As an educator, I’m a big fan of education!! However, for most educators and other professions, financial literacy was not part of the education process. I knew financial literacy was lacking by my teen years, because I had a great dentist as a kid that explained it to me during a check up appointment. He was a great dentist because he would give me Texas Rangers baseball tickets, Dallas Cowboys tickets (at the old cheaper stadium), and one time he gave me floor seats to a Mavericks game. Some dentist right!
One day, after I signed my basketball scholarship, he asked what I thought about majoring in at college. I proudly proclaimed, “Business.” He said that was great because it would help me do anything in life, because life is all about business. I mumbled through some instruments, “How do you mean?” He told me that he always wanted to be a dentist, so he studied pre-med, and then went to Baylor school of dentistry. Then the time came to start his own family practice, and he didn’t even know how a business was set up. He had tons of dental debt, and an idea of what he wanted to do in life, and no knowledge of how to do it. He told me how he made many financial mistakes, ran his dental business on loans to cover his mistakes, and now after 25 years he has learned all about business and finances the hard way. He said he would have been much richer and able to retire much earlier if he had the knowledge he needed to run his own business. He also told me to pay attention in school and give him some pointers next time I’m back in town. He gained a partner the next time I saw him, and he was working two days a week. So, I guess he was doing fine.
I took an unorthodox path into teaching and finances, by studying business for two years, then switching to applied sociology (religion minor too). Sociology taught me to think, and notice how society worked (great for marketing), and business taught me how to work our economic system in a business manner. I interned at the district attorneys office during this, and learn more about how our government was run, and how knowing your rights helps keep you out of trouble. Did I mention I also played NCAA basketball during this, and was traveling around the country playing on ESPN, Fox Sports, and CBS a few times. (Not all of those guys go to the NBA, most of us are working hard in class and getting an education.) It felt like I was doing three jobs at once with a break in July for two weeks. I also drove buses of tubers on the river during the summer, and was janitor for a church for spending money throughout the year. I learned to manage my time, my money, and ran my life like a small business with different departments. Then I got married at the end of my junior year of college too. Lets just say I was busy.
After college I had a wife with a kid on the way, and I was accepted into law school. I had about $5,000 to my name and was debt free. I thought about going to law school, but the idea of the debt was demoralizing, so I got a job at Lowe’s and substitute taught at the high school (I know, so your son passed on law school for Lowe’s). I thought out my life plan (5 years, 10 years, 25 years), and I found I was a natural in the classroom with kids and I loved seeing them learn new things. I also, had an opportunity to coach basketball, which is a love of mine. I quickly, got emergency certified to teach in Texas, and passed the tests with flying colors (everything is easy after the LSAT). I told the law school I’m not coming in the fall, and instead entered the classroom, with a plan to get rich through compound interest and frugal living.
So, how did I increase my financial knowledge besides learning from life. I read like crazy. I was still in school mode and was still reading 500 to 1,000 pages a week. I discovered blogs, and plowed through them. I read books on economics, budgeting, millionaires, auto biographies of successful people, historical accounts about pirate economies, and even Dave Ramsey. I read about 50 financial books in my first year of teaching. I was reading investor newsletters from Harry Dent and John Mauldin. It was Harry Dent’s prediction that gold (at $500 and ounce) would skyrocket soon, that got me researching gold, and I decided to double my money for our first house payment using gold bullions. I use to call it my “pirate treasure”, and told my kids I used pirate gold to buy our first house.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to make 25 years of financial mistakes to be good with your money. Most of us didn’t get a great financial or economic education in school. You might have taken an accounting class or drew some supply an demand charts, but nothing about debt or budgeting. How do you decide on your IRA or 401k or how does a 529 plan work? You can educate yourself and the best way to do this is through reading everything you get your hands on. Read contradictory things to see from all sides of the argument too, but read.
Now for those of you who have no time to read. I have heard this time and time again. Make time!! I use to have a 30 minute commute and got books on tape from the library to listen to for 1 hour a day. I read the Total Money Makeover for the first time that way, and then started to listen to Dave Ramsey’s radio show when I was driving at the right time of day. Now you have podcasts, vlogs, audiable, tons of non reading options (NPR’s How I Built This is my favorite right now). If you don’t have time then you can just stay broke. Everyone has time to change their lives for the better. Get the kindle app on your phone, and carry around your ebooks for reading at your kids practices, or while you are waiting for anything. If I get dragged to the grocery store, I can sit in the car pop open my kindle app and read for a good 20 minutes or more. Stupid is a choice for most of us, and unfortunately, most choose stupid, and cover it up with our excuses. Stop the excuses, use your life experiences and choose to increase your financial knowledge everyday. You can be a financial beast in under a year, and change your entire life and your family tree.