I often lament the fact that I was never taught personal finance. If anything, I was taught that credit card debt was normal, that having a giant mortgage and borrowed down payment was smart and that leasing cars was a good and cheap way to always have something new and reliable. Recently, I began thinking and realized that I didn’t exactly have zero personal finance lessons growing up… Here are a few things that I was taught in the formal education sector:
Grade 1 or 2: In an attempt to teach us the concept of negative numbers, our teacher had us all play “Bank”. We were given orange coupons which signified “negative” and yellow coupons which signified “positive”. I don’t remember how we played exactly but I remember freaking out when I lost all of my yellow coupons and had an orange one — I was in DEBT! That would not do, thank you very much.
Grade 8: I went to an all-girls Catholic high school (we actually had nuns that lived in the school) where we were taught home-making. I swear that this was a real class both years I was at the school. In home-making we learned how to cook, bake, clean, do laundry, balance a chequebook and write cheques. I, of course, begged my mother for something to practice my cheque-writing skills with. She bought me a book of these:
Grade 10: By grade 10 I was in a regular, co-ed, public high school and it was time for career planning classes! We had to do an assignment where we researched the average salaries for people who had high school degrees, college degrees, BAs and PhDs as well as the cost of these degrees. This extremely dumbed down exercise made me and the rest of the class realize that we had to go to university in order to earn a decent salary (we, of course, came to this conclusion because it was 2003 and the education bubble was gearing up. Plus a BA was only $4 000 at that point which made it foolish to not get one). I also remember my teacher telling us that we could live comfortably on $20 000 a year and me snickering to myself that $20 000 a year is what “poor people earn” and that I was going to be a lawyer and make $100 000 a year. Oh, how life has changed.
(as an aside, I just realized that this was a course given in my advanced math class. And I think that it was only given to my class. Go Quebec!)
Grade 11: Continuing to speak of the lovely education that the Quebec public education system gave me, here’s a summary of my senior Economics class:
- “When supply goes up, demand goes down. When supply goes down, demand goes up” “Uh, sir? I have a question” “It’s too complicated to get more in depth than that. Just remember that when supply goes up, demand goes down and vice versa. Ok, free time!”
- 60/75 class minutes were free time
- Sometimes it’s better to be on EI than to work because the evil PC government doesn’t understand that real people might have issues that would result in them being worse off financially than when they were on EI (this was via a propaganda film)
- Teachers don’t like when you try to explain that showing propaganda films and lecturing about the evils of a party that had been defunct for over 10 years was not an efficient use of our class time
- Tests were corrected by “passing them to the person behind you”
Now. The final senior Economics class lesson and the inspiration for this post: Credit cards are used to take advantage of sales and also to “bridge the gap” between today and payday.
I should point out that my “textbook” was a bunch of photocopies from a textbook that must have been from the 1970s. It touted credit cards as a “new financial innovation” and gave that lovely piece of advice. The difference between 1970 and 2005 is that 1970 didn’t have malls full of perpetual sales. I understand the idea behind “credit cards are used to take advantage of sales” — I went to Zellers the other day and bought about $100 worth of things that I would have bought otherwise. If I didn’t have any money until my next paycheque, I could use a credit card to “bridge the gap” and save myself a bit of money. Otherwise, by the time payday rolled around, the sales might be over or the merchandise sold.
An addition sentence of “10% off if you purchase more than $500 at Smart Set is not a sale” would have done wonders to teach us responsible credit card use.
What did your school teach you about finance, personal or otherwise?
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