Money Life Lessons


The other day my sister called me upset because there are so many financial related things she doesn’t know about or how to do. I feel bad for not teaching her these things. I learned a lot from my dad before he passed, and I learned a lot from my job as a retail manager (because I had to balance drawers, go to the bank, write checks daily, and so on). With her job, she doesn’t manage money at all because she is a CNA.

I do believe schools should require personal finance classes (at least basic financial topics) and I think her high school required half a credit or something very small. A lot of schools don’t offer any type of finance class, whereas I think it should be required just like Art or cooking.

I think a personal finance class would be one of the most valuable (if not the most valuable) class that could be offered. How many classes did you go to where you didn’t remember a thing? I think if it affected you personally, then you would remember.

A class that I had to take that was required (it was either I take this or wood shop (?) class), and that was Home Planning. Kill me, I seriously did not want to go to this. One thing we had to do was create our dream wedding. Talk about a joke of a class. I don’t know how this benefited me at all. I think I married Tom Welling in my dream wedding (hey I was a big Smallville fan in high school! Leave me alone). This dream wedding project took the WHOLE semester. I honestly can’t remember anything else that we did in this class. So this is proof that I believe a personal finance class would’ve been better.

What she’s asked me recently:
  1. How to open and close a bank account. She recently told me that she has been keeping all of her money ($2,500 in CASH) in hiding spots around her room. Long story short but someone had been draining her bank account (you all know who), so she resorted to just keeping a little in the bank and the rest hidden in her bedroom. She recently had to close her account and I told her to open a new one so that no one would have access to it. She had no clue what to do. I told her just to go up to her bank with her information and they’ll help her.
  2. Writing a check. She has no clue how to fill one out. I’m going to go over to her house and show her. I think she’s just intimidated by the whole thing since she’s never done it herself.
  3. How to switch her bill pay accounts. She has bills such as her cell phone, car payment and car insurance. When she closed her account and opened a new one, she didn’t know how to transfer it herself.
  4. Taxes. These eat up a lot of every paycheck. And she didn’t realize this until she got her first major paycheck after working about 100 hours in 2 weeks. She was amazed. I’m glad she learned this now though before she moved out and got her own place. So many new graduates get so fixed on their new salary and don’t figure taxes in, are shocked once they get their first paycheck, and even more so when they file their first income tax return.  They also have bills mounting on the side because they thought it would be higher.”
  5. How to apply for colleges and FAFSA. This is something she will not stop bugging me about. She is 18 and graduated last year, but took the year off because she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do and wanted to clear her head. She’s been working full time since. Now she’s afraid to go to school because she won’t be able to work 80 hours a week and bring in as much money. She’s going to go anyways but isn’t sure how to apply and also FAFSA scares her. She’s afraid she’s going to input something wrong on her FAFSA and then go to jail (any false information leads to jail or like a $20K fine). So I’m going over there to help her fill everything out.

My sister is very responsible with her money. She works hard and works several hours (sometimes up to 80 in one week) and makes decent money for a person her age (18). However, up until recently, she thought she was getting paid wrong whenever her paychecks came. So I added and multiplied everything, and her check was correct. She was shocked at how much less she was being paid because of taxes.

I would also like to teach her how to efficiently use her credit card in a way similar to how I do. I don’t want her to get caught up though and rack up credit card debt, so that will probably wait.

Credit score. She needs to understand how this will effect her life. She has a horrible rate on her car loan (I can’t remember what it is, but it’s around 8% I think. I can’t believe she did that. She needs to understand that a better credit score will save her money.

If kids were better able to understand their money, they would of course be better with managing their money. It’s as easy as that. A class would help so many and most information would not be forgotten. At least that’s what I think.

What do you wish you would’ve known 
when you were younger?

P.S. She text me early this morning asking how she can get cash out of her new account since her debit card hasn’t arrived yet.  I had no clue what she was asking. I told her to go inside. And she said “then what?” Are you joking? She didn’t know how to go inside and get cash out, she just always uses the ATM I guess. So I had to explain the process for her. Ughhhh


  1. says

    Poor sister!!! My BIL is the same way… I've had to go with him countless time to show him how to deposit his money in his bank… I had to show him how to pay his rent… and some!! I honestly feel the same way as you… these youngins need a class or some required financial workshop while in high school AT LEAST. It would totes help them start to plan and practice good habits from the beginning!!!And helllooooo… can FAFSA be any more confusing, and add the fact that you aren't too financial savvy … :(Hope things get better, and your sister is super lucky to have you to show her 😉

  2. says

    I wish I had known how important retirement savings were! I just opened my RSP this year and I could have had an awesome nest egg already had I known in my teenagehood.

