I grew up poor. Although society may try to label me as underprivileged, I wouldn’t say that I was. Due to the generosity of family members and friends — and my own personal gumption — I lived a life that, externally, wasn’t unlike that of my more well-off friends.
Until you saw our house, our car, or our bank accounts, you wouldn’t have thought anything of our financial situation.
I grew up in a single-parent household. My mom raised my two younger sisters and me by herself. She didn’t pursue a four-year degree after high school. On top of that, she never had any sort of financial education.
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Too Few Financial Literacy Programs
Offering financial literacy courses in public schools is not a new idea. The High School Financial Planning Program (HSFPP) has provided financial literacy course materials for thousands of high schools in the U.S. since the ’80s. This is great, but with more than 37,000 public and private secondary schools in the United States, the number of schools with financial education is still abysmally low.
Self-Taught Financial Literacy
My home state of Kentucky is one of the many states that didn’t require financial literacy courses while I was in high school.
Seeing how difficult it was for my mom to create a budget and manage her finances inspired me to teach myself those skills.
I was fortunate enough to develop a knack for money management during my teenage years. But many of my friends didn’t. I had to pick up where my school was lacking and teach them the basics of financial literacy.
We discussed the basics of bank accounts, credit cards, and interest. I did the same for my mother. I taught her how to rebuild her credit, helped her open her first checking account in years, and got her back onto a financial track that would, at least, improve her chances of not being broke.
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Why We Need Financial Literacy Programs for the Poor
All things considered, I think my family would be in a better financial position had my mother received financial education in high school. That knowledge could have helped drive the monetary decisions that she made — as it should do.
While the role of financial literacy in class mobility is contested, there are financial professionals who agree with me.
“Many lower- and middle-class individuals do not understand the massive negative ramifications of payday loans, credit card debt, and defaulting on obligations,” says investment adviser Gabriel Pincus. “A course in financial literacy offered for free by communities could potentially deliver amazing benefits to their constituents.”
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More education and knowledge about your situation is always a useful tool to counteract the forces working against you, and in this case, it could save you from poverty.