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Where Did You Learn The Life Skill of Money Management? (VIDEO)

By Marie Burns April 15, 2023 Managing Money

Who did you learn from about money and personal finance in your life? Parents or grandparents? School? Or no one, aka the School of Hard Knocks?

April is National Financial Literacy Awareness month in the United States, so it’s the perfect time for each of us to be thinking a bit more about our own personal experience as well as where we are currently in our financial journey in life.

The History of Financial Literacy Education in the U.S.

On this topic of financial literacy, it makes sense to ask: Why don’t all schools teach financial literacy? Everyone seems to agree that this subject has a direct impact on day-to-day living yet is basically ignored in the K–12 curriculum of most of our states.

I recently learned that it wasn’t always this way. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, financial education was taught in schools, with a particular emphasis on teaching girls!

Back around the time of World War I, when American women began attending college and participating in the workforce in then-record numbers, they had less time to perform household duties, so they needed to economize in the home.

In an effort to do it all, and do it faster, they turned to the popular science of the day, in particular the “Efficiency Movement.” In essence, how could Henry Ford’s recently created approach to assembly lines be applied to housework?

At the same time, activists were arguing that for women to be on the same financial footing with men, they needed to learn money basics like budgeting and saving. So, in Home Economics classes, in addition to lessons on how to darn a sock and where to put the salad fork, girls were being taught basic bookkeeping, budgeting, and check writing.

Then after World War II, home ec class became less focused on economic independence for women. In the cultural upheaval of the 1960s and 70s, disparities between the sexes – like the fact that women weren’t allowed to get a credit card in their own name until 1974 – became a big part of the public debate.

Home economics curricula appeared out of step and even sexist, so those classes were cut. In a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, financial education got shown the door too. It wouldn’t stage a comeback for another 25 years.

The Comeback

In the mid-90s is when the interest in teaching financial literacy resurged. Congress passed the Financial Literacy and Education Improvement Act in 2003, setting up a commission tasked with making a plan for raising financial literacy nationwide.

Today, about half of our states require some form of personal finance instruction for high school students, and momentum is growing this year as more states have made similar proposals.

Perhaps Covid created the awareness that the ability to use money wisely is a life skill along with the realization that it’s important for all ages. As someone in the financial industry, I see daily how using money as a tool in life is really about life-centered planning… what we value and want in life should drive how we use our financial tools.

The Odds Are Against Us

And when it comes to personal finance for women specifically, I always acknowledge that we have the deck stacked against us for so many reasons. We often earn less than men over our lifetime (for a variety of reasons but may be related to the fact that we are usually the caregivers for children, aging parents, or spouses).

We are more likely to be single parents. We are likely to spend our final years alone. In fact, I read a startling statistic the other day: 69% of American women are currently living without a spouse/partner.

And the final game changer is that we are more likely to live longer than a spouse (depending on your circumstances, household income typically goes down 30-50% after loss of a spouse). I am not sure if all of that combined is like a double or triple whammy, but it sure reinforces the need for women to be aware of our personal finances!

Five Stages of Change

Awareness is certainly the beginning phase of taking action to improve anything in life, our knowledge or comfort level with finances or otherwise. There are actually five stages in any change process.

It’s super important to realize where you are in that change process in order to help yourself get to the next stage and actually get something accomplished. Let’s see where you are when it comes to financial literacy:

Stage 1: Precontemplation

This stage involves being unaware or in denial that there is even a need for financial literacy. If you are reading this, you are beyond this stage.

Stage 2: Contemplation

You acknowledge the issue and begin researching the time and effort required to implement a solution. At a minimum, as you read this article you are already in this phase.

Stage 3: Preparation

Here is where you are feeling ready to commit to making a change. You are open to the future benefits you know will come from creating an action plan. Is this you now?

Stage 4: Action

You have identified and take visible actions on the changes necessary. For example, do you have a good sense of your basic financial foundation, i.e., an awareness of what is in your financial toolbox? Or have you focused on areas of your financial life that need more attention?

Stage 5: Maintenance

Any new behaviors (updating your net worth statement annually, reviewing your investment portfolio quarterly, tracking your expenses, etc.) are now a part of everyday life and have become habits, just with differing frequencies. I hope you get to this stage eventually if you aren’t already!

So what Stage do you find yourself in? Each of us always has a little, or a lot, of room for improvement so find where you are and ask yourself what you need in order to get to the next Stage.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What Stage are you in and can we help with ideas to get you unstuck there? What has worked for you to improve your financial literacy? Who taught you the life skill of money management? If you are in another country, how is financial literacy taught or prioritized differently than here in the United States? Maybe we can help each other in getting to our next Stage. Let’s have a discussion.

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Read Suzie Ormans books and get a great Financial Planner.


Always good to educate ourselves in whatever format we learn best i.e. reading, a class, video, etc. And I couldn’t agree more that a financial advocate can help us get on track, prepare for life, and stay on track. We often don’t know what we don’t know!


I am in Stage 5. I was never taught anything about finances but always had an instinct for it. I ended up being a CFO in 2 companies for the last 25 years of my work career without a college degree. I took 1 course in Accounting 101 in my 20’s. Don’t know where this ability came from but I’m sure glad I have it. I have taught my children since they