I didn’t understand the value of the dollar until I had been in the workforce for two years. At that point, I had a good job, but I was getting bored of it, and fantasizing about doing something creative for a living. In a related turn of events, I was laid off, and quickly found myself fantasizing about paying my monthly bills. I was lucky enough to get a new job before long, but then in a fantastically stupid move, I decided that I didn’t like my new job. So I quit.
During this period, I reflected upon where I had gone wrong, and I heard the voice of my economics teacher from high school, a young Republican who had tried very hard to instill in his students the importance of savings and investment. I don’t know that any of us took his advice to heart; I certainly didn’t – but looking back, I wish he had taught us to balance a checkbook, negotiate a car payment, and make a budget too. Money management is a game, I realized. Some people are really good at it, but most don’t even know the rules.
Americans love to compete, and, while not everybody can win, I believe that everybody should be given a fair start. In my America, financial literacy would be taught in schools, way before kids are old enough to get laid off, get a credit card, or do something stupid like quitting a solid job during an economic recession. Basic financial literacy is a matter of survival and should be required, like memorizing the State Capitals or reciting the Preamble to the Constitution – skills that I would appreciate, I suppose, if I still had them.
I was lucky enough to have parents who helped me to get back on my feet. I have a new job now, that I plan to keep. I am enjoying the mundane pleasures of life, like buying groceries, and getting my teeth cleaned. I still harbor creative ambitions, but I’m ok with letting them incubate while I work for Corporate America. As a financially semi-literate twenty-something, I’ve learned that nothing, not even a bourgeois lifestyle, sucks more than worrying about money.