The role of the parentsParents are the first line of defense against children not entering the middle class as adults. Before children enter school, their personalities have already begun to form, and parents have the biggest role to play in forming that personality. It might be a little young to teach children about money specifically, but guiding children in the right direction in terms of instant gratification is one thing parents can do. As children grow and attend school, the lessons that stick with children the most are those that are reinforced at home. The parents have a much bigger role than teachers in shaping kids' approaches to money. Money shouldn't be treated as a thing of evil, nor should it be worshiped. Money is a tool, only, and we live in a society that expects citizens to work in order to build a future for one's self, and money is the intermediary method of exchange between work and freedom. At the same time, families shouldn't emphasize the important of work, because until the reach adulthood, the job of a child is to do well in school and thrive in college if possible. Economic differences affect these priorities. In some families, teenagers need to work because it's the only way the family can earn enough to live. In other families, teenagers may want to work if they want to afford some of the luxuries they see their friends experiencing, but parents also have an opportunity to limit the effects of peer pressure. The best thing parents can do is be great role models with money, even when money is not a frequently discussed topic. What happens when parents aren't good role models? The role of the schools Whether media report that debt is increasing while incomes are decreasing or that on average, college graduates can't pass a simple quiz about money management, public blame seems to focus on the schools. Most schools lack a comprehensive money management curriculum, and those that offer financial management courses do so to meet state competency guidelines. Some studies show that these classes do more harm than good, so there's already a question about whether this is the right solution. Nevertheless, many non-profit groups exist to promote financial literacy education as part of the American school curriculum. Corporations are entering the schools, too, offering their branded approach to financial literacy: Teach kids how to balance a checkbook or bank online, as long as they are exposed to Chase Bank logo (for example) day after day. With teachers not necessarily trained to provide lessons in personal finances, these outside forces are brought in to the classroom as supplements.
Unfortunately, many parents are not in a good position to impart financial lessons to their children, and that's why blame often falls to the schools. Society expects teachers to pick up where parents fail. And in some way, that's the only way devastating financial patterns in families can be broken. A few decades ago, college education became much more accessible to the middle class, the working class, and the poor.Families, particularly those in more recent waves of immigration to the United States, celebrated the first to go to college. This was more than just about a college education; the benefit of a college education was access to better paying jobs and careers opposed to a trade, lifting those children's later families out of poverty or moving them further in the direction of financial freedom. With this new success in the family, the cycle is broken, and there is positive economic mobility. The role of the community While the poverty rate remained essentially flat this past year, middle class jobs are shrinking, being replaced by working class jobs. It's in no country's best interest to have a growing section of society unable to break through to the middle class. It's even more critical at the state and local levels. When parents are for whatever reason ineffective role models for their children, and schools are focused on what is now considered the core curriculum of science, math, history, and English, more responsibility lands in the laps of the community. Great organizations can pick of some of the slack by offering meaningful role models. Big Brothers Big Sisters is one of the biggest organizations that come to mind. This organization isn't focused on financial habits, but having a good role model is about more than just the financial lessons kids can learn. And when a kid has very few people in his or her life to rely upon, the impact from an organization such as this can be significant.
As mentioned above, other financial-focused non-profits and corporate programs exist in society to fill in some of the gaps left when parents and teachers are not equipped for breaking a cycle and developing financially capable young adults.While the best teacher is experience, as many adults have determined for themselves, society would like to believe we'd be better off if fewer people had to learn about money the hard way. The better we can point the next generation in a positive direction when dealing with financial issues, there will be fewer tough lessons such as losing a house, being hounded by debt collectors, or being virtually enslaved to lenders and employers. While a lesson learned from one's own mistakes is often the most powerful, it's often better to learn from someone else's mistakes when possible.