jen thanks for the awesome comment and support. As a BiggerPockets staff member, I am truly fortunate to be able to spend the best part of my day writing articles on this topic, analyzing data, and otherwise working to increase financial knowledge by growing BiggerPockets!

      I hope to continue to help the site grow and provide more information to more people – especially young investors!

  30. Hi Scott, great article and I agree that we can and should do much more in the area of personal finance education for our youth. One point I would like to make though. There are also a lot of disadvantages to coming from a wealthy family. Often those kids are given the message that your worth is shown by how much you spend, that conspicuous consumption is important, that greed is good, and that we are solely responsible for the success we achieve (no role for luck or appreciation of others). Just think how lucky you are to have grown up without all those disadvantages!

  31. Gloria Dulan-Wilson

    I so totally agree with what Scott just said. Not only is it unfair – it is shortsighted on the part of those who are responsible for curriculum development in the public schools. There has been a recent move to dismantle public schools in favor of charter schools – there is no real difference between these two entities when it comes to the key subject of teaching financing (WEALTH BUILDING) to children. But the problem may well be that the teachers themselves are inadequate in this subject. Few if any were ever taught financial literacy (which by the way is a watered down version of wealth building – and never really teaches how to build wealth). I am working on a committee in Philadelphia trying to transform Philadelphia;s Germantown High School, which was shut down – along with 29 other schools – into the Germantown Community Charter School. This is one of the major components of the curriculum we want to make as part of the core requirements for the students. I will be forwarding a copy of this article to the steering committee – of which I am a member. I further strengthens our argument that this should begin in Grade 6, as opposed to waiting until students reach 9th, 10th, 11th or 12th grade. I’m still working on developing a better understanding of wealth building – and I truly hope that later in life is not too late to do so. Thanks again.

    • Scott Trench

      Gloria – wow that’s incredible. I’d love to see what you and your committee develop for the financial curriculum in these schools. I hope that you succeed in giving them a great education and prepare them to succeed financially. It will be interesting to see how the Philadelphia area’s students fare in the economy 5, 10, and 15 years from now.

  32. Great article! Clearly you are passionate about this topic and I agree with just about everything you have written. There are some great programs out there geared toward children to teach them about financial literacy that makes it fun and yet does a great job of teaching them basic principals. Junior Achievement is one such organization. There are many others.
    Kids will model what their parents do…..eventually.
    Until we, as a people living in a democracy where voting does matter (and please just don’t vote a straight partisan ticket) make government officials/representatives be accountable and get involved in our communities: volunteering and investing in social programs that can prove social change the STATUS QUO will continue to dominate. And that gap between the have and the have nots will widen.
    Change is hard. Whether it is teaching ourselves to be financially literate or losing weight.
    Thanks for challenging and reminding us that we have a choice to either change our circumstances and teach our kids how to financially survive and compete in this dog eat dog world – or not.

    • Scott Trench

      Rebecca – I’m definitely in agreement with you that there are some great programs that are doing great things to teach kids about finance! I hope to be part of that movement going forward and hope to see some great results going forward.

      In the short term, yes it is now up to us to educate ourselves about finance and then work to ensure a systematic transfer of that knowledge to the next generation so that they can build upon what we create.

  33. Scott, In MO it is a semester long class taught as a graduation requirement in high school. The curriculum in my kids’ district left a little to be desired. We are big Dave Ramsey fans, and would prefer his curriculum, but did provide us with additional dinner table discussion, comparing what they were being taught in school vs our values. But given the proliferation of payday lenders, title lenders, rentacenters and other such scum who prey on financial ignorance, it’s obvious that the message is not sinking in.

    • Scott Trench

      Donna – thanks for the comment. Wouldn’t it be great if children grew up throughout their schooling careers learning the philosophies of dozens of financial theorists, including Dave Ramsey, Napoleon Hill, Thomas Stanley, Warren Buffet, and many more? There are many wonderful financial strategies out there that deserve study and learning about, discussing, and practicing many strategies surely wouldn’t hurt!

  34. cheryl c.

    Scott, I regret getting involved in a discussion based on a post that you now claim was meant to be provocative; where you supposedly espoused ideas (unfair advantages, the blame of public schools, “the system”, the “one percent”, victim mentality, etc) that were not what you truly believed. I believe you took a logical and reasonable thread from November 3rd and attempted to – well, I don’t know what.

    I doubt anyone disagrees that a basic personal finance course should be taught to HS students and that you would have had little debate on this. I do believe that you believe the comments that you made initially in your post and further affirmed in many subsequent posts, ie. – that public school put you at some extreme disadvantage that you find blame worthy, that it is “unfair” that 1% kids have an advantage, that it did take YOU years of independent study, that the deck is stacked, that children of the 1% learn secrets….

    You have done a 180 and are no longer targeting the 1% or advocating “wealth creation” courses in HS, but have set your sights on the Forbes 400 (as you mistakenly did in your original post – beside the fact that 267 are “new wealth”). It is what it is. Very few are born in to that extreme level of generational wealth – but, 267 of the 400 have reached this level, regardless. Talk of the Forbes 400 is not relevant to any discussion that I would be interested in.

    I am disappointed.

    You’ve seemed to back off of the demand that public schools teach “wealth creation”.

    I can’t help but believe that you meant your initial statements. I believe that you wasted hours of my time.

    • Scott Trench

      Cheryl – I definitely believe that the system is unfair. I don’t believe that the wealthy are behaving unfairly though. It’s the difference between saying that something is not right and then blaming that injustice on an individual.

      I absolutely believe that it is unfair that some people learn finance and others don’t. I also believe that those who are taught finance from an early age tend to be more well off. That’s unfair to children that aren’t well off. However, it’s not the FAULT of the wealthy that they teach they kids finance, its not WRONG of them, its not a bad thing! It’s just unfair that other children aren’t taught!

