Don't get me wrong, I learned a lot in high school. I got exemplary grades, learned how to manage my time on homework and figured out how to navigate a social scene. I could multi-task reading for my government class and a paper for Environmental Science while simultaneously video chatting with my boyfriend. Regardless, after graduating and preparing for my first year in college, I felt as if I knew more about geometrical formulas and the history of Guam more than how to be an ACTUAL adult.
I definitely was prepared for college academically; I was lucky enough to have been able to take Advanced Placement classes (which many high schools don't offer at all). These are the most difficult courses that high schools offer, and they count for college credit if you obtain a certain score on the AP exam. My school offered 24 AP classes ranging from AP Music Theory to AP Psychology to AP Biology. While these classes challenged me to think more intricately about calculus and literature, I wish there had been classes about how to take care of myself and my money.
For example, nowhere in high school is there any explanation about taxes, credit, investments, loans, mortgages, retirement funds, 401k's or pensions. Instead of learning about basic economic terms like equilibrium, I wish I had been taught how you need to build up multiple lines of credit to buy a house. Instead of memorizing the name of George Washington's trusty steed, I would have loved to learn how to invest the money I'd received from summer jobs or birthday gifts. Instead of learning how to take the derivative of a polynomial, I would've cherished being advised on how to invest in the stock market.
So, during the summer before heading off to college, I feel overwhelmingly unprepared to be an adult. Despite my dad's honest efforts to teach me about the economy and the value of financial independence, I feel as if every adult walks around with some secret code that I have yet to unlock. So having just turned 18, my angst regarding the future began to suffocate me. Instead of having my childhood night terrors of demons and monsters, I was being haunted by nightmares about bankruptcy and being tricked into buying penny stocks like in The Wolf of Wall Street. I wanted to know how to take care of myself: I wanted to be a fiscal feline.
So, I took the initiative and booked an appointment with my town's biggest financial advisor. He had everything I expected such an esteemed man to possess: the busy office with dedicated employees, client testimonials about wondrous success and an office completely foreign to an 18-year-old girl. I didn't even know how to answer his question, "What can I do for you?" I didn't know what I wanted for dinner that night, let alone what I wanted to do with the few hundred dollars I had to my name. Throughout the meeting, to my pleasant surprise, I was spoke to like an adult for the first time in my life. I was told (in layman's terms, might I add) why it would be wise to invest while I was young, the importance of having good credit as I grow up and how having all of my money stuffed into an empty tissue box might not be the best idea.
I walked out of the meeting without making a single investment or losing a dollar of my own cash; thankfully, the man did not charge for introductory meetings. Instead, I walked out of the 30-minute session with a valuable tool that I never seemed to grasp in high school: financial confidence. And the amazing thing about financial confidence is how it is completely rooted in discovery and education. If you grow up to really understand how to market works, there's a pretty good chance you'll do okay financially. So, I didn't necessarily leave the meeting with tons of newfound money or a complete understanding of how economics work. Still, though, I left with the assurance that I have the ability to learn how to be an adult and how to make sure I am always secure moving forward.
College is scary, ambiguous and completely open to the infamous failures, screw-ups and mishaps we all have heard from our parents. We all have seen and heard about economic downfalls, and we're suddenly expected to know how to navigate them. Why were we never taught about such real, vital parts of growing up? Why is it so tricky to learn the ropes of adulthood through simple trial and error? Instead, all children and teens should be taught how to ensure a safe, successful future for themselves. In times like today, economic independence is more important than ever before. Meet with a financial advisor. Take hold of your own future.