Several months ago, I attended a play at the Purple Rose Theater about Rosie the Riveter. It highlighted how unusual and difficult it was for a woman to enter the workforce, even though they were desperately needed to build airplanes during World War II.
Years ago, a woman in the workforce would have been very conspicuous. Today, it would be quite unusual if women weren’t in the workplace. Over the years I think there has been a clear trend for women to take over more and more leadership positions.
It’s evident in my company today. We have two highly respected women who are true pioneers in the field of financial planning. There’s a woman at the helm of General Motors. And, in our nation’s capital, 25 of the 100 U.S. Senators are women, as are 102 of the 435 representatives in the House. I’m not sure of the exact number, but I believe the vast majority of these 127 leading ladies are also moms.
Moms know that a good education can help open many doors. And what I believe all of our youth desperately need more than anything today is a solid financial education. The dollar amount of student loan debt is so staggering that it’s an insurmountable financial anchor for many households. In fact, many young people are putting off marriage because they can’t afford to buy a home.
Some political candidates have suggested simply forgiving up to $50,000 of student loan debt for those who earn less than $100,000. There are already policies and programs in place that forgive a portion of a student’s debt if certain work requirements are met.
I’m pretty confident, as the upcoming election draws nearer, that more and more politicians will come up with ideas to make the problem go away. Unfortunately, the proposed solutions simply shift the debt from one taxpayer’s shoulder onto to another’s.
Here’s an idea that could help minimize poor decision-making. Let’s mandate financial education as part of the high school curriculum. I mean real-life financial education.
You could easily spend a semester covering financial situations they’ll be facing some day. Like how to manage credit cards, and such mundane things as understanding loan interest and the pitfalls of just making minimum payments.
I believe if people better understood the mathematics of life, they would make better financial decisions. For example, a client of mine once complained he spent a fortune on his daughter’s education for a degree in a career that would never pay for itself.
If students better understood the mathematics of their intended career path, they might be less inclined to enter a low paying field or take on the burden of student loan debt.
If a certain career path has a maximum earning potential of $25,000 per year, why would you take on a $100,000 student loan? The interest alone could be a burden.
All college degrees are not financially equal, but regardless of the occupation, the mathematics of debt repayment apply to everyone. If young people understand the impact of mathematics on their financial future, perhaps they’ll choose a more realistic path.
And now, if I may on this special day, I would like to give a big shout out to all the moms out there and wish them a Happy Mother’s Day.