      I definitely don’t believe that I backed off my argument that public schools teach wealth creation and apologize if something I said earlier leads you to believe that. I mean every word – I just think that you interpreted my argument to be a blame game pointing the finger at the wealthy. That’s not my intention, it is more to point out that the failure of our system to educate the masses on finance is contributing to the incredible lopsidedness of wealth creation. Those who acquire a strong understanding of finance (whether from wealthy parents or not) are then able to compete with total novices – a recipe for a very unequal competition, and one that I believe is unfair from the outset.

  35. Hey Scott, I am not sure why people want to waste so much energy arguing the exact content of your original post or subsequent comments. I, personally, did not construe your blog post as primarily a political one, but rather showing the importance of financial education or the significance of a lack thereof. I think it all comes down to this- we can all see that income inequality is huge, and statistics prove it. There are many reasons for it, one of which is learning personal finance and investing at a younger age, or rather just being exposed to it in a basic sense enough to peak interest in young adult and teenage lives. I think we could all agree that education in this area would greatly benefit our entire society and keep us globally competitive.

    Yes, many of us do take the time to educate ourselves on the topics. So does that mean we should stand on our soap boxes and hoard the information? No.

    • Scott Trench

      Jen – First of all I am delighted by the conversation – it helps me to fine tune my writing and exposes me to tons of ideas. That said, I agree that my main point was that finance needs to be taught in schools from an early age as it gives children an incredible advantage in the wealth creation game. I would have hoped that the discussion would have centered around how to implement that change rather than the language and tone that I use.

      I think where some readers take offense or disagree is that that I use the term “unfair” in a way that some readers interpret to be an attack on the wealthy, or that they believe discredits those who made their way truly independently. I just wanted to show that children who are exposed to this type of learning early in life have a huge advantage over others.

  36. Darrin Wesenberg

    Dude, I’ve been saying this my ENTIRE ADULT LIFE. It’s so refreshing to see this post. I even met with the dean of my college while I was an undergrad to try to convince him that a basic finance course should be a requisite for every student. When I graduated COLLEGE (let alone high school), I had this $100,000 engineering degree, yet knew NOTHING about finance, insurance, mortgages, etc etc. Hell, I didn’t even realize I had these student loans I had to pay off! It sounds crazy, but it’s true–I didn’t even become aware of the concept of my student loan balances until after I graduated. My parents just kept taking them out for me, without ever explaining how they worked. Nothing against my parents–they’re the coolest–they just weren’t raised to be financially savvy, had no concept of entrepreneurship and thus passed along no financial literacy besides being able to count change. Thank god for the Internet!!!

    • Scott Trench

      Darrin – First of all I’m glad you appreciated the article. Second of all, I think that the fact that you tried to spread the word about finance by trying to influence your college curriculum is awesome!

      Lastly, what resources did you use to teach yourself? Always interested in hearing about where others self-study!

  37. Ok Scott, let’s suppose you waved a magic wand and your plan of teaching Wealth I & Wealth II to the masses came into being. What if it was so intriguing to young students that they fixated almost exclusively on those classes? After all, don’t all kids fantasize about what they’d buy and how they’d live if they got rich? I know I did!
    “So what’s the problem?” you ask. Do you believe that each one of us has a special gift/talent and a special reason to be on this planet? What if by this distraction of teaching “The Big Secrets” we hinder our youth in seeking to uncover and develop their God-given gifts? What if their preoccupation with money matters keeps them engaged and prosperous but inhibits their ability to notice what having no money and being bored often ushers in? What if we short-circuit the natural phases of growth and go right for the juggler – go right to the money part? I often wonder how many silver-spoon kids totally missed their calling in life by being so “fortunate.” They rose up with the rising tide but never experienced the tide going out, only to find out they were swimming naked. And they never had the rigors of adversity and the opportunity to cultivate their character by the cut and thrust of the world. Is that fair? After all, this is why Buddha left the castle. He deeply feared falling asleep in the lap of luxury. He thought what was unfair was being shrouded from the 99% and being content with a mere husk of life. He saw misfortune in his fortune and fortune hiding among the misfortunate – and his real journey began.

    I believe what is most important is for our youth to discover why they are here – and to share their gifts with humanity/ a.k.a. start a career. At that point they are old enough and hopefully wise and smart enough to start to learn the money game – which the information about is widely accessible (get a free library card if you have to – and don’t go in and sit on Facebook like many do there). If we reverse the current order, I believe we may be trying to put the cart before the horse.

    I think the whole concern with this discussion when it’s discribed in terms of fair and unfair is the use of those words. Maybe America is unfair because it is the land of opportunity and other countries aren’t on such strong footing. Maybe you and I are unfair because we have a sound mind and a sound body – something many people simply do not have. Maybe those born into wealth are being treated unfair because they are asked to maintain their space regardless of the fact that they did very little to get there. Maybe their idea of fair is a normal life like you and I have. What if their real potential shines by being able to turn rags into riches? Maybe it is unfair that the top 1% pay more in taxes than the bottom 90% – taxes which help support government subsidies for the poor. Maybe it’s unfair that our subsidies are having (to some) the same numbing effect as those shrouded in wealth. Maybe we should just be good stewards of whatever God has given us and wherever God has placed us and seek only to bloom where we are planted to his glory. Maybe things are “fixed” and by trying to change them we will break them. Many things to consider… Many prayers to pray.

    On another note, I don’t agree with your comment about “It is vital for you to start young,” or something to that effect. Napoleon Hill commented that our most productive years are the years between 40 and 60. For us men, this should need no explanation. We may, by some freak happening, find that there is more to life than to spend it studying the female anatomy. And at that, I feel I’ve said too much.

  38. Scott Trench

    Jerry – thanks for your thoughtful comment. I’m definitely not suggesting that we encourage students to pursue riches at the expense of life! I’m trying to argue that students need to study finance in order to complement their passions! I’d argue that someone with a strong level of financial literacy is far better equipped to pursue their passions uninterrupted than someone who forever struggles to get by!

    Others have also commented on the use of the word “unfair”. I am happy that it engendered discussion, but I feel that it detracted from my main point, and I now wish that I had used a somewhat different word or phrased it differently.

