Financial literacy month series: The agelessness of financial literacy

When is a good age to start financial education?

The question comes up a lot: “When is a good age to start financial education?” Well, any age really. If you think about money and how we spend and save, a lot of that comes from the values we are raised with. So I would say the moment you decide you want something is the time you should learn about financial matters … I don’t mean when you feel hungry as a baby, I mean, when you see that really awesome, super-duper, I have to have it product, like a toy or game, that’s when.

I heard a funny story at a recent conference. The speaker spoke about this one presentation where there was a 13-year-old boy in the audience because his parent had dragged his pre-teen child to a financial seminar … Throughout the presentation, the boy was furiously scribbling on his note pad … the speaker thought he was doodling, come on, what 13-year-old was interested in this stuff? At the end of the talk, he went up to the teen and was curious to see what he was doing. To his surprise, he had written down everything that was presented. The boy was excited and exclaimed, “I wish I knew all this 3 years ago!”

In celebration of financial literacy month, I conducted my own (un)scientific survey of a very small sample of people I know – perhaps the only people I knew. [Author’s note: For more reliable survey results please visit CPA Canada’s surveys .] I wanted to see what people at different ages thought about in regards to their money and their wants, perhaps you can draw a similarity to your situation and relate, or not. Again, small sample, completely without a “methodology” –but no matter the age, money is an important part of our lives.  It’s about making dreams come true  and who doesn’t want that?

Age 6: My nephew
“I want a blue car.”
“A blue car, like a toy car?” I asked.
“No. One I can drive… oh and it has to be a sports one.” He said it with a tone as if no other description made sense. I blame my brother. Enough said.

Age 26: Friend
“Saving my nickels and dimes. I want to move out of my house with my boyfriend.”

Age 35: Friend
“I want CRA to stop taking my money!!!”

Age 47: Previous work colleague
“Paying off my mortgage … so then I can finally save for retirement.”

Age 65: Retired person at a seminar
“Love isn’t enough. After 2 divorces, I’ll be lucky to retire at 75.”

Understandably, every person’s situation is different and unique but the key is to know where you are now financially and what you want from life. The earlier you start with that in mind, the more time you’ll have to prepare to get to where you want to go. The lesson here is to not jump the gun and live the lifestyle you think you deserve now, but can’t afford. All that gets you in the long run is debt, which not only ruins your dreams, it will blow them out of the water.