Michigan is about to become the 14th state to mandate a personal finance course in high school, congratulations. I only wish we had a personal finance class when I was in high school. Left to my own devices, well, I poured every dollar I made as a lifeguard into my ’55 Chevy, even to the point of driving to Mexico to have the seats rolled and tucked in Naugahyde. It cost a fortune; but oh, it looked boss!
However, a small problem arose as we drove home through the hot Southern California desert. I started to feel something that made my eyes water. I discovered, as my scent nodes swelled to the size of peaches, that they had stuffed my beautiful new upholstery with horse manure, something you could never detect except on a very hot day. .
I sold this car on the coldest day of the year to a classmate of mine who also needed a personal finance course. The one thing I took away from Ms. Mann’s home economics class was, “Never spend more than a quarter of your income on housing. That little piece has served me well over the years, but the days of you only spending a quarter of your income on rent are gone when rents are $2,500 a month here in Tahoe, and double that in New York if you can find an apartment.
A while ago I picked up a few girls who were hitchhiking to the state line for a night out. During their conversation, one of them asked the other, “Did you bring any money?”
These girls could have taken a course in personal finance, and maybe a course in sociology. My humble suggestion is this: drop Shakespeare for Twain and drop algebra for personal finance. I never used algebra except to calculate how fast I needed to run to complete a marathon in under three hours. And I’ve never used Shakespeare, except to confess to myself on occasion, as Caliban once did, “What a thrice-double ass I was.”
The advice I got from my dad, who was very good at managing money, was simply, “No, we can’t buy Buick taillights for your Chevy, son.” Money doesn’t grow on trees.”
Kids graduating from high school today need to learn about cryptocurrencies, compound interest, and payday loans, not to mention the line on the game of the week.
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 his generous take-out meals. This summer will never come again, not for me; not, unfortunately, for anyone. Life is so much more complicated today. So, let’s include personal finance as a body to our high school curricula in this great country of ours, and provide our graduates with a more resourceful, successful, and stress-free future.