    I’ll disagree with you and defend my view that starting young is very important. You mention that the years between 40 and 60 are the most productive. I certainly have no grounds to disagree with that as a 24 year old, but I believe that I will be the most productive in those years because I will be financially free, with children that are able to take care of themselves for the large part of that age range! I’ll be able to dedicate my time exclusively to the pursuit of something immense! For those who don’t start saving and investing young – which is far more likely if they were taught how to in early childhood – those folks won’t have enough passive income to support their true passions in that age range, and therefore won’t see the productivity that those who “bought” financial freedom earlier in life!

  39. Mark Ruiz

    I definitley wish they did when I was in school. Should be part of those electives I had available called “Homeec” They teach you cooking, sewing. Im sure they could have entered personal finance. Even simple money management when you get your first job. If the schools fall short, then maybe employers who normally hire first timers which would be those retail giants could make personal finance a part of their training programs to help first timers with their money. The only thing I like about the retail sector as an employee is starting out because it definately helps you deal with different people.

    • Scott Trench

      Mark, I think that asking corporations to teach finance may be a conflict of interest as some users pointed out. As an employer, I’d hope that my employees a) like to work for me, b) want to work for me, and c) HAVE to work for me. Creating financially independent employees might be seen as some employers as a negative.

      Interesting perspective though – there could well be secondary benefits to teaching finance to employees.

  40. Brian Karlow

    Scott

    Great article! I’m really having a hard time understanding why so many of the people who are responding negatively to your post who have found success, obviously through utilizing financial education themselves, are so dug in on their unwillingness to acknowledge the importance of this! Yes as parents we have a responsibility to raise and guide our kids but I’ll refer to a great saying I’ve heard here on BP…..you don’t know what you don’t know!

    That being said, how can it be expected of the parents who have not had the opportunity of some basic financial education to teach their children? What I hear you staying is we should be giving children the opportunity to learn a basic foundation….no hand outs or government freebies…

    Yes, if there’s a will there’s a way, but come on…..Let’s give these kids a fighting chance to learn some of these skills sooner then most of us here on BP did!

    Great article….keep up the good work!

    • Scott Trench

      Thanks Brian – I think that some of these users were annoyed that I describe the situation as “unfair” – which to some might have seemed like an attack on the rich, instead of an attack on the system.

      I also think a lot of users believe that “behavior” is more important than education. I don’t necessarily disagree with that argument, but I think that behavior and education might be intertwined – maybe I’ll share my take on that in a post tomorrow..

    • Scott Trench

      Agreed – If we are going to force children to learn a “standard core curriculum”, then the foundation of that program had better be finance and economics. If you force them to spend the bulk of their years studying far less impactful subjects like advanced history, english, and sciences, then you are just giving the Gates’ children a massive head start.

      Nothing against the subjects in the core curriculum, they just aren’t as material to success in today’s economy as finance and economics, and the practical application of both.

  41. John Sayre

    Thanks for your thoughts and time in writing this article Scott. I used to take drum lessons as a kid from a man who had a degree in music education. He was always hustling and working hard to make ends meet. I remember something he said probably 17 years ago about finance that still sticks with me. To paraphrase: “I learned a lot in college about various subjects, how to get through algebra, read this or that foreign language, how to teach music to kids, but they never taught me how to make a living”. Bingo. Words of wisdom from Larry Glick R.I.P.

    • Scott Trench

      John – thank you for your comment – your support is appreciated. I felt the same way after about two and half years, and switched to the study of finance and economics. While my studies there were really more of a preparation to analyze returns on projects for corporations, the basic principles of ROI, the time value of money, and risk analysis can be applied universally.

      Why isn’t everyone taught that? And why isn’t everyone pushed to apply those principles academically and practically throughout their years in public education?

  42. Daren H.

    Apparently there are a lot of people on BP that do not think that the most glaring difference you will find between the poor and the wealthy is education. If education has nothing to do with this difference, I say we just abolish the entire education system (half of it is useless anyway). Apparently all you need in life is your parents to teach you everything and a lot of “get up and go get it”. But wait, what if the parents are uneducated and poor? Doesn’t matter, they should be able to teach their kids about being wealthy and the path to get there even though they have never come close to experiencing it. How does this make sense? Ahhh, but I have a lot of get up and go get it in me even though my parents can’t educate me (say you were lucky and got this trait on your own). This is a great trait but will only get you so far. I can have all of the determination in the world but if I pick up a basketball or football for the first time at the age of 25, my odds of being a professional player are slim to none. I can have all of the drive, determination, desire, and never say die attitude in the world but the odds of being able to compete with or overcome others who have been at their craft since they were kids will be almost impossible. I am not blaming the wealthy but don’t feed me bullsh*t like they don’t share educational advantages or at least have access to them that separate them from the poor. By the way, this has nothing to do with giving anyone Government handouts so I am not sure why some people are bring this up!

    • Scott Trench

      Daren – thanks for the comment! I think you make some great points. I totally agree with what you are saying about starting young obviously. It is totally possible to have enough “go get’em” to succeed in life regardless of your background, but it’s a hell of a lot easier to succeed if you are less motivated when you’ve been playing the game for years and years.

  43. Brandon McCombs

    Daren, one myth our society perpetuates is that one needs to attend college in order to be successful. And an even greater myth is that one must attend an expensive/famous college/university in order to be successful. Since that is a myth then that means those who do go to expensive/famous universities don’t actually have an advantage. How many people on BP went to an expensive college only to not need any of that in order to become a realtor, landlord, property manager or a real estate investor?

    The most glaring difference between the poor and wealthy is *not* education. In order to be educated one must be willing to learn. In addition, just because one has an education doesn’t mean one will be guaranteed success and wealth. Therefore the underlying difference is the drive to want a better life and that takes responsibility. I think everyone on BP would agree with that. Better than what you may ask? That part differs depending on who you ask. But the bottom of the barrel comparison (and one that many poor people can relate to) would be to have a drive that makes one want more than what the gov’t gives us if we don’t do anything to earn money.