  3. says

    I WISH someone had explained to me the consequences of taking out huge student loans. I had no idea how long they would take to pay back or even what the interest rate was! All I knew was that everyone was doing it.I still would've done it, but I would've been very tight fisted with the amounts I got, and I would've spent more time applying for scholarships.

  4. says

    I wish I would have known about interest rates and credit cards. It sounds wonderful that you have a 0% interest rate the first year, but then I got myself in BIG credit card trouble. I'm still paying them off years later!

  5. says

    I'm with Jordann. I knew student loans would be a burden, but not this big of a burden. I would've totally stomped my foot on getting extra loans I didn't need and letting my mother use that as spending money. It's great that your sister is looking to you for advice, especially if she's as concerned as she sounds about finances. Glad she's cut off her bank account and is getting her own. With you as a tutor, she should have no problem going forward.

  6. says

    She's lucky she has you to help her out and teach her. My 20 yr old son went through the same things, how to write a check, use the ATM and go inside the bank if the ATM is down, how to endorse a check for deposit etc. He's good about asking but my 16 yr old kind of thinks she already knows everything and deposited a check into the ATM all by herself and when I asked what she wrote on the back she was like "what? I was supposed to write something?" LOL. It's all a learning process with so many little details.

  7. says

    The one thing I learned in my 5th grade math class (they had the 4th graders who had been accelerated to 5th grade math the previous year retake 5th grade math because they decided to stop accelerating) was how to write a check. I'm not sure why 5th grade was the place they taught that, but the lesson stuck.The FAFSA is scary, but it has gotten a lot better over the past few years– one of the things the Obama administration did was work hard to simplify it because of research showing that more people on the margin of going to college would go to college (and get the aid they qualified for) when the FAFSA was less intimidating. (H&R Block actually offers a service where they will help parents fill it out when they do their taxes.)I learned how to deposit checks from a friend in college, and the other half of our blog worked as a bank teller through college and explained to me about CDs when I was in graduate school and only paid 3x/year. Closing out a bank account after college and opening a new one proved really difficult and I made a bad decision there (involving my money not transferring for *months*), but apparently whatever I did 12 years ago cannot be done anymore and things are a lot easier with there being more branch banking options.The research on personal finance classes: In general when they're required, they don't do anything for outcomes on average. When they're optional, the people who want to take them actually do get something out of them. Probably it's the same for a lot of classes in high school– you learn more if you want to be there, but if you don't want to be there you don't pay attention. So they're not really a panacea.

  8. says

    Your sister is lucky to have you to help her! And I agree, personal finance classes should be taught in high school. I don't know why they don't. Kids need all the help they can get before heading out into the "big world".

  9. says

    The personal finance course I took in college completely changed my life. The questions your sisters asked you are really scary, and it definitely drives home the point that they are truly needed!What's difficult is when people who don't know how to manage their finances complain about their issues, but don't listen to the advice. The fact that your sister is asking questions is great because it sounds like she is really receptive to the advice you have to give. I'm really hoping my youngest sister is hearing what I have to say, too!

  10. says

    Good thing your sis has a good teacher like you to show her the ropes so she can start making good financial decisions now instead of learning from mistakes like so many do. I've always been frugal and a saver. I started saving for retirement with my first job out of college and I only skipped a year later on when I was just to broke to do it. The only thing I wish I could have thought about when I was younger is how to get into a higher paying career path.

  11. says

    A finance class is such a good idea, we "had" to take a woodworking class in 7th grade, where I learned NOTHING. So glad your sis has you to look up too and ask for help. Tab

  12. says

    I've always worked (during college and since) but I'm really hate messing with money so I tend to ignore things. For example, I have no idea what's in my retirement account (part of this is because I know I'll be moving out of the state I'm currently teaching in next year). As part of our school's math curriculum, I teach kids how to fill out checks in 4th grade. I'm not sure it sticks with them though. I have opened and closed accounts on my own, dealt with FAFSA, paid my loans, etc. I wish someone would have told me when I was 16 how important a credit score is. My score isn't bad, but it could have been better if I had known more about it.This is a great post. It makes me feel like I'm not alone in being confused about some financial issues.

  13. says

    Your sister is very lucky to have you! It is nice of you to become her financial mentor as I wish I had someone like that. My mom is an accountant so you would think she should have taught me what I needed to know but she would just get mad at me for spending and sometimes she reinforced it as she took me shopping with her.I wish that my mom had made me invest my money, save my money, and taught me the value of the dollar. How much school costed, how much my car costed a month, how much she was making etc. My parents kept me in a little bubble because they handled everything and I was left ignorant of finances. I learned a lot after college when I finally managed my own money but I wish I had known sooner. Btw my corporate finance class in college taught me about all the interest I was paying but I still didn't learn much.

