A few months ago I wrote a blog post about teachers and money. I wanted to talk a little bit more about that subject and update what I am going to try to do on the subject.
Readers of this blog know that I am a college professor. Mrs. ROB is a college professor. My brother and his wife are teachers. My best friends are teachers/college professors. And I teach at one of the best universities in the country for teacher education. So education is a huge part of my life. One of the things that continually frustrates me about education in the United States is the lack of financial literacy that students receive. In most schools there aren’t financial literacy programs. At my university, we have a class entitled “Personal Finance” that always tends to fill, but students aren’t required to take it.
Moreover, I find it a bit amazing and disconcerting how many teachers I know, including myself to some extent, who have a lack of knowledge about money, student loan debt, investing, and the like. My colleagues and I, for the most part, have doctoral degrees and a good chunk of them have no clue when it comes to financial issues.
Now not to pick on college professors/teachers alone it seems that most people in the country have little to no knowledge of financial issues. Over 75% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, including Mrs. ROB and I, because of exigent financial issues. Last year, Neal Gabler made headlines with his article on how most Americans couldn’t handle a $400 emergency. I wrote a reaction to the article at the time, but it should scare all of us that most Americans can’t handle this small emergency.
I bring all of this up not to berate people because god knows I have my own money issues (see any of our posts where we owe hundreds of thousands of dollars, including massive student loan debt–please somebody face punch me for my stupid decisions) but I have decided to do a couple of things to hopefully help improve my situation.
My Contributions to Improving Financial Literacy
First, I will continue to write this blog. It is hard to believe but I have been blogging for almost 2 1/2 years on financial issues. Slowly, but surely the blog has gotten a larger readership. I would love to have more people read it, but maybe I am just not inspiring enough. In fact, a couple of weeks ago somebody offered to buy my blog. However, when I told him how much money I have made from the blog (hardly anything….I need to work on that) and how small my readership was (those of you who do read I thank you) I haven’t heard from him since. C’est la vie.
However, I have always said this blog is more about me and keeping me financially accountable. If I help people along the way then that is an added bonus. I know that I have provided information to some of my colleagues on student loans and they have thanked me for that. So I hope to continue to post 1-3 times a week on financial issues. I don’t plan on going anywhere.
Second, I will try to increase the exposure of the blog. Last year, I wrote a few blog posts on student debt, particularly student loan debt forgiveness. Even though Mrs. ROB is a college professor, she is technically part-time. The truth is she actually teaches the equivalent of a full-time professor, but she teaches at multiple universities to do so. However, we were able to get her enrolled in student loan debt forgiveness, even with a part-time job.
I actually took that blog post and a couple of others and put it on our faculty listserv to help other colleagues who may face similar issues. And I received a pretty good response. I have helped about a dozen colleagues or so figure out how to enroll in student loan forgiveness and have spread my knowledge to people outside my university. I hope to continue to do so in the future.
Third, I will attempt to conduct financial literacy workshops. I recently helped a colleague with her student loans. I won’t go into much detail with her story, but at the end of our discussion it seemed like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. It seemed like she had a plan and she seemed better prepared. I have to admit after our discussion I was on cloud 9. I mean I loved it. When you help someone out and they get it there is a gleam in someone’s eye that matches no other. It is an AWESOME feeling.
On her advice I decided that it was time we talk about this more on our campus so I actually contacted one of our faculty leaders and I hope to do a workshop or two, at the very least on student loan debt and public student loan forgiveness, in the near future. I LOVE doing this. It seems like I was meant to do this kind of teaching in addition to my first love of rhetoric and politics.
Finally, I am becoming a certified financial education instructor. Writing this blog, at some level, gives me some kind of credibility to talk about issues surrounding personal finance. While I have a lot my own problems I hope that I have a knowledge level that can help others. That said, I put as a disclaimer that I am NOT a financial professional. I am not certified for investments or anything of that nature. You should always check with someone (particularly investments) who is a registered financial adviser (not insurance salesman) regarding your financial plans.
Because of this lack of certification I feel, in some respects, sometimes like I shouldn’t be talking about this. I mean who am I to discuss personal finance issues when I have made so many dumb mistakes of my own. Therefore, I decided to take my education one step further.
Last month I enrolled to become a certified financial education instructor. I am almost through the course and will be taking the certification exam soon. Some of the stuff I actually know quite well and then there is some items that are quite valuable. I am not becoming a CFEI to make money (although that would be nice). I don’t plan on quitting my job anytime soon. I like my career and so forth. But having this certification will, hopefully, give me even more ethos to speak to others about their financial issues. It is something I have been wanting to do for a while and now I am going to fulfill a promise I made myself to help others.
The Bottom Line. I know I can’t solve the financial literacy crisis in America. I know that when I talk to my students I sound like the Peanuts teacher. I know that some of my colleagues are particularly tired of me talking about this. However, this is too important of an issue to stop talking about it. This is how I am going to help. I hope to do more, particularly for teachers. Teachers we NEED to talk more about money. We NEED to have a plan. We NEED to focus on this.
I hope I can make a small contribution to this growing issue.