    The underlying causes of Income inequality is motivation and responsibility. Too many people are satisfied with their current standard of living. Gov’t handouts make living off the gov’t better than earning minimum wage. Does that mean min. wage is too low? No, it means handouts are too high. Unskilled labor should be cheap; it’s unskilled after all and commonplace therefore it shouldn’t cost much. But if you supplant minimum wage with 40 hour work week with gov’t handouts that don’t require work then the only thing that separates the poor from the rich is the drive to want better than that. Education won’t fix that. It comes down to personal responsibility. Education can accelerate it but that’s going to be secondary to the person wanting to learn in the first place which will come naturally as one succeeds.

    • Scott Trench

      Brandon – I totally get what you are saying. I think that motivation and personal responsibility are huge and I pointed out how so many middle class Americans seem to be behaving terribly with their finances at least in another article.

      I think that the one place where I have trouble fully accepting your argument is where you say that the underlying cause of income inequality is motivation and responsibility.

      I believe that motivation and education is a chicken-or-egg concept. Are we on BiggerPockets financially educated because we are motivated to succeed? Or are we motivated to succeed because we are educated on the power of strong personal finance?

      I believe that education influences behavior AND that motivation influences education.

  44. Daren H.

    @Brandon McCombs

    I agree with your first statement in regards to college and the myth that goes with it but not so much with the rest of your statement. Allow me to clarify on what I mean by education. Education includes knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and habits that are transferred from one generation to the next through relationships as well as other formal manners. I don’t think I ever mentioned “college degree” as the sole point or definition of education or educated. Research will show that most of the true wealth in America (I am not talking about middle class working stiffs) is generational which means it is passed down. You don’t think the next generation receiving the wealth received an education on how to maintain it and grow it?? I think so sir. On the flip side, research will show that poverty is generational. You think the majority of poor people in American had generations of wealthy people before them that taught them how to maintain and grow wealth?? I think not sir.

    You stated that “in order to be educated one must be willing to learn”. Where does willingness to learn come from? This is a modeled behavior, not something you just pick up out of the blue sky. If children are not modeled this behavior how are they going to value learning. Drive and determination will do you no good if you can’t see past the trees (someone has to educate you about the forest out there). There are poor people who are highly motivated and determined to get up and go to work everyday to scratch out a living so I don’t automatically say that if you are poor you just want a Government hand out. Not sure how this is even in the conversation. Real poor people probably have no clue about being wealthy and this is because they were never educated on the subject and they don’t have people close to them modeling this behavior.

    • Brandon McCombs

      “Allow me to clarify on what I mean by education. Education includes knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and habits that are transferred from one generation to the next through relationships as well as other formal manners.”

      You have a broad definition of education that isn’t the standard definition, hence why I assumed you meant academic education. Knowledge and skills are part of academic education. But values and beliefs are a different type. And I’ll add to those the concepts of ethics, morals and principles, which come from one’s religion. But for purposes of this argument we can agree to state that ‘education’ includes all the things concepts listed above.

      “I don’t think I ever mentioned “college degree” as the sole point or definition of education or educated.”

      No you didn’t but you didn’t say what you did mean either. The items you defined as part of your definition of “education” are not typical of it’s general use as you used it.

      “Research will show that most of the true wealth in America (I am not talking about middle class working stiffs) is generational which means it is passed down. ”

      You would be wrong with this baseless statement, at least when it comes to the ultra wealthy. See http://money.cnn.com/2014/11/19/luxury/ultra-wealthy-got-wealthier/index.html which states that only 17% of the ultra wealthy inherited their wealth. If you can find some research to the contrary I’d be interested in seeing it.

      “You don’t think the next generation receiving the wealth received an education on how to maintain it and grow it?? I think so sir.”

      Again, just because you can be given the keys to the kingdom doesn’t mean you want them. Academic education is wasted without proper motivation and responsibility. I think that wealthy people have a different mindset (i.e. different set of morals and values). It’s a mindset of properly placing responsibility where it lies. They realize that their success is contingent upon themselves, not society and not the gov’t. This doesn’t even have to be actively or directly passed down to children but rather just allowing children to see how their parents behave and what their parents think will allow them to understand this key point by seeing their parents’ principles put into action. This is indeed generational and it does have its exceptions.

      “On the flip side, research will show that poverty is generational. You think the majority of poor people in American had generations of wealthy people before them that taught them how to maintain and grow wealth?? I think not sir. ”

      Correlation is not causation so a lack of academic education does not dictate poverty. I agree that poor people don’t have wealthy people to teach them how to maintain and grow wealth; that’s obvious. But educating them about maintaining and growing wealth treats the symptoms rather than the problem of poverty.

      Let me explain by starting with this: Kids in the ‘hood break into a life of crime because they have nothing to lose. When you have nothing the only way to go is up and if you die trying then they believe it’s no great loss because they had nothing to live for anyway. That general mindset permeates the lower class living in places like the ‘projects’. The other mindset that permeates the lower class is the idea that the rich man is an oppressor and causes poverty therefore anyone in poverty is a victim and a victim is helpless to stop his/her offender. They are taught that gov’t is the only way to settle the score of poverty because the gov’t can punish the rich man through taxation and other means. This misplaces blame and redirects who is responsible for one’s success on society/gov’t rather than on ourselves. This removes all motivation, drive, etc. and it works because kids grow up in the projects or in single parent families believing this from a young age. It becomes a generational problem because our increasingly socialist government perpetuates that mindset, along with certain racist demagogues abusing their position of power.

      I don’t believe that being wealthy is a behavior that can be modeled. Being wealthy is merely a result of a mindset that involves the concepts I’ve already mentioned. Yes, there are poor people who go to work everyday, some may or may not live off the ‘system’ in part, while others don’t go to work and live off the ‘system’ completely. I’m not implying that anyone who is poor lives off the gov’t but I am stating that the lower class as a whole is being brainwashed to believe that the upper class is to blame for their lack of wealth. And many of them believe that; it represents one of the tenets of the Democratic party.

