Investing, banking and money management: subjects that should be taught in schools

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One is a millennial. The other is a Gen Z.

They are aspiring journalists who spent the summer as business reporting interns for USA TODAY.

While many old codgers (like their editor) love to roll our eyes and make jokes at their youthful expense, it’s often good to know what they are thinking — especially when USA TODAY’s MONEY section did a series of in-depth stories on “Youth Investors.”

So, here are some insights from Keira Wingate, a student at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York; and Mela Seyoum, an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley.

From Wingate:

Reading the stories in the Young Investors series really opened my eyes to the importance of learning great money management and investment skills at a young age. 

As someone who grew up homeless for almost half my life, I never felt financially stable until maybe a couple years ago. Even then, I wasn’t always stable. 

Now, I am 25 and living financially independent, something I had to figure out from a young age.

These stories not only made me feel less alone in the lack of financial knowledge I carry, but the series also made clear that these are vital subjects we should be taught while teenagers. 

Instead, our heads are buried in books about The Black Plague, The Spanish Flu and much more that, while important, should be balanced with actual life skills. Each story in this series truly brought such informative knowledge that I, simply put, didn’t know a dang thing about before. 

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Dan Kearns, whose son Alex committed suicide after he thought he had lost a significant amount of money trading options on Robinhood, said it best: “you can’t leave it up to the schools.” 

One of my favorite stories in the series was the “Black, Latino, LGBTQ investors see crypto investments like bitcoin as ‘a new path’ to wealth and equity.”

While reading it, I remember recently discussing in my business class about Black people not being able to get mortgages and how this long term, racially driven world has led to so many disadvantages for minority groups. 

This piece was fascinating because it put a spotlight on minority groups and how they are investing more in crypto than white people. The reasoning’s as to why this is happening goes back to the long stemming racial issues that plague this country.

One thing that struck me was the sad reality that minorities feel more comfortable investing in crypto because of their lack of trust in the government and banking. I can’t blame them as white men mostly control the business world. So, it was a happy surprise to see minorities taking control in the crypto world. 

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Millennials take lead in financial stress 

This leads me to the “Stocks and teens: Are there enough parental controls as teenagers invest with Fidelity, Wells Fargo?

It did not come as a surprise to me that millennials are the biggest group investing in crypto. I mean, which other group has a combined student debt amount of $1 trillion? 

It also blew my mind to read that, “teens control billions of dollars in spending each year” and yet, the thought of teaching young people financial literacy is not on the radar of schools. Except for ones in Arizona, where the state treasurer has made it a passion to get financial literacy in public schools. 

I felt the weight of financial stress at the young age of 10, when I started doing a paper route with my family at 1 a.m., just to help make ends meet. Afterwards, I would head to my sixth-grade classes and brag about how “cool” it was. 

After reading this story, it makes me wonder, would I have found my financial independence sooner if I was taught it in school? I think so. 

One big factor that is discussed in the “Millennial parents join the crypto craze. Should you? Here’s what experts say,” story is about student debt and how the two recessions have shaped young Americans. 

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What older generations don’t seem to understand is when they went to college, working a summer job would have significantly helped cover college tuition. Or, they may not comprehend how the federal minimum wage is still $7.25, which makes it almost impossible to rent a two -bedroom apartment or even a studio at most places in the United States.

I was told to be “brutally honest” when writing this review. So, I do wish there was more discussion regarding student debt in high school or from adults and the ever lasting hold it has on millennials. 

One quote from the story is spot on to how I feel regarding student debt among my peers:

“Millennials are the bag holders of student debt who’ve been unable to out earn the liability they took on,” says Douglas Boneparth, president of Bone Fide Wealth, a financial adviser. “Even for those who were able to get out from under it, they’ve pushed themselves to the limit to succeed professionally, satisfy that debt, still buy a home and start a family.”

