As a youngster growing up in the public school system in Eastern Ontario, I remember taking a whole slew of courses designed to prepare me for my post-secondary studies and to a larger degree, adulthood. Calculus, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Law and English, to name a few, were part of my high school senior year curriculum. For the most part, these courses and the teachers that taught them did their job – these courses helped me figure out what I liked (what I didn’t) and laid out the foundation for what I would experience in my first year of university. Unfortunately for me and likely many other high school students, those courses did not include any money management principles, principles I would need shortly after graduation.
As with any stage in life, you don’t know what you don’t know. So, looking back as a teenager living in university residence and later as a 20-something renting houses with friends, I certainly didn’t know very much…
What should I be using for a credit card? Everyone else seems to have one. I suppose I can live with paying the minimum for the next few months…
What should I be looking for in a house to rent? Are there any considerations I should be thinking about besides being close to our buddies’ house?
Should I bother investing in an RRSP while I’m at school? The representative at my bank keeps telling me so. Besides, I own lots of mutual funds already.
I need to apply for a student loan next year, to continue my post-secondary studies in Toronto. What on earth am I going to do if I don’t get the money?
Like most students I answered some of these questions on my own, through trial and error, without the internet being what it is today. Sure, my parents offered great guidance when they could but they only knew what they knew as well.
With limited education and experience in personal finance, some of my financial decisions were bad ones.
Along with my friends, I fumbled through university financially and I could have done so much better. I suspect history is repeating this month with tens of thousands of new university and college students starting their post-secondary education. To help break the cycle, I believe we should put more stock into our school system.
Today’s post will highlight the personal finance subjects I wish I learned in school. Feel free to add your comment below about what you wish you’d learned as a teen or 20-something, or tweet me about your idea. I know answers to these questions would have helped me much sooner in life:
- What are the pros and cons of owning a credit card? Do I need one? How can I use one wisely?
- What details should I look for in a rental agreement?
- What are the types of bank accounts I can have? What are the differences between them?
- What is the process I use to apply for a student loan? What are my obligations once I have this loan?
- What is the stock market? How does it work? Do I even bother investing in it as a student?
- What is the bond market? How does it work? Do I even need bonds in my portfolio as a student?
- What are interest rates? Do they apply to me?
- What is a budget? How does that work?
- What are mutual funds? How do they work?
- What are the elements of a tax return? When do I need to file one? What resources are available to me to help me with my tax return?
- What is a mortgage? What are my obligations once I have one?
- What is a credit score? Does this apply to me as a student?
- Besides my bank, who can I talk to about this financial stuff? Are there any free resources available to me?
My teachers and our school board in Eastern Ontario did their best, I know this. However, if I could recommend one major change to our education system, it would be to make personal finance a mandatory course in high school. I’m convinced such a course would not only improve the financial lives of young students but the content would also help our Canadian economy prosper on the whole; reducing consumer mistakes that translate into economic waste. The more knowledge, skills and competencies young adults have when it comes to personal finance, the better decisions they can make. Young adults who make informed decisions can grow into working professionals that can make even better financial decisions.
What’s your take? Is there enough financial literacy in our education system?