      You believe that the willingness to learn is a modeled behavior rather than something that can simply be acquired. You are basically agreeing with what I said without knowing it. I didn’t actually claim ‘willingness to learn’ is “something you just pick up out of the blue sky.” In fact, I stated the underlying issue is the drive to want a better life. A ‘willingness’ is something that comes from within each of us. I stated that in order to be educated one must be willing to learn. The willingness comes from motivation, or drive. Guess what else comes from motivation? Behavior. (see url below) So the willingness to learn comes from motivation, just as behavior does.

      https://www.cwu.edu/~streetl/Differences%20Between%20Learning%20and%20Behavior.html

  45. Max M.

    It seems like both sides are true. On one hand, if someone is motivated enough, they will do what it takes. If they don’t know enough, they will learn as they go along, and perhaps one day learn enough to succeed in their endeavor. Someone who’s low on education/upbringing will need to be very high on motivation, otherwise they will not overcome the hurdle of doing things very different from their current position.

    On the other hand, if someone was brought up into financial success mindset and educated in those matters, they need almost no motivation to simply do what they were raised to do, since it’s basically habit.

    Aside from education there is also mindset, attitude, emotional patterns, behavioral patterns, etc. Surrounding peers and influences. Media exposure. One can say that as a child the world around us conspires to mold us into the prevailing default.

    I’ve personally been brought up to be a loser and mass media consumer. Fortunately I reached a place of disgust and contempt for my influences, however I can’t help but think part of the reason for this is my own father was a strange guy who had disgust and contempt for the typical around him. If it wasn’t for him I probably would have been a more docile and cooperative poor person.

    • Scott Trench

      Max – I absolutely agree that both sides are true here – that motivation and education play a role in success. I’d like to use a ridiculous example:

      If you lived 1,000 years ago, do you think that it is possible that you would 100% never even have considered the possibility of traveling quite literally AROUND the world? Of course not – the world was flat 1,000 years ago.

      Today, it’s the same concept. There are millions and millions of people who will go through their entire lives never learning even the most basic concepts of personal finance. How can tru wealth even be a possible source of motivation for them? It is literally a nonexistent concept for them, impossible to grasp. That grasp has to be artificially implanted through education.

      The desire for financial success is not instintive. Human beings aren’t wired to crave dollars from birth. It is taught. Compound interest is taught. Financial Freedom is taught.

      You cannot be motivated to achieve if this concept of success isn’t even conceivable to you.

  46. Corwin Smith

    As the old adage says “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” You can only do what you are capable of doing and know how to do.

    So, although formal financial “know how” may not put a person into the top 1% in his single lifetime, it might still help his decedents get out of the lower 1%.

    So, isn’t the author’s point

    “Want to know why the top 1% of Americans are super rich and why the gap keeps getting wider and wider between them and the rest of us?

    It’s because money is a competitive sport and they know the rules — and then they teach them to their children at an early age.”

    valid.

  47. Danny Layton

    If we do not get the borders of our country controlled and others issues resolved, it will not matter how much financial information is taught. These issues are huge, and they will hugely impact how well this county can survive financially.

  48. Deborah Smith

    I didn’t get to read all the comments yet. But I love this article. Hit the nail on the head. I try to impress the importance of this on my peers, family, etc. I always tell them it’s really easy to be broke on $30m/year if you don’t know how to manage it. Likewise, you can live a modest but decent life on $30k if you know what you’re doing.
    Looking forward to more of your posts!

  49. Mark Forest

    I do not understand why anyone would not favor putting finance in a school curriculum. Ultimately we are going to school to get a job. Why do we have jobs? To make MONEY. Personal finance is all about saving and growing your money. For example, there are so many people who get jobs, but do not know enough to set up deductions to meet their employers’ contribution to their 401 K. They are missing out on FREE MONEY. There are actually people who do not even know what a 401 K is!

    One facet of finance that people need to learn is the time value of money concept. We should all know how to work a financial calculator to find the required loan payments given a certain present value, interest rate, and time.

    Also thanks for the tip on Coursera.

    • Scott Trench

      Steve,

      No problem on the Coursera stuff – I love learning about how to manage my financial situation and love the fact that my job entails bringing the education on BiggerPockets to as many millions as we possibly can. I’ve written a couple other posts that list free educational resources, so definitely feel free to check them out as well!

      Time value of money is huge! HUGE! And most people don’t understand it. It seems so obvious to everyone here on BiggerPockets, but I’d bet that more than half the country don’t actually understand the concept. How would they? How are they going to teach something that they’ve never even heard of to their kids? That’s who we are competing with. That’s not fair. At all.

    • Stephen S.

      Finance used to be in school’s curriculum. Is was called Home Economics. This course taught people the skills and the thought processes required to successfully manage the business venture which is any successful home.

      This financial management course was removed by all the people who think the way you apparently do. You write: “Ultimately we are going to school to get a job.” This is incorrect. You are confusing a trade-school or secondary college with education. The first purpose of education is to produce a well-rounded and able individual. But all the insistence on reducing education to mere job training has eliminated much of that now.

  50. Michael Fortney

    I totally agree with this ariticle. I am doing taxes on the side right now and see so many of these people who don’t even know what taxes really are, always asking for more back or having $5 taken out for federal taxes on a $17000 income. They took 8 exemptions being a single person! Or trying to explain to set some money aside now to have what they owe by April 15th. Had one parent say “expect my son to set money aside…” YES is it called SAVING! Very large need in this country, hope the people in charge finally learn this and implement something!

    Michael

    • Scott Trench

      Thanks Michael! Totally agree. We aren’t dealing with tough things here, we are dealing with a habit that needs to be created over a long period of time. That habit of behaving in a financially intelligent manner needs to be developed early!

    • Scott Trench

      Adam – thanks for linking to that article. Interesting read. I totally get that math helps finance. I certainly took a lot of math courses and they helped me grasp the difficult to comprehend concepts of compound interest and the ability to “snowball” wealth. I do think that repetitive reinforcement of financial skills throughout childhood is a key to understanding (whether it’s taught strictly as math or not) and that repeated schooling over my childhood would have given me a far better chance to succeed than a total lack of formal education.