Seeing millennials put money into crypto to help build a family and buy a house seems pretty spot on not just for the year of 2021, but for decades into the future so my generation can lower the amount of financial stress and worry. One of the biggest pieces of data revealed in this story proves that millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, but only make up 5% of the wealth. 

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It’s no wonder millennialsare quitting jobs

While reading the other stories in the series such as, “Millennials are quitting jobs to become crypto day traders. Here’s the risk, reward,” it all began to make more sense.

The story explained the factors at play that would make a millennial quit his or her job to become a day trader. 

It drives me up a wall when I hear people say “money can’t buy you happiness.”

Yet, that line seems to always come from people who have an abundance of money. It is easy to say money doesn’t buy happiness when you have it. For many, it’s really about the financial freedom one can get by having money. Less stress and more opportunity is the happiness that most millennials want. 

Many young adults and teens are feeling FOMO and want to get into the crypto craze because gaining any kind of extra money for millennials also gains better peace of mind. While many still are not fully aware of crypto and its risk, it seems that it is a gamble many are willing to take.

To end this think piece from a prime millennial, I can confidently say that I came away knowing more about crypto, financial literacy and banking than I expected. This series does more than just simply explain financial definitions, as it it gave a clear look at data and firsthand experiences. 

It’s time to add financial literacy to school schedules around the world and prepare young people for their futures.

From Seyoum:

As a college student, I have become increasingly more independent and soon enough I know that I will solely be responsible for myself, and that includes my own finances.

It’s a daunting task, and one that I often makes me feel ill-prepared.

The Young Investors series illuminated some of the ways that young people and historically marginalized groups are changing the financial industry, and making it work for themselves. 

The series also exposed me to more experiences that real people have had with investing and finances, illustrating some of their key strategies and challenges they encountered.

All of this applies to me, but I didn’t always know how to use this to my advantage.

While I wasn’t as knowledgeable about investing and the financial industry, it was definitely something on my mind as I thought about the cost of getting an education in addition to personal expenses.

Learning about investing through the series has provided me with more options and financial knowledge than I had originally thought were available to me.

Unfortunately, a lack of financial knowledge is not uncommon among students, with the piece “Stocks and teens: Are there enough parental controls as teenagers invest with Fidelity, Wells Fargo” highlighting how nearly 50% of teens rate themselves low in investing knowledge. 

However, there are also young people, like Whitman Ochiai and Vineel Bhat, who have created resources like a podcast and an app centered on finances, which make financial knowledge much more accessible to a younger generation. 

Bhat’s experience, whose father immigrated to the United States from India, and from there urged him to learn more about investing, is one that struck me.

My parents immigrated to the United States as well and as I got older, they often spoke to me about how to make financial decisions and urged me to learn more about it.

And I credit them for being able to give me the foundational understanding of finances that have allowed me to learn more.

Another piece in the series, “Black, Latino, LGBTQ  investors see crypto investments like bitcoin as ‘a new path’ to wealth and equity” was particularly revealing to me as I saw the depth to which people of color and LGBTQ people were getting more involved in investing and finances, a new and exciting thing to see. 

In most spaces, whether they be academic or social, I have found myself to be one of very few or the only Black person. I assumed this also would be the case in most financial or banking settings, a feeling that is echoed among other Black Americans with 43% of them saying that they feel the banking and loans industry has treated them unfairly. 

However, this has led to marginalized groups showing an increased interest in cryptocurrencies, an alternate pathway to investing. While I heard about some of the intensely popular cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin, it was refreshing to see how those just starting out with investing were utilizing cryptocurrencies.

The Young Investors series has given me a new level of insight into the financial industry, and being able to have that insight through the perspectives of younger people, and historically underrepresented groups, gave me a new appreciation for those trying to make the industry more accessible for themselves and others. 

Seeing increasing financial independence and knowledge has been heartening and hopeful. And while there’s still risks and obstacles to successfully investing, I think there’s been a level of progress that I would not have expected and want to see continue.