Michigan is about to become the 14th state to mandate a personal finance course in high school, congratulations. I wish we had a personal finance class when I was in high school. Left to my own devices, well, I put every dollar I made into my ’55 Chevy life preserver, even to the point of driving to Mexico to have my seats fixed and folded in Naugahyde. It cost a fortune; but oh, he looked boss!
However, a little problem arose while we were driving home through the hot desert of Southern California. I started to smell something that made my eyes water. I discovered, as my olfactory glands swelled to the size of peaches, that my beautiful new upholstery had been stuffed with horse manure, something one would never detect except on a very hot day.
I sold that car on the coldest day of the year to a classmate who also needed a personal finance course. The only thing I learned from Mrs. Mann’s home economics class was: “She never spent more than a quarter of her income on her housing.” That little tidbit served me well over the years, but the days when you spent only a quarter of your earnings on rent are gone, while rents are $2,500 a month here in Tahoe, and double that in New York City if you can find a flat.
A while ago I picked up a couple of girls who were hitchhiking to the state line for a night out. In the course of their conversation, one of them asked the other, “Did you bring any money?”
Those girls could have used a course in personal finance, and maybe one in sociology. My humble suggestion is this: leave Shakespeare for Twain and leave algebra for personal finance. I have never used algebra except to figure out how fast I had to run to finish a marathon in under three hours. And I have never used Shakespeare, except to confess to myself from time to time, as Caliban once did: “What a thrice-double ass I was.”
The advice I got from my father, who was very good with money, was simply, “No, we can’t buy Buick taillights for your Chevy, son. Money does not grow on trees.”
Kids graduating from high school today have to educate themselves on cryptocurrencies, compound interest, and payday loans, not to mention what the line is in the game of the week.
Back when I was a lifeguard in Tahoe, life was good. I had my ’55 Chevy and a girlfriend who worked at Harrah’s and shared her generous take-home meals. That summer will never come back, not for me; unfortunately not for anyone. Life is much more complicated today. So let’s include personal finance as a body in our high school curriculum in this great land of ours, and provide our graduates with a more resourceful, successful and stress-free future.