  51. Walker Hinshaw

    I haven’t even finished the article yet and I couldn’t wait to hop down to the comments and agree with you 1000%. Not 100%, 1000%. How do we ever expect kids who come from underprivileged families to have a chance? Sure there are always a few exceptions to the rule, but if these kids are never taught how to deal with money, how can we expect them to pull themselves out of poverty? By not teaching sound financial education in our public schools, we are dooming yet another generation to rely on government welfare programs. While I am a firm believer in personal responsibility, how can you honestly expect these kids to ever seek out and learn concepts like compounding interest if they are never even told they exist?! Our public education system can and needs to do better.

    • Scott Trench

      Thanks Walker! I definitely support that. The next question for those that agree with my premise is this:

      How can I take personal responsibility to help change this?

      I’d suggest getting out into the community to press the school systems to teach these concepts, working with local charities, and expanding your influence on the net (such as through BP) to help those that become interested in Finance on their own.

  52. Blame, blame, blame. Blame the ref when you lose a game. Blame the ref when you win a game?! Oh, wait! That second part doesn’t happen. There’s even blame going around for the lack of free little league opportunities creating an undiversified MLB. I guess we should demand that all public school children be taught from a young age how to play baseball at an elite level.

    Public schools have done an excellent job in doing what they were first created to do – create a worker/drone population. That is the financial and philosophical education produced.

    From kindergarten through twelfth grade, a public school student will have approximately one hundred teachers (that’s including electives/fine arts). Which of those teachers will you blame/credit for your education? Each teacher only represents one percent. You, on the other hand, own 100 percent of your education. To whom do you credit your financial education? Ninety percent of all learning happens outside of the classroom. The idea of learning “how to learn” is simply strangled out of this article by the social justice whine.

    If you want to make a real difference in that system, write a curriculum and offer to teach it for free before or after school or as an elective. Create a successful model, one that others will want to follow. Make it profitable to the public schools. Teach the teachers how to weave financial elements into their curriculum. I used an apartment lease agreement to teach basic English skills to thirty summer school teenagers one summer. We worked our way onto comparing the finances of the renters to that of the apartment owners. They were amazed and simultaneously dismayed by the financial comparisons. By the end of summer school, each student had an understanding of contract language, a useful life skill (how to read and understand a contract), and a simplified understanding of how the next “system” works.

    I really hope that your next article will include some real solutions to something you perceive to be a problem.

    P.S. Most truly literate people can teach themselves how to write a curriculum for public schools, so please don’t blame anyone for a lack of a “professional” educational background.

    • Scott Trench

      Hi An – Great response! I think that I’ve progressed in my thinking over the last six months a little bit since this was first introduced. While I still think it’s a tad bit unfair that the wealthy 1% instill financial wisdom in their children from an early age, I think that I’ve come a long way around in how I frame my attempt to take action to correct this problem.

      I hope that if you were to peruse many of my posts and videos since then, I’ve been doing everything I can to explain financial concepts clearly, concisely, and in a way that explains their importance in an accessible manner. I’m not professor with a curriculum, but I hope to be of a similar level of value over the long term.

  53. john horner

    This has to be the best article I’ve read yet. Our government talks about wealth inequality like it is the wealthy peoples fault (not to mention all of these government officials are in this boat with us but talk about it like it’s not them.) The Dems want to “redistribute the wealth”, but what is that going to do. Giving free money to people who don’t know how to handle it will give them a little bit of fun then they will be poor again. Giving someone money will not make them wealthy, it will not make the next generation of their family wealthy. Without financial knowledge having money is worthless. Why do 70% of people who win the lottery go bankrupt? Because poor people play the lottery, and they have no idea how to invest, they only know how to spend.

  54. Spencer Clark

    I’m late to the game as I just saw this highlighted in today’s newsletter, but wanted to add my agreement along with a few other thoughts.

    I’m in Montgomery County, next door to where you grew up, and was also a product of our public schools. Arguably, we came from some of the top and best-funded public schools in the country, so if it can be done anywhere, it should be here. I’ve long bemoaned that while we spend lots of time and effort teaching subjects that many students will hardly (if ever) use, we fail to adequately teach basic life skills that everyone needs, every day: personal finance and personal health & nutrition (including cooking). There are some limited cases where these subjects are addressed, but not to the extent that other subjects are mandated.

    I was surprised earlier this year to discover that there is indeed a program in Montgomery County (and many other area) schools that teaches basic financial literacy to 6th graders. It’s apparently a state requirement to get 6 hours of financial literacy training. (6 HOURS! That’s all!) Our program is run through a great non-profit called Junior Achievement, which provides a curriculum covering the basics of choosing a career, budgeting, credit and insurance.

    I’ve taken three days of leave from my job this year to spend time in the classroom teaching these lessons to 12 year-olds. In every class there is at least one (and sometimes more) kids who have a good grasp on many of these things, but most don’t. I look at my community, which is very mixed income and has a lot of immigrants. They are not going to get personal finance lessons at home because many of their parents don’t know these concepts themselves. We need schools to step in, and while our Junior Achievement program is a valuable start, they need so much more.

    On that note, did you see that the Maryland Legislature just passed a new program targeted at low-to-moderate income families offering a $250/year “matching” grant to those who set up 529 plans and fund them with as little as $25/year? That’s not a whole lot, but could add up to over $3,000 in free college money (not including investment gains!) for someone who opened an account in Kindergarten and contributed annually. It starts next year and is only available for new accounts set up after Jan 1, 2017.

    I’ve already talked to my PTA about organizing education sessions next year on investing for college and running a 529 enrollment drive for the new grant program. The state is allocating enough money for at least 20,000 matching grants (of $250) next year. My goal is to see if I can get 500 of those awarded to students at my neighborhood elementary school alone. We are severely overcrowded with over 900 students, a majority of which are Latino and low-income. Imagine if we can get even half of those kids signed up with an investment account in their name before they turn 12! Let’s teach investing early to the parents and kids – not just in theory, but also in practice – and see what that pays back over a lifetime.

