You may have heard the term “financial literacy” which by definition is the education and understanding of various financial areas, such as saving, spending, investing, insurance, budgeting, retirement and tax planning.
Financial literacy fundamentals are often taught in schools starting in middle or high school, with mixed results at best. A study completed by George Washington University and PwC proves this point. Based on a survey of over 5,500 Millennials, it was determined that only 24% of Millennials exhibited basic financial literacy, and only 8% demonstrated high financial knowledge. Part of the problem is that school-taught financial literacy focuses on concepts with limited application to the school-age audience. To help this young audience succeed over time, we must be prepared to offer timely support to foster “financial know-how”.
Financial know-how combines the principles of financial literacy education with the playbook, tools, and discipline necessary to help people stay on top of their money and track progress towards life goals. This includes the continuous activities for managing money: including basic money administration (planning and budgeting), following developments in personal finance, and using financial services. Following this course of action comes naturally for those already interested in personal finance, but for most it is a struggle and assistance is required until it becomes a discipline. In many cases the responsibility for providing on-going education falls on parents, a challenge many parents are neither equipped nor interested in taking on.
As shown in the exhibit, there are 5 key areas of financial know-how, presented as a cycle. It is continuous because as you plan for and achieve life goals, you will be going through the various stages of financial know-how each time.
As a way to provide some context, I compare each step in the cycle to learning to speak a language. Achieving mastery of a language requires more than just learning the letters, words, and simple sentence structures, which in my example is the equivalent of financial literacy training. Mastery includes all aspects of language development, from effective speaking and writing, to listening and adapting to new forms.
Like language mastery, achieving financial know-how not only takes time and discipline, but also gets easier the more you use it. This, in turn, increases confidence and independence leading to a more rewarding life.