If Kids Misunderstand Money, Maybe They Misunderstand Sex for the Same Reason

In an OECD-sponsored study:

  • “Just one in 10 of the students surveyed could answer the toughest financial-literacy questions on the 2012 survey, such as the impact of income-tax brackets on people’s finances.”
  •  “American teens were firmly in the middle, ranked ninth on the financial-literacy section out of 18 OECD economies and countries.”
  • “The study comes at a precarious moment for financial-literacy education, as countries across the globe (especially the U.S.) struggle to figure out the best way to impart financial wisdom to the next generation.”

File this under “What your parents didn’t tell you.”

Maybe my first chapter should have been called “What I Saw at the Mall” instead of “What I Saw at the Buffet.” I sometimes joke that in my lifetime, I’ve heard the phrase “Save at WalMart!” so often that when I turn 65, I should stop in at their customer-service counter and ask to collect my savings.

Hard to fault the business owners, though. They’re marketing their stuff, and I used to work in marketing, so I know that the quickest way to get people to spend money is to convince them they’re not really spending, but saving. The tactic that never fails is, you tag an item with a list price, then mark it down, because everybody wants to think about the savings, not the spending. In the meantime, they fill your pocket and empty theirs. They can always go back to work and earn more.

What’s missing here is wisdom. We live in a marketing/advertising culture, and wisdom isn’t part of that.

The survey cited above notes that “teens from higher-socioeconomic backgrounds scored a full 41 points higher on the financial-literacy section than poorer kids.” Unsurprising, that. Wisdom gets passed along within the family, or it doesn’t, and those who manage money well end up with more of it.

But wisdom is free. Parents with little financial wisdom to share, who live and breathe what the consumer culture tells them, tend to produce kids who know more about how the Kardashians live than Dave Ramsey.

And so, with sexuality. Left unguided, we tend to spend.

What are the guiding principles you think your children should have heard from you by now?