An Epidemic of Another Kind: Financial Illiteracy

by | Apr 26, 2022

Quarantine. Lockdown. Shelter in Place. Social Distancing. COVID-19. Who heard of these terms before or even knew what they meant let alone were intentionally living them every day until 2020!?! Hopefully going forward, none of us will spend as much time at home as we have in the past two years.

If Life Gives You Lemons

Ironically, the theme for my blog this month is also related to being at home. In the first year of the pandemic, I used the analogy of a home tour, focused on a different room or area of our home each month, to work on getting our financial house in order. As long as we were at home, my thought was we should make the best of it and use the extra time at home to get more financially organized. It’s kind of like the saying I saw recently: “If life gives you lemons, ask for tequila and salt!”

National Financial Literacy Awareness Month

April is National Financial Literacy Awareness month and with many unknowns still related to COVID-19, I think it’s an appropriately themed month for us to be spending more time thinking about our financial life once again. Unfortunately, when it comes to personal finance, our world has not prioritized educating its citizens on the life skill of managing money, a daily tool we all use no matter where we live in the world. The lack of understanding and detrimental financial behavior has grown to be a worldwide epidemic.

The Disappointing Numbers

In the United States, we read about “shake your head in disbelief’ statistics daily. Two in three families lack an emergency fund. 78 percent of American adults live paycheck to paycheck. 64 percent of adults identify money as a significant stressor in their lives. Only about half of high schools require personal finance to be taught as a criterion for graduation (though that trend is changing in the right direction).

What Can We Do?

We must always begin with ourselves. COVID has been somewhat of a wake-up call to remind us that we should be prepared when life happens. Do you have your own personal financial essentials checklist in case you or someone you know ends up in the hospital (See the Essential Planning Checklist)? Do you have a financial inventory compiled so someone can step in to help you if/when needed (See Net Worth Summary and corresponding free workshop)? Begin with preparing for emergency situations (See the Before book) and then expand to getting more comfortable and aware of your situation (See other free downloads).

What Can You Do?

How can you help lead others to avoid the financial illiteracy epidemic? Share resources with family/friends that you have personally found helpful. Support local school efforts to provide/require personal finance lessons in the school setting. Participate in community education opportunities offered at libraries, churches, etc.

On a Positive Note

From a positive standpoint, many of us have used some of our extra time at home to catch up on things or initiate home improvement projects. In the spirit of April being National Financial Literacy Month, I have a challenge for you. Identify one person in your life that you will reach out to in some fashion this month; maybe a friend, adult family member, or grandchild. Share a book, podcast, or checklist that you have found helpful. Invite someone to attend a workshop with you. Model a healthy financial behavior (saving, reducing spending, organizing, etc.) and initiate a discussion around it.

A Teachable Moment

I recently spent some fun time with two of our grandchildren and part of the fun was watching them learn through a couple of “earning” opportunities. They worked, got paid, and then had some money to buy something they wanted within a couple of days. That idea was prompted by a recent family vacation when their dad had stated there was no more spending money available for souvenirs and one of them asked, “Well, how can I get more money?” The perfect teachable moment.

Let’s continue to be a blessing to ourselves and others in small ways that can have a lasting impact as it relates to financial literacy.

Marie Burns is a Certified Financial Planner, Speaker, and Author of the bestselling Financial Checklist books. Find Marie on Facebook or contact her at [email protected]

This article was first published at 60 and Me – a community that helps women over 60 live happy, healthy and financially secure lives.