Financial Literacy Is Overrated

Robin Hood“Mom!”

“What?”

“Can I borrow five bucks?”

“You’re five. What do you need five bucks for?”

“My Junior Bow.” We went to the Bass Pro Shop about a month ago. We passed by the hunting section. I wandered in looking at the bows. I don’t hunt. I’m a vegetarian Gandhi-loving pacifist. Archery is fun, though.

“You need this,” said Rusty, showing me a cross-bow so complex it required an auto mechanic.

“No,”  A few days earlier, after the banning of dodgeball hit the news, we’d discussed all the things you can’t do in schools nowadays. I learned archery in school. Now that we have land, I contemplated picking it back up again. I don’t want to kill large animals. A crossbow is unnecessary.

“How about this?” he asked. It was a huge compound bow. I don’t want to be on a Homeland Security list, either.

“No, a simple bow. Like Robin Hood.”

“Oh, you want a longbow.” Helpful Salesman advised they didn’t have longbows. This was the hunting section. Longbows aren’t best for killing. I didn’t want to kill anything but targets. Maybe even study kyudo, zen bow. Samurai hunted. Kyudo supplies should be in the hunting aisle.

Declan picked up something at eye level. I thought it was a toy. It was the Junior Bow. Helpful Salesman informed him that the $149 starter hunting bow was a real bow. Seeing my face, he advised that it was only available when you turned seven, but he’d put this one on hold. I thought that’d be the end of the subject. Alas, I was mistaken.

Declan has been scrounging, saving, and trying to earn money. When asked why, he says consistently, “For my Junior Bow.” He remembers the price, counts pennies, and makes piles of coins in Mr. Smiley, the bank my dad gave to me for my pennies and Declan now has on his dresser.

“Mom, I need cash.” He does this a lot lately. I worried that he was developing a drug habit he needs cash so often. He reminds me, “For my Junior Bow.”

Today, it was a whole five bucks–usually he scours the car for pennies, or tries to see if there’s change in my pocket.

“But it costs more than that.” I said.

“I know. You can lend me five dollars today. Then $144 dollars a different day.” He shrugged his hands in the air to illustrate this was basic common sense.

WHAT? At five, he can already fleece me into the hundreds? I’m not even saving for college. I’ve got two words for that–West and Point.

I’m in deep trouble with this kid.

He taught me a lesson. Financial literacy is dangerous. I’m canceling all references to the subject in my teaching. True, I think financial literacy is one of the most critical yet undertaught skills in schools. I always integrate it in my lessons, no matter what subject I’m teaching. I tell students who “hate math” that they can continue to do so–if I hire them for my business, I won’t have to pay them correctly. I win. But truthfully, finances are important.

Years ago, a student I’ll call Jonathan (that’s his name) brought me a bank statement.

“Miss! What are all these minuses?” They were overdraft fees.

“Did you put any money in this account? Here’s where you got gas, and where you went to the store.” There were three days’ difference between the two transactions.

“No. They forgot about this one so I went shopping.” He hadn’t realized that could take multiple days to clear. There may be a delay between when you spend the money to where the cyberbank delivers it. Ouch!

But now I had this little five-year old Alex P. Keaton staring me down for five dollars today so he could “borrow” $144 tomorrow. And the totals equaled out. Sans tax–that’s a lesson for a different day.

Money grows on treesTeaching financial literacy is dangerous. It’s too expensive. If the next generation knows more than Congress and the IRS about fleecing me for money, I’m going to be broke, no matter how much I work and how well the business does, taxes aside.

Today it’s $5, tomorrow it’s $144, what’s next? Real estate? “Mom, I saw this property down the road–it’s a fixer-upper, but I think I can flip it for a nice profit.”

Suze Orman and Clark Howard are getting put on the back shelf before it’s too late.

I’ll just tell the kid to watch Les Stroud on the Discovery Channel, and go into the woods to make his own Junior Bow. He can invest that $149 somewhere else.

But if I see him turn the cartoons even once for Financial News Network, I’m canceling cable.

[images: http://mafabaalaso.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/robin-hood-or-robin-bis/ and http://drboycefamilyfinance.blogspot.com/2009/04/recession-promotes-literacy.html]

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5 thoughts on “Financial Literacy Is Overrated

  1. Yeah, your son and mine must read the same financial advice columns. I tried to enroll my son in a summer parks and rec archery camp, but it filled up before I got there. So the plan (maybe) is to set up an archery range in rural Illinois or Maine this summer.

    That survival stuff looks pretty hard core, especially the ones for cutting up a frozen carcass in the snow and buying a US Army Survival manual. I wonder if buying that thing would automatically put someone on an FBI “survivalist list.”

  2. Pingback: Sleep in Your Own #$%$ Bed. It’s Why I Pay the Mortgage. | Café Casey

  3. Pingback: Lies Parents Tell: Preparing for Age Six–Age of Diablo | Café Casey

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