Wisdom//

Closing The Generational Gaps In Financial Literacy

Start educating yourself before it's too late.

Billion Photos / Shutterstock
Billion Photos / Shutterstock

In recent years, financial literacy has become increasingly recognized as important for the general public to develop. No longer reserved for the wolves of Wall Street, knowing how to save, invest, and build generational wealth has gained popularity on social media with hashtags such as #FinLit (financial literacy) and #debtfree.

The general public has taken notice and is eager to learn how they can make smarter money moves. So much so that the topic of money management has even become “cool.”

Yet, despite the uptick in finance blogs and YouTube videos, the increased intake of financial information has also brought another to light: where the financial literacy gaps remain. Who is this information brand new to, and why are they just finding out about it now?

At the forefront of this question might be you.

What does financial literacy look like for students that work so hard to be the first in their families to go to college, but are never taught to evaluate the risks, reward, or repayment of their student debt?

Or for women who may have been denied access to credit before the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974? Or required a male relative to co-sign a business loan until 1988?

How does it trickle down to younger women whose mothers may lack that financial experience, but are now entering the workforce at a record-setting pace?

Or for the children of first-generation immigrant families, who may be making more money than their parents could have ever dreamed of, but lack the skills necessary to properly manage that income, because their parents never had the opportunity to save?

One’s knowledge of how to build credit, save, and invest can impact generations of families to come — so what does that look like if your family lacks that generational experience? If you’re learning this information for the very first time?

As financial literacy has become more commonplace, there are still huge disparities in who is handling and how that money is handled. Separate from the income gap, the issue becomes: Once you have the opportunity to establish credit or wealth, what do you do with it?

It’s not just about women, or immigrants, or blue-collar-turned-white-collar. It’s about the first generation to build credit or wealth, and the learning curve that comes along with that process. Maybe it’s you.

How are you educating yourself? And what can you do to educate others? Here are three things you can do to start.

1) Find an easy way for you to learn about money.

Thanks to the internet, it has never been easier to find or access personal finance information in a form that is relatable and makes sense to you. Luckily, a lot of the information out there isn’t as dull as it used to be.

You can find information that relates to almost every topic under the sun, including personal finance and millennials, budgeting and coffee, money and craft beer, investing and rap music, and so on. Read a blog, listen to a podcast, or check out a book from your local library to get started.

2) Flip the script. Talk to your family about money.

One of the reasons people don’t grow up learning about money is that a lot of families don’t talk about it, or at least never in a positive light. You can be the person to change that.

Remember that conversations about money don’t have to be rude or negative. You don’t have to know how much anyone makes or how much they owe. Instead, try starting smaller and simpler.

Talk to your friends about how they budgeted or plan to pay off holiday expenses. Ask your parents when they plan to retire; if you are expected to support them, ask what that would look like.

Give someone in your family a book with a title they’ll actually want to read, like Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich. All of these things are ways to get the conversation started and inspire people to learn more about money.

3) Seek free help and financial resources.

If you’re looking for help with finances, remember that a lot of resources out there are free. If you need help or advice to pay off your debt or set up a budget or financial plan, check with a free credit counseling agency like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

If you’re applying to college, call the university’s financial aid office to see what they can do to help. The U.S. Federal Student Aid website also provides free checklists you can use to prepare financially for college. Keep in mind these are just some of the things you can do to get started learning about money.

Financial literacy gaps are crucial for those in the financial industry to consider, as well. As part of this industry, I urge us all to think about what we can do as a financial service provider, planner, blogger, or podcaster to spread the word. How can we make information about eliminating debt and building wealth more accessible and relatable?

Regardless of where you are in your financial journey, you can always learn more to improve your financial future. Heading into 2020, take some time to think about what you can do to improve your literacy. If not for yourself, for the generation that follows you, so they don’t have to learn the hard way.

Originally published on Ellevate.

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