It’s my personal belief that money is a lot like having the manual to pilot a space shuttle. If you don’t have it, why would you bother studying it? However, if you can break that barrier of impossibility – if people suddenly grasp that having wealth is not a dream but rather a very likely outcome with a certain set of behaviors – suddenly they take an interest in it and can work wonders. Let me tell my story as an example.
I never thought about money growing up. I’m sure that true of most people. My parents never spoke of it, and when I was young I was a huge bookworm. I would spend all my waking hours outside of school poring through one tome after another. I was not some budding entrepreneur – I pushed carts at a big box retailer. Why bother thinking about this world when my imagination was much more interesting?
As I got older I became more grounded and developed other interests, but money was never one of them. I majored in history and political science and dreamed of being a teacher or a librarian. It was blindly obvious that I would never strike it rich so I never gave money much thought.
This slowly began to change when I entered grad school. I pursued my passion without a thought towards money and ended up with a degree no one would pay for and $40,000 in school debt. I was out of school for the first time in my life and suddenly had a bill for $500 due every month. But even then I never took money seriously. I was just thrilled that I would never have to read another text book ever again!
So what changed to make money and studying it one of the biggest interests of my life? You don’t just randomly decide to spend hundreds of hours blogging about it on the internet after all! It was two triggers for me – two triggers that I think cause a lot of people to suddenly reevaluate their life.
First, I landed my first permanent position with a major corporation. Exiting the world of temp work, my income doubled literally overnight and I was earning more money than I knew what to do with. I wanted to buy a house and stop living in apartments, but otherwise had no grand plans and my hobbies were dirt-cheap. I began reading finance books to learn what to do.
Second, I was bored at work one day and decided to forecast how much money I would have in the bank at age 65 with my current spending patterns…and discovered it would be more than $1 million. That blew me away – I never imagined having even a fraction of that and I would save that much almost by default?!? It was ridiculous!
But then I started thinking – if would be a millionaire by age 65, how many years could I move that up? Being wealthy is wonderful, but it would be 10x better if I had the money when I was young and could enjoy it. My father in particular had a brutal job and worked at it far longer than he wanted. I didn’t want to go through the same thing as him.
My mind started thinking about the possibilities…and it never stopped.
Is my experience all that special? I don’t think so. And though I discovered money more or less accidentally – could this same result be reached deliberately? What would happen if we taught every child how they can earn more money, or save and put it away? What would happen if we taught them how to forecast their future networth based on their present circumstances?
Everyone knows that financial education is desperately needed in this country. But how do to convince people to take ownership of their lives, to direct themselves to defeat the habits of overspending and debt? No one can control a person as well as themselves. Breaking that barrier of impossibility though, giving everyone their own personal “eureka moment”, is the best chance we have of making that happen.