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TESS VIGELAND: In many ways, the subject of money seems to be even more of a hot potato than sex, drugs, rock n’ roll. Think about it, what did you say that last time your kid asked you how much money you make? And why did you think to yourself “none of your business” before you said, “Oh, Sally, all that matters is that we can support our family.” Well, because this conversation tends to be avoided in many homes, schools are left to pick up the slack. More and more, kids are given a choice of whether to learn personal finance. It’s not deemed as essential as reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic… even though it’s all about ‘rithmetic.
Youth Radio’s David Dominguez talks about the educational choice he made.
David Dominguez: It seemed dumb to take a class that taught you how to live. Well, now I know. See, in 9th grade, I transferred from a public high school to a charter school in Los Angeles. So I skipped out on taking a class all my public school friends had to take, Life Skills.
At first, I was glad I missed out. Now that I’m a senior, I know I missed out on something important. Big financial choices are waiting for me around the corner: credit card applications, paying for college, saving money — How do you decide when to splurge and when to save?
My friends who took Life Skills said it forced them to talk to their parents about money. They had to create a budget, figure out what to spend and how to allocate money. But I lucked out.
My brother is six years older. He took the course and he’s my go-to person for finances. A couple of years ago, I opened a bank account. My brother went with me. He explained how it worked, how the banks make money from your money.
He talked to my parents a lot about money. He knew about mortgages and taxes. When I would whine about getting the newest toy, he would take me aside and talk to me. He’d say, “Ask mom and dad about how much they have saved. Ask them about what they’ve spent to make sure we have a good life.”
Soon, I learned about how they bought the house. They explained to me the long process that they had to go through to get a loan. Their biggest fear was getting scammed. So they read everything over and over again. They talked to me about the process of credit checks. How they met with a banker and finally got a loan for the house that I grew up in.
Now, I’m a senior at my charter school. My friends are graduating from public school this year. And when I ask them, they all agree that taking the Life Skills course was important. But they believe what I believe: Teaching about money should start at home. Kids learn by applying what they learn to real life problems: What our parents deal with on a daily basis, paying a mortgage, saving money for big purchases. I mean, it is life skills, right?
Vigeland: David Dominguez is a high school senior in Los Angeles. Youth Radio produced this commentary.
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