Rather than starting off your day with some terribly depressing news about a fatal car crash, the latest on our state’s financial status, or new born puppies being burned alive, I thought I’d enlighten you folk out there. I want you (and congress, teachers, schools, etc.) to know what I’ve been missing in life up to this point.
Often, as I do today, we look back on our high school careers as athletes, mathletes, artists, or intellectuals, as well as our two to four years of college education. While in all those years, we may have become a math geniuses and MLA style queens, there are some vital tasks many of us didn’t learn how to do. Today, I can tell you the value of π and what NaCl stands for in the periodic table, but a few months ago I couldn’t figure out which loan payment plan to choose without consulting my mother. (Insert cheesy applause).
I found that admitting my problem is the first step, right? So, I decided to discuss this with several other young professionals and students to clarify that I wasn’t the only one on the missing the boat. Could I have really spaced outduring some of the most important life lectures? No, according to my peers.
We agreed there were (at least) seven subjects we were never taught:
How to vote. I remember being ecstatic the day I turned 18. Not because I could buy a grape swisher or a lotto ticket (which I did); I was ecstatic because 18 meant I finally had a voice. I could proudly wear that red sticker and feel like an actual adult. Because that’s what an adult is, right? Someone with a red sticker? Months before voting, I tried to pay close attention to the news and politics. I registered and I went to the 24 by 30 foot building they called our townhouse. I voted. The process was much more involved than I had ever imagined. I had never seen a ballot. What were these city questions? Who was I allowed to write-in? If only, if only I would have known. I could have made a more educated vote.
How to balance a checkbook. “Checkbook schmeckbook. Who even uses those anymore?” My friends always laugh when I say “I can’t meet for drinks tonight, my checkbook register is out of control.” In high school, accounting was one of my most favorite classes. My left brain tells me “order, order, order.” I had those ledger wrapped around my finger. When it comes to balancing my checkbook and getting that register up to par, I nearly break out in hives from the stress. How do I troubleshoot? Why am I off $1.27? Am I short a dollar or over a dollar? While I’m in this predicament, many of my other peers don’t even know the purpose of this task. They ask, “Why is that even necessary? I can look online.” Bankers and teachers, please, enlighten them.
How to apply for student loans. I am so, so thankful for my parents. And feel so, so terrible for many 18-year-olds that had to suffer through loan applications on their own. How are they supposed to know their parents’ income? Who is available to co-sign? How early should these forms be filled out? Luckily many colleges have financial aid offices to help out, but an overall understanding of the process wouldn’t have hurt any of us.
Credit scores. What are they? Many of my peers have little to zero understanding of what a credit score is, how it’s calculated, and what it means for their life. Dave Ramsey, finance extraordinaire, says, “The only way to have a good credit score is to go into debt, and continually pay your accounts perfectly–without adding too much debt or paying too much off. In other words, stay in debt for as long as you can.”
How insane is that?
My peers had no idea. Dave admits, that being a millionaire with no debt, he still doesn’t have sufficient credit to rent an apartment, but has enough funds to buy the whole damn complex! Why weren’t we taught the specifics behind credit scores?
How to choose insurance. My job requires me to drive. And so, I need to provide my motor vehicle record in order to be insured. What does “bodily injury” of $300,000/$500,000 mean? Does that indicate my insurance might pay out $300,000 or on a extraordinary Monday a $500,000 payout means it’s my lucky day? How much coverage do I need? How do I know if I have collision? What does collision coverage do? Many of my peers struggle with these questions. How do I even begin choosing a plan?
Flo? A little help here.
How to properly fill out a W-4 (and other forms).0,0,1,0,2,0? Yeah… that feels right. In the past, I’ve asked my employer, “What should I claim?” Most often the answer is, “Whatever you think.”
I started filling out W-4’s when I was 15 years old. What I thought, should not have mattered. I didn’t know any better. What many of us didn’t know then was what that zero meant for our paycheck and what the spring would bring.
How to file taxes. My little brother and I spent many spring nights eating Taco Johns outside of the late Mr. Evenson’s office, while our parents settled their taxes. Boy was he a generous man with blue raspberry Dum Dums (my absolute favorite flavor). But, the arrival of 2015 means my parents are throwing me into the real world at megaspeed. I’ll be left to fend for myself. How will I find my Mr. Evenson? It’s 2015, can’t I do it online? Wait, I can? How? Isn’t it hard? For years and years I’ve thought those online sites were unreliable… now I’m finding they are commonly used–and cheap? I wish I high school would have given me a trial run at it.
So, here I am trying to pave the way for the younger generations. I give credit to Angela Hartman and Principal John Hamann of Underwood High School in Underwood, MN (represent!) for steering me towards the right career and teaching me many of life lessons. But in the end, my only I wish (as a young professional) is that I could have crammed one more class in there.
My peers and I might have called it “The Class of Life.”