  14. says

    Your poor sister! It sounds like she's pretty responsible though to even know what questions to ask….and at least she's asking them! I know that my parents definitely tried to teach me about how to manage money and had always been against credit cards, but I'm one that has to learn the hard way so now I get to pay off several cards and am just now really putting myself on a budget….at 25. Yeah, definitely wish I would've listened back then…..And I'm sorry but I totally laughed about your sister and the ATM….haha that is way too funny :)

  15. says

    A personal finance class should be required! I've had to learn everything by myself, and I've been fortunate enough to stay one step ahead of consumer credit and other things, but I wish I'd known more about student loans when I signed up for them! I have a brother who's just entered college and I'm making sure he knows how to handle his credit maturely.

  16. Live Simply- Live We says

    Wow, I am glad your sister has you. I don't know if I would make it a mandatory class. I wouldn't have paid attention in school. I bounced checks and my mom went over it with me so much.

  17. says

    I agree with you about the personal finance class in school. Your sister is very lucky to have you. I wish someone would have explained about finances to me when I was still in school. Most of what I leared was by trial and (a lot of) error.

  18. says

    Finance classes should be required in high school. I took a class that briefly covered some basics, but it wasn't required — and the main focus was really on business administration principles after that. Definitely a required personal finance course would be way more beneficial than a "dream wedding" class!

  19. Analytical Planner|P says

    My family didn't have much growing up, so I promised myself I would learn anything and everything I could as I was growing up. I think I was about 7 years old when I came to this conclusion. So any money my parents gave me (not much) I learned to save on my own. So now that I have an eight year old, I try to teach her everything I can.The taxes comment you made really hit home. When I was in high school most people didn't know much about taxes. So I make sure to explain taxes to my daughter any time I can. I also make her pay for small things with her allowance and remind her she needs to remember about the tax. So far so good, though I don't know if she actually understands yet. I guess time will tell.It's great that you are helping your sister out. I'm sure she really appreciates it! :)

  20. says

    I 100% agree about teaching personal finance classes in high school. My brother sounds just like your sister. The only thing on that list he can do is write a check. (He's 21)

  21. says

    While I agree that personal finance should be a required course, I don't think any of it will really "hit home" until kids are out on their own and have to realize some things the hard way. I paid attention to the class I took in college, but the focus was on the stock market and equations about the time value of money (which I now get but really didn't then!), which was much less applicable then basic budgeting. A life skills class would be better- focusing on budgeting, apartment hunting, setting up utilities in your name, writing checks, etc.

  22. says

    I totally agree with you about the financial class!! I wish teenagers would know what they are getting themselves into before they get their first credit card. Hubby and I still have a lot to learn about some stuff (like investing) because nobody taught him, and I…well, I grew up in Russia. It's all different there! My parents got their first debit card 6 years ago…

  23. says

    You sister sounds like my mom. She doesn't know any of this and it blows my mind away. Her husband, my stepfather, takes of everything. It scares me to think what happens if he is not around anymore? I guess I will have to take over.

  24. says

    I agree. My goal this summer is to open a bank account for my little brother. Honestly, my parents never opened an account for me, my high school mentor did with me. He said I needed to understand money and how to use it. Hah pretty crazy. Almost forgot about that. Don't get me wrong. My parents always provided, my mother is a good money manager with what they have. But they don't really understand how to make money of what they have. They save, save, save, and then pay cash for everything.

  25. says

    Isn't it wonderful that kids don't learn about money management at all in school? I even thought about sponsoring some basic finance courses to teach value of money to middle and high school kids. Our world would be a lot better place if kids learn early on the value of money.

  26. Bethany says

    Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but I kinda feel bad for your little sister. I mean, she's working 80 hours in a week and just doesn't know some things. 18 is still a kid trying to wear adult shoes in my opinion. Whether she pays bills or not.

    • says

      Well no one told her she needs to work this much. I'm pretty sure she only does this so that when she does go to school, that she has money saved up and won't have to work as much. Her job is very demanding, but it will be a great reference and work experience for when she goes to nursing school. The nursing schools in our area have around a 3 year wait list, but with her experience she will most likely be able to skip the wait and get in faster.

  27. says

    I completely agree that life+money class needs to be taught in school. Just the basics of financial responsibility. It would save a lot of people a lot of hardships!

  28. says

    When I was younger, I wish I would have truly learned about the importance of saving and delayed gratification. I wish I could have seen the power of compound interest in terms of saving when I was younger, to get a great jump start on savings.

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