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Financial Literacy Month: Three Different Groups with Common Goals

Financial Literacy Month: Three Different Groups with Common Goals

April 02, 2024

April is Financial Literacy Month, and I cannot think of a better way to kick off this month than with April Fools’ Day. How many times have you done something with your money and felt foolish? That treadmill you bought to kick off your new physically fit self is now an expensive clothes rack. Professional equipment for that new hobby you felt would create a stream of income on the side sitting in your closet. That set of lawn darts in the garage (okay, that was years ago, and no one got hurt)! My point is that most of us can look back and regret some of those times we foolishly spent money. It all adds up, and just think of the things you could do with that money if you still had it.

Another foolish thing we do regarding personal finance is that we could educate ourselves on the subject or hire a professional to help us but, we continue down that path of foolish spending or wastefulness. Do not get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with having fun. In fact, life without fun can be just as much of a waste. However, you must admit that there should be a balance.

Financial Literacy Month is our opportunity to refocus on personal finance. We could all learn more about budgeting, saving, investing, insurance, estate planning, retirement planning, etc. If you have children or teenagers, you worry about their ability to manage money more than yourself. If you are an employer, you may feel responsible for your employees’ overall financial wellbeing. In this article, we will look at financial literacy from each of these lenses so you can have a better idea of how to help yourself and the rest of your family.

On difference in personal finance is what I like to refer to as training wheels. Teenagers have “financial training wheels.” Most parents carefully monitor and guide their children through financial hurdles, starting with simple things and moving to bigger things, as they grow older. We begin removing the training wheels. If you have children, you may remember trying to explain to them the differences between pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars. If you have teenagers, your challenges now are more about stopping them from spending too much money on video games. The point is that if they do not understand money or if they spend their allowance on video games, you are there to correct them.

As adults, we do not have training wheels. If we foolishly spend our money and do not save appropriately, our “bicycle of life” falls and we get injured financially. Our second chances are few and seldom make us whole. We at least need to learn how to keep the bicycle upright and straight. Some people have a knack for it and enjoy riding their “financial bike” beyond the simple task of budgeting. For others, riding this “bike” is an evil necessity. Either type may benefit by collaborating with a financial advisor or wealth manager. However, that does not eliminate the importance of learning how to improve your personal financial life. A financial advisor can help you create a roadmap for working toward your financial goals, but you must see things through.

At Milligan Wealth Management and LPL Financial, we believe financial literacy is so important that we have licensed a new 6-week course on the subject through the World of Business Reading Group (WBRG). This course is for teenagers and is inspired by the writings and speeches of Warren Buffett and developed by a team of Harvard Business School alumni. If you are with a school or work with a group of teens and are interested in the program, let me know. I may be able to lead this program at your school or for your group.

Helping our teenagers understand how to manage their personal financial lives can make a significant difference in how they make financial decisions and the type of life they will be able to live. As parents, we have been so focused on riding our bikes without training wheels that we may have forgotten how to teach it. A financial literacy course is a terrific way to help your teens get a solid foundation that many of us didn’t have.

What about adults? Fortunately, there are a lot of resources for us, as well. The difficulty is forcing ourselves to take advantage of them. With so many things on our plate, financial literacy goes on the backburner. That is why Financial Literacy Month is so important. If you do not get any financial newsletters, consider adding one to your reading list. I offer monthly and bimonthly short videos and newsletters that help you learn about important financial topics and timely economic or market insights. You can visit my website at milliganwealth.com to view some of these articles and videos. If you need help figuring out where to start, click on the contact buttons to email or schedule an appointment.

In addition to newsletters and videos, you can find a wealth of information on financial literacy through many websites, including:

Employers can play a key role in helping us develop better financial skills as well through Financial Wellness programs (see my previous post on Financial Wellness). Most of us earn our money and build our retirement savings through an employer. Many companies and businesses recognize this as a major responsibility and offer live financial literacy training through licensed financial advisors. Often, these programs include financial planning or goal setting, as well. If you are an employer, you should consider adding financial wellness as a benefit. I have been leading Financial Wellness workshops for employers for more than twelve years and have seen the major impact it can have. I have helped employees pay off college debt, avoid tapping into their retirement plans, and retire early. When asked why they offer Financial Wellness initiatives in a study conducted by Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), employers noted improved overall worker satisfaction, reduced employee financial stress, and improved employee retention. If these sound like good goals for you as an employer, you may want to find out how you can implement a Financial Wellness program in your workplace.

With so many resources available, I often wonder why people do not take advantage of them. It is my belief that the subject is just not fun. I have trained other financial advisors over the years and have often had to help them understand that the average person does not want to spend much time on financial matters. We get excited about sharing with a client the reasons one portfolio is statistically better than another. We get caught up in the technical world of personal finance that we live in and think others share our enthusiasm. Reality could not be further from the truth. Most people find personal finance an evil necessity. So, what can the average person do to improve their understanding of this topic?

Rather than just diving in and reading a lot of resources, you can lean on your financial advisor for help. A good financial advisor wants you to know as much as you can about it but recognizes there are limits to how much or what type of information you can manage. They “stop pouring” before your cup is full. If you are doing financial planning with a wealth manager, they should know where you need help and where you can find out more about specific topics. I have a large library of topics that is updated constantly and is designed for clients of many diverse levels of financial savvy. When I detect that a client or individual needs more information, I help them by walking through the information they need and sending them articles from my library. That way, they can read at their own pace and may even uncover things I might have missed.

Whether you are a parent or adult with no children, a teenager, or an employer, Financial Literacy Month is a wonderful opportunity to up your game in this area. You have many resources at your fingertips, and this month especially offers opportunities to improve your knowledge of personal finance. It is all up to you to make it a priority and focus your efforts. You may find that pushing through the initially dry material creates financial opportunities you never thought you would have. You just have to make that commitment to learn. Call or email me today for more information on how you can take advantage of Financial Literacy Month.