  55. Gene D.

    So i know im getting to this article a bit late, just got it emailed in a marketing blast from BP and found the title a bit sensational and curious at the same time (good job there)…but just have to say i completely agree with its points. Sadly, it is no accident, negligence or simple oversight. I think the system is designed this way specifically. Thete is nothing fair about it, but thats life. If all of us built up interest accruing portfolios, there would be nobody left to do all those jobs that the poor on goverment assistance do at or close to the minimum wage.

    There is a paradigm shift underway though due to ease of distribution of information ushered in by tech, principles of finance are now being more consumed by the masses (success of BP is a great illustration of this point). More concerning to me are the overall job market changes underway influenced by automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, etc. Financial engineering only works when utilized by the few, its utility is marginalized when used by all.

    • Brad Lohnes

      Wow! That is a stunning article. On the one hand, I completely understand where the author (and many, many others) are coming from as I was in the same boat only 3-4 years ago. On the other hand, the author’s despair is palpable, and all the more sad because the answers are out there. He really just needs to read Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsay. Probably won’t though, because it’s not a literary masterpiece.

      Despite claiming to understand that he is responsible for his own financial situation, he completely misses that it was ever within his control. He blames things like career choice, where to live, the fact that his kids had to go to private schools and then on to extremely expensive universities, as just the facts of life that everyone has to face – making different choices would make him a different person….yes, one not destitute late in life! Ultimately, he blames not earning enough, when as well all know…it’s not about how much you earn.

      Anyway, thanks for sharing that article – I will be sharing it with others as well.

  56. John Bankson

    Great article! I completely agree with the tenants of this article. A big problem I have with society today is that there is this belief that everyone needs to go to college – and that is the extent of the belief. Parents and teachers don’t prepare children for the real world. High School and College don’t prepare people for the real world either. Too many kids are going to college with no idea what they will do with the college degree. There is a famous saying that is relevant here. If you go on a journey without a destination in mind, you will definitely end up somewhere; but probably not where you want to be. I left college with book knowledge and zero job skills. (and absolutely no personal finance skills).

    One of the core problems I see is that many kids are getting advice from parents and teachers who haven’t built any wealth. My parents never went to college, yet I took a lot of their advice which in hindsight was somewhat misguided and set my financial growth back several years. Same for my teachers…I grew up in a small town and most of my teachers were pretty bad teachers…I did have a couple of good teachers (in their chosen field); the advice was the same though – go to college and get a good job.

    It wasn’t until I read the Rich Dad books did I realize how I had been setup for failure from the get go. I too have spent many years now trying to learn the wealthy mind-set and associated skills. Here is some of the common flawed advice I received and I constantly here other people say:

    – Go to college; get a good job
    – It’s not who you know; it’s what you know
    – money can’t make you happy
    – buy as much house (personal residence) as you can afford; it will be your biggest asset
    – it’s rude to talk about money with other people

    Most of these force us to have a mindset that is counter-intuitive to wealth building. The money can’t make you happy thing bugs me; as it implies that money is evil and will make you miserable if you have too much. These concepts were drilled into me from an early age. I’m not saying the opposite of these common saying are correct, but these are definitely wrong.

    My wife and I are doing what we can to give our kids a leg up in society…to give them the advantage. My kids (7 & 9) go to private school and we try to teach them about wealth and finance. Both of my kids like the Cash Flow for kids game; and my son is/has been involved with my on my rental properties. Unfortunately it is a parent responsibility to teach these concepts to our children; so I’m making sure my kids aren’t held back like I was.

    The real question is how do we break the cycle of bad, mis-guided, or no advice on finances and wealth building in our society.

  57. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t shoot it and push it in.

    Sorry for the long post, but I have answers to anyone who wants o listen. Investing is easy. Just takes discipline. I started with nothing. No inheritance. No handouts. No 1% parents. My wife and I saved money to buy a house. Then we saved money and bought a rental. Then we got aggressive and took out a HELOC against our home, not to buy a car or a boat or a bunch of worthless consumer crap, and bought 5 more houses. Two years later, we sold the first one and did a 1031 Exchange and put the proceeds into two more houses. We kept saving and buying properties. We didn’t take $10,000 vacations to Europe. We didn’t buy a new car every other year. Go read the book “The Millionaire Next Door.” Live that millionaire lifestyle! We do.

    I learned along the way. I am now a licensed real estate broker and teach real estate investing. Since 2004 I have had over 1500 people go through my seminars, which teach the basic investing models used to get rich…SLOWLY. Using proven models leads to success. Now 15 years later we currently own 9 rentals, 5 of which are paid off, our personal home is paid off, and we have a $4m portfolio with over $2m in equity.

    Only 5 investors out of 1500 who attended one of my presentations have actually stuck to the program with me, and now all 5 of them have at least $1m in real estate equity. That’s right 5 out of 1500. So is life fair? Maybe not. But seminars like mine are free. You just need the guts and the discipline to stick to a plan over at least 10 years. So in my opinion it is not an education issue, it is an issue of being soft and undisciplined as a society in general. Negativity and complaining about your lot in life will get you nowhere.

    • Jerome Kaidor

      Good story, Kevin! We did much the same – bought
      Our own house then,
      4-plex then
      8-plex then
      52-unit apt complex then
      13-unit apartment building.

      It’s a little more complicated than that. A few things got refi-d, a few things sold. We got our initial investment by living well below our means for about 16 years. But it paid off, big time.
      I left the W2 rat race in 2003. My wife just found out that her job is going away some time next
      year. My reaction? “Ho hum. Guess you’ll have more free time now”.

  58. Amber Webb

    Many schools teach basic money management and investing in high school. Could they do better? Yes.
    That, however, doesn’t seem to be the” issue” that lies at the heart of this. The” issue” that I see being hashed here has more to do with the family not having money and business knowledge to cultivate a rich child. You can teach a kid personal finance in school, but it often times goes in one ear and out the other (much like the other subjects). When it is part of the way they are raised, it becomes second nature (most times). The thing is, this is not an issue. It is a difference in people and who they are and want to be. Every person’s family blessed them with a different skill and value set. The rest is up to us to make our own way. Struggle can bring strength and appreciation that cannot be taught in school and doesn’t always exist when there is a silver spoon involved.

