In this weekend’s financial math class we watched a PBS video together, and we discussed what it means to be literate.
The original meaning of “literate” is to be able to read and write, and the word “literature” is associated with poetry, drama, novels , especially those classics. It was important to be literate because one could not get a decent job or run a business without these basic skills.
But our time has long since entering into one that requires much more than reading and writing: financial skills, computer skills, and the ability to read and write in another language are all become essentials. We are doomed if we are not literate in these essential skills.
The main character in this PBS interview is a successful writer. He lives in East Hamptons, he has a big house and a big yard. He has two children went on to have great careers after having gone to expensive private schools. But he says he does not have $400 for emergency expenses.
The PBS interviewer asked him for his personal decisions that impacted his financial situation (8:35):
“You live in the Hamptons, most people would say that’s a really expensive part of Hamptons.”
If you watch carefully, you see that he shops at expensive markets and buys at the custom meat counter. His house is falling apart into disrepair because he never took the time to do the daily maintenance (if you do not want to maintain your home then you should live in an apartment). He says if he had $100000 he could get the repair done. Has he ever thought about DIY? He has no one to blame but himself.
He openly admits “I am a financial illiterate” “Financial illiterates pay a heavy price for their financial illiteracy”. (10:07)
However courageous it was for him to admit it openly, he is still not realizing the path to financial strength is in his own hands. He complains that “so many Americans have to give up their dreams.” We cannot help but wondering “Would you consider start doing instead of dreaming? “
Financial illiteracy is a key factor in the financial fragility of the middle class. On the one hand, the fiscal principle of savings and taking care of your assets seem to have fallen out of common sense. On the other hand, we are experiencing much more complex financial products. The knowledge of people have not kept up.