A New American Financial Crisis in the Making

Steve McDonald
by Steve McDonald

Editor’s Note: This piece originally ran in our sister publication, Wealthy Retirement. You can go here to subscribe if you haven't already. It's free.

I have made a concerted effort to avoid news programs since the election, so not much has flipped my switch lately.

But all that changed when I read a Wall Street Journal article that posed the following question...

“Should college students be required to take a personal finance course about money and investing?”

Are they kidding? Just college students?

If you have to ask, you missed the point!

Not understanding how dire our country’s financial literacy problem is - that’s bad enough... But two academics answered the question in the article, and neither one seemed to have a clue about investing or the financial markets.

That really stirred my pot.

Have you ever known a teacher or professor who got wealthy because of his or her investing knowledge or money management skills?

Probably not. But that’s another issue altogether.

Here’s the crux of the money education issue for me...

After 27 years of working with “average Joes” in person, by phone and by email, I’m here to tell you that this country is overrun with money morons.

I’m talking about people of all ages and socioeconomic classes... It doesn’t matter who you are or how much money you have.

And it’s a national nightmare!

It’s rare that anyone you meet on the street has a clue about money, lending, spending, inflation, investing, anything... Forget about it!

It’s pathetic.

You name the financial topic, and the average American doesn’t have a clue.

Wall Street has taken full advantage of the situation. It’s become a one-way suction hose, taking money from the uninformed and putting it directly in brokers’, managers’ and traders’ pockets.

I’ve always thought people should be required to pass a test and demonstrate minimum financial competency before being allowed to invest one cent. That would at least make people aware of how little they understand.

Instead, what we have is the equivalent of a country full of unlicensed blind people driving at top speeds on crowded highways... and the bodies are piling up too quickly to bury.

When you consider what little effort has been put into financial education - real education, not the academic fluff we all suffered through - could there have been any outcome other than messes like the boomers’ retirement funding shortfall or the housing crisis of 2007 and 2008?

That housing mess was driven almost exclusively by the average person’s complete ignorance of things as simple as mortgages and lending.

This is not brain surgery!

And to think a course for college students taught by academics is the solution?

How about the financial business steps up and goes into high schools and colleges and teaches kids what they really need to know about money and investing?

Not about widgets and how banks work. That’s all I remember ever being taught about money in school.

If we’re to continue funding our retirements with defined contribution plans - like IRAs and 401(k)s - that require us to make the decisions about how and where our money is invested, something has to be done.

This country cannot survive another generation of money morons who have no clue! It’s financial suicide on a national basis.

We don’t need a course. We need actual training in financial matters - starting in grade school.

Good investing,

Steve

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