  59. David Krulac

    The top 1% earn $506,000 a year.
    The bottom 1% earn $2,500 a year.
    The other 98% earn between those numbers.

    Teaching finance may or may not be the answer, maybe we should teach real estate in high school also, as well as budgeting, and how to write a check. One tenant would send me rent checks that were unsigned. When I presented the check to him to sign he signed the back of the check, even though he was the payer. the only check he had handled to this time he had to sign the back to cash and he didn’t know he had to sign the front when he was the issuer of the check.

  60. Brandon Gentile

    You know you have struck a nerve when the comments thread is a mile long! Haha!
    Good article Scott! Couldn’t help but think of Kiyosaki’s entire line of books, games, etc.. I think that while basic understanding of finance should be taught in school the opportunity for all of us is massive because of that. What we do with that opportunity is up to us. Create programs to help educate others or build massive wealth? I for one am looking to do both. 🙂 Glad you brought this topic up, keep up the good fight!

  61. Matthew Hurst

    Scott, I agree with your general view that schools should teach more about finance. I also think it is helpful for people to remember that many wealthy people did not inherit their wealth. In fact, after accounting for other variables, some people claim that inheriting wealth from others is actually counterproductive.

    The “The Millionaire Next Door” devotes quite a few pages to the topic of inherited wealth and cites studies showing that those who inherit wealth typically do worse than otherwise similar people who don’t. It gives some rationales for this counter-intuitive finding, and provides some hypotheticals to illustrate the point.

    It notes that people who are given money are likely to use it to start businesses, often in fields where they don’t have enough expertise and don’t yet know how to get financing. By contrast, someone starting a business without inherited money might learn on someone else’s dime (as an employee), thus getting experience and then learning how to get financing before getting started. The book also notes that someone who does not inherit money will have the necessity of generating positive cashflow quickly. If they raised the money from private investors, those investors will want to see certain milestones before continuing to provide funds. If using inherited money, the same constraint does not exist. In theory, someone could simply set the inherited money aside and proceed without it. It appears from the research they cite that few people have the willpower to actually do that.

    It is commonly noted that child income is correlated with parental income. Whether that is because of genetics or because children’s goals are shaped by those of their parents remains a big debate.

    Interestingly enough, being born into an affluent family is not always correlated with good things. Some studies have found increased anxiety, depression, and increased use of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs among children of the affluent when compared to inner-city youth. Some people speculate that children in such families face high pressure to meet unrealistic definitions of success. Not everyone is going to be at the top of their suburban high school class.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1950124/

    My broader point is that sometimes popular views are not always the entire story. I do agree with you that schools – public and private – should at least give a conceptual understanding of money and taxes.

  62. Allen Fletcher

    I agree 100%. My education in finance did not start till I was a senior in college and that was only on accident (I took a personal finance course just to fill my credit count up to 12 so I could keep my scholarship). During that class I found out that there was a huge portion of not just knowledge, but real-life applicable skills that I had never known were so important. I have since gotten a Master’s degree in finance and feel that I am properly prepared.

    In response my wife and I have started teaching our children (ages 1 and 3) the meaning of money and we have a syllabus that spans their lives till age 18 to hopefully teach them all the essentials necessary for being financially stable for their entire lives.

    If you ever need to assistance in getting the word out contact me.

    Allen Fletcher

  63. Joe Scaparra

    Scott, the point on smoking was not the knowledge that smoking is bad for your health that has the greatest impact to the overall reduction of smoking in America. It has been the force BEHAVIOR our society has mandated in respect to smoking. No smoking in the office or the building or the restaurant or the bar, or the public event (football game, concert, convention center, high school, college). These policies governing BEHAVIOR is attributed to the overall reduction of smokers in America, not the knowledge that smoking is bad for you as that knowledge was known in the 70s and 80s. Yet we still have a lot of smokers today.

    Life is not fair and I don’t want it to be fair! Is it fair that some kids get there college paid for by their parents and others do not……no it is not fair! Is it fair some kids get a car given to them at age 16 by their parents and others do not….no it is not fair. Is it not fair that some people get paid $10 an hour while others get paid $40 an hour, no it is not. Is it fair that some parents through their own life experiences learned the value of a dollar or the disciplines of life and passed it on their kids while other parents taught their kids to live life in the present and if you screw up the government is there to solve all your needs! Life is not fair, and the ONLY WAY TO MAKE IT FAIR IS TO LIVE IN A TRUE COMMUNIST ENVIRONMENT. To live in a fair environment means living in an environment that does not reward initiative, innovation, or risk taking to better your situation. Fair meaning the same for everyone. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying, yes we need an environment that allows for the freedom of opportunity but the initiative must come from within. Was if fair that the parents of my two best friends paid for their son’s suits for prom and my parents said hell no we won’t buy your suit to go to the prom, you pay for it yourself. Some values are passed on from one generation to others, and while others are developed through your own life spurred on through the consequences of your BEHAVIORS.

    Now having said all this above, yes it would be nice that personal finance is taught in school to some extent. It could lay a foundation and in some ways be beneficial to some. However, the major advantage would be from life lessons either passed on from family or friends or life lessons that one learns themselves and the lessons most taken advantage of are the ones that require discipline to be exercised….modified BEHAVIOR.

  64. Dustin Graham

    The email in my inbox had the subject, “The (Unfair) Secret Advantage of the 1%” I was expecting to learn something interesting about investing. Instead I found an article that says we should educate our children. Felt click-baited. You’re not wrong though. 100% agree that finance should be taught in school.

  65. Financial illiteracy is a national problem. A case can be made that the crashes of 2000 and 2008 were caused by this. The “Land of the Free” needs to be taught that they need to learn how to be financially free.

Leave A Reply

Pair a profile with your post!

Create a Free Account

Or,


Log In Here

css.php