FIRE.033 Your Money Level by Grade

I can’t seem to get enough knowledge about personal finance. I constantly read—and calculate—personal finance. The personal finance topic seems to have transitioned from one of my interests, to a hobby, to a passion, to my current “job.” It is by far the most important job I’ve ever had. It’s actually more like a ‘career,’ probably a lifelong career.

To put my personal finance education into a structured progression, I broke it up into the familiar US education structure.

  • Preschool – This is the “I want…” mentality. The pure desire to get stuff. Shopping to acquire items with no understanding or regard on how to pay for it. Charge it!? No understanding of incoming bills (or income) and no consideration for any form of saving. There is no correlation between stuff and money.
  • Elementary school K-6 – Building some logic. The understanding of how money comes in through job earnings and is spent on life expenses. There is some correlation here, but no calculations.
  • Jr High – A more clear understanding of needs/wants. You understand you need to build up some money to make the purchases. Deep down you still feel the ‘wants’ are very important in your enjoyment of life, more important that pulling the money together for the purchase.
  • High School graduate– Threshold of being able to manage your income in relation with all expenses to the point of knowing you should have money left over income to put towards savings. Wide range of knowledge at this level:
    • Some high school students leave school with a higher level of knowledge than others. The equivalent of this higher level may be an adult family that puts some money away, at least for emergencies. These people have a financial cushion.
    • Functioning a little lower: It may be just as some people who squeak by in high school, similarly, some do the same in personal finance. They pay their bills on time—most of the time— but sometimes they’re late or miss payments (just like homework assignments).
    • Those over achieving type students may put a chunk of money away each pay period into a retirement account—along with their savings and in their emergency fund.
  • College graduate/Trade certification – A full giant step above the masses (millionaire). These are the people who put in a major amount of extra effort to learn. They try and place themselves above others who didn’t—or weren’t able to—grow to a higher level of accomplishment. So many “experts” seem to feel this is the level of major differentiation. It’s not a guarantee of a great life (job or net worth), but it may move you far ahead of the masses/the average. Keep in mind that this level (college degree/millionaire) becomes less valuable as more and more people reach this same level over time.
  • Master Degree – Advancing knowledge in a specialized area (multi-millionaire). This must be where you have your foundation (high school) and you’ve built a solid first floor (college) and now you are building a second story or third story to your financial home. At this level, you may have the best opportunity to keep yourself differentiated from the growing number of people one-step below/behind you.
  • D Degree – Rarified knowledge and skills (deca-millions). Some people just far exceed those at the high school/monthly bill level. They extremely knowledgeable and experienced in areas that most people have no knowledge. They’ve become experts who operate within organizations (finances) at very high levels.

Specialist– Some people (families) have so much education/skills, knowledge, experience, global influence that their education is only foundational to their achievements (COE’s, political leaders). This may be the equivalent of hundreds of millions or billion+ in net worth. This massive level of responsibility is almost unattainable to mere mortals.

As in real life, many people have accomplishments that do not require a “college” education. These are often entrepreneurs who start a business, develop the skills and knowledge to deliver products which are in demand—high demand—to the marketplace. These smart people may not have extended formal (classroom) education, but the have MASSIVE amounts of life and people education, far exceed many of us college educated people. There are many paths to success, and far more to happiness.

What do you feel your personal finance education level is? Is it similar to the long grind of college or starting your own business and working so hard year after year after year? Are you trying to improve your high school level of foundational skills, or learning more and more to be an over achiever type?

I’m sure no matter what level it is, be proud of the knowledge you’ve gained. Of course, you know you could learn more—we can all learn more. I’m sure you realize that the foundational material changes over time (i.e. fewer company pensions, future social security concerns, today’s incomprehensible interest rates, possible inflation changes, future medical costs, tax optimization—doesn’t this all sound exciting to keep learning more about?

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