The “Not So Wealthy Barber” & Some Thoughts On Financial Education.

Yesterday as I was getting my haircut by a nice lady who has cut my hair once or twice before.  She is probably in her late 50’s/early 60’s, and after exchanging the usual pleasantries the conversation took an unexpected turn.  She asked what I did for a living, so I mentioned I work in marketing for a finance company.  She quickly interrupted:

“Like a financial advisor? I am in need of some advice”

I let her know that I am NOT a financial advisor, however I do enjoy discussing investing and have a blog about personal finance.

What she said next – I couldn’t believe.

“My car dealer is offering me a new car for 5.5%, it would be for 7 years do you think I should do it?”

Before I could even mention that 7 years is a long time to finance a car – or that she may be able to get a lower interest rate through a different lender – or ask about her overall financial situation, or determine if she even NEED’S a new car- she continued:

“They said I could trade in my current car for this newer one, and the payments would only be a little bit more since my current car loan is 16%.”

Me:

After explaining that a 16% car loan is INSANE & basically like buying a car on a credit card – I offered some advice about refinancing, home equity loans, debt consolidation and more.

Although I am not sure if she will take any of my advice – it got me thinking about a much larger issue.  Financial literacy/education seems to be incredibly low among the general population – which is crazy considering we are living in a time where there is so much information available to us.

When I was in high school there were 3 types of math you could take.

  1. Pre Calculus
  2. Applied Mathematics
  3. Consumer Mathematics

If you asked anyone in the school (students or teachers) what they thought about each course – this is overwhelmingly how they would respond:

  1. Pre-Cal is a must take – it is required for most university courses – focuses on “algebra and number, measurement, permutations, combinations and binomial theorem, relations and functions, and trigonometry
  2. Applied Math – required for post secondary programs that do not require the study of theoretical calculus.  Topics include: Geometry, Measurement, number relations & functions and more.
  3. Consumer Math (now known as “Essentials Mathematics”.  I kid you not, people used to call this “retard” math. First of all – I hate using that word – but I just wanted to stress how backwards our curriculum and general thinking on what is important/essential.  According to the government of Manitoba website this course is best if you do not require further studies in advanced mathematics. This course focused on: Interest rates, amortization, budgeting, taxes, compounding & more.

Now don’t get me wrong – I am not saying that Calculus isn’t important, or that there aren’t certain careers that will require you to learn these things -but  every single person – in every possible career choice at some point in their life would benefit from taking Consumer math.  The problem is – the majority of students don’t – and are in fact encouraged to take one of the other 2.  When I was in high school I ended up taking Applied Math & Consumer math – and although I think the consumer course was probably too easy it should be a required course for all students (perhaps while also making it more challenging).

I can only hope that things have changed since I was in high school – but looking at the government of Manitoba’s website – it doesn’t appear so.  I am not sure what the solution is, and I am not even sure if this is problem all across Canada or just in Manitoba but I am pretty confident – without a shift in the way we educate children/teenagers on finances, budgets, economics and critical thinking – we will continue to have situations where our hairdressers are telling customers about their 16% interest car loan – and that is quite frankly depressing.

Just curious if anyone has any feedback on the high school’s they went to – or are currently going to.  Have things changed?

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7 thoughts on “The “Not So Wealthy Barber” & Some Thoughts On Financial Education.

  1. Things are definitely changing. At least in our schools. Financial literacy is not institutionalized. I do feel it’s more like a game to kids. However, I have seen small companies being formed … trading happens on hand made cards … payment is through some system I don’t even understand. Most of the parents I met seem to have some kind of reward system .. to encourage good behavior and teach the concept of money. Not much about investing though.

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  2. I’m not too concerned if kids aren’t learning about investing – but I DO think a very basic understanding of savings, compounding, budgeting, etc should be mandatory in schools. If you teach the basics, and they understand them – they will WANT to start saving & investing anyway.

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  3. Jordan, Not having kids, I can’t add much to the math conversation. I’m a little older and feel like kids are way more advanced and pushed harder than when I went to school. I did want to thank you for visiting my site and adding DD to your blogroll recently I have added you into mine this afternoon and it’s nice to “virtually” meet you. Tom

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  4. wow, yup that’s insane. The financial education people get in schools is a joke. I really don’t get it. Society would be soo much better long term. Of course there will be a couple bad years in the economy as people pay off their debt vs spend it all. That’s part of the reason I blog, hopefully someone will learn something from it.

    Hope you helped her out
    Cheers

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  5. When I was in high school there was actually a business class that I took that went into these types of details but it was an honors level elective and most people didn’t take it. It was a good class but what good is a class if 2% of the people take it.

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    • Yea I hear ya…that is why I think it should be mandatory…..We had a few similar option classes to take as well – and our high school offered a “business diploma” to go along with your HS diploma if you took enough business courses. I think i took every single one the school offered…haha.

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