Use this opportunity to talk to kids about finances, savings, credit and taxes
Originally published in The Lansing State Journal - April 8, 2020
I’ve seen some news segments lately suggesting that while everyone is stuck at home, parents are teaching their kids “adulting” skills – like how to change the oil in a car, send a letter in the mail or make dinner. All these are great ideas, but I’d like to make one more suggestion: Talk to your kids about finances, too.
Odds are, they’ve seen recent reports on the stock market, unemployment and the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on industries across the board. They’re probably confused, maybe scared, and definitely at least a little bit curious about how this all works and what it means. This sets the stage for a conversation covering finance fundamentals.
That conversation should include subjects like savings, interest, credit and taxes – things that far too few know enough about by the time they go to college (in a study by FINRA Foundation, only 17 percent of 18-34 year-old respondents were financially literate).
For high schoolers, it should also tie in information related to that student’s specific career goals.
The world of entry-level jobs is changing before our eyes. Students moving into the workforce in the next couple years should be thinking very hard about both their short- and long-term goals.
Even putting that decision on hold by “just going to college” is a choice. After all, post-secondary school isn’t cheap: Americans now collectively owe $1.6 trillion in student loan debt, the average borrower carrying around $30,000.
Right now, students can probably find the time to do that research themselves. But we must ask ourselves, should that responsibility always fall on students’ shoulders? Especially when such information can be easily incorporated into K-12 curriculum?
Some schools have taken this more career-ready orientation, re-imagining electives so they help students explore their potential future while they’re still in school. Some allow students to start working toward relevant certifications or college credits.
Still others have sought out industry experts, asking them to weigh in on what’s going on in their industry, what skills they need most, and developing curriculum around that feedback. This is critical for many reasons.
One is it helps fight stigmas and misconceptions.
In finance, for example, there’s this belief that employees still do things “the old-fashioned way,” manually crunching numbers and meeting with clients face-to-face.
The opposite is actually true; the majority of our interactions with individuals occur digitally, and we are always looking out for data-driven opportunities.
As a result, finance is facing its own sort of skills gap, struggling to find people who not only know how to leverage modern technology to drive decision making, but communicate well within it.
Another reason why ongoing industry interaction is important in K-12 education is that things can change quickly. Just look at what’s happening right now. Millions of Americans are working from home, and some business leaders are already thinking about making the transition permanent – my own industry included.
The skills employers say they need today might not be the skills they need tomorrow, and if schools aren’t aware of those needs as they evolve, students will likely spend time learning skills employers aren’t all that blown away by.
Now could be a good time for parents to help their students prepare for the future. That means helping them “adult” by first becoming financially literate, then helping them think about what they want to do someday – and how they’re going to do it.
Social distancing provides ample time for that kind of research, but if it doesn’t have to occur outside of a students’ usual school day, why should it?
Lauren Barber is manager of talent acquisition at Jackson and an advisory board member at Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy, powered by K12.
To learn more about Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy, visit https://mglva.k12.com/