[Hi Dukes: we have a new honored guest joining us at the Kingdom’s finest dinner table today! A reader we’ve helped! This PF community lurker informs us of a major flaw in the American education system – finance majors aren’t taught personal finance! Why does that matter? Check out the story below to learn about mistakes and lessons our reader has learned through the personal finance community! Thank you so much for sharing!]
Who am I?
I am a proud PF community blog lurker. I don’t have a blog, but I’m planning on having one in the future. I’m currently a senior that’s double majoring in Accounting and Finance at a four-year institution on the east coast. If everything goes well, and I pass all of my classes this semester, I will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree!
Why am I here?
Some of you might think that I’d want to be a financial advisor upon graduation. Isn’t that what most finance majors want to be? The truth is, I didn’t know anything about personal finance until my junior year in college, and that’s because I started dating my boyfriend—a personal finance aficionado.
Crazy, right? You’d think that someone with a finance degree would know the basic components of a budget as well as how to do taxes, how 401ks work, and how to set financial goals. Maybe some people did get to learn about all of these things at their universities, but I didn’t, and my friends didn’t either.
Instead, we learned about bonds, bonds, and more bonds ad nauseam. We learned how to determine whether securities were overvalued or undervalued. We learned how to evaluate financial statements with literally scores of different valuation ratios. We also learned how to do complex calculations in corporate finance class—by hand, no calculators allowed.
These things made my brain hurt…I still have PTSD from having to price derivatives, calculate loan commitment returns, and deal with risk-adjusted assets….and that was two semesters ago.
At one point, I felt like I was learning how to become an investment banker on Wall Street. I felt really smart. The real tragedy is that most finance majors do not end up on Wall Street, especially if they don’t attend ivy leagues or highly lauded private schools. The other real tragedy? Professionals no longer need to do calculations by hand. Have you ever heard of Excel?
The community will really judge. I mean really judge me for how irresponsible I’ve been.
Here’s a condensed list of jobs I’ve had in the last three years.
|Occupation||Duration||Wages||How much I saved|
|Customer service at a gym||2 years||Roughly $2,300 year||$0|
|Intern at Public Accounting Firm||7 weeks||$7,500||$400 in credit card debt|
|Intern at Global Investment Bank||10 weeks||$15,250||$1,000|
I was barely making any money at my student job, but best believe I was still spending my $100 paychecks on Panera breakfast, lunch, and dinner at least three times a week. I knew that I could just make food at home instead of wasting money, but the customized breakfast sandwich I got every morning at Panera was too good to pass.
My First Internship
I got an internship at a public accounting firm when I was 19.
I was never used to having a lot of money in my bank account. I was used to seeing my account balance as low as $10, so when I got my first $2,000 paycheck, I blew half of it on the first day. The sad thing is I can’t remember what I bought. I continued buying food from restaurants, but this time, I wasn’t buying food from Panera. I was going to PF Chang’s.
My Second Internship
At my last internship, I lived in New York amid some of the richest people in the world. It’s a different ballgame in New York. People have money. Instead of acting like Chic Fil A is a treat, you’re going to expensive brunch and Italian restaurants almost weekly with your friends. That’s just the norm. I was blowing at least $300 a week on food. I wish I was lying.
I won’t even try to give excuses because there aren’t any. Money like this is never guaranteed and I was wasting money on things that weren’t adding any value to my life. A lot of the money I made could’ve contributed to a really awesome vacation. Oh well. We learn lessons from mistakes, right?
Changing my habits
It took a long time but I finally learned my lesson. I have a budget now. That word never existed in my vocabulary until 6 months ago. However, I didn’t just wake up one day with great financial habits. I was a bonafide shopping addict ever since I was a teenager.
Good habits are really hard to adopt.
I had to start leaving my debit and credit cards at home to train myself not to impulsively spend money. When you’re surrounded by Chipotle, Chic Fil A, Panera, Burger King, Starbucks, and Red Hot & Blue daily on campus, self-control goes out the window. So forcing myself to actually eat the lunch I made because I didn’t physically have the money to buy things helped tremendously.
I now have savings accounts for different long-term goals too. I think I’m adulting the right way.
The Flawed American Education System
While I’m grateful that my professors were tough and tried their best to expose us to what really goes on in the finance industry, I’m a little bit disappointed. Not disappointed with my professors per se, but with how colleges make their curriculums. A finance major should know how to make a budget, point blank. If it wasn’t for my boyfriend introducing me to the personal finance community, I would just be like the average American—spending money frivolously with little to no emergency or retirement savings. I’m thankful for developing a different mindset.
In fact, I believe personal finance classes should be required for everyone.
Children should be able to learn the value of money from an early age, just as they are required to learn English, History, and Biology. I’m disappointed that I was exposed to these things when I was 20 years old. It’s embarrassing. I could have saved so much money from all of the internships and jobs I’ve had in the past four years. I was ignorant. My parents relied on the public school system to teach me everything I needed to know, but schools aim to turn us into academics—rather than teaching us the fundamentals of what we need to survive in the real world.
My Thanks to the PF Community
So I wanted to thank the PF community for teaching me about personal finance. I’ve learned so many great things from Duke of Dollars. I’ve learned that building your kingdom is the most important step in the journey to financial independence, so I’ve started working on building my own kingdom.
I can only hope that my generation reforms the American Education System so that our kids can grow up with the knowledge they need to become successful and financially responsible adults.
And we want to thank you. We thank you for taking the time to submit this post to us, for taking the time to read blogs within the personal finance community, and lastly for having the courage to share your story with the world. We wish you the best as you continue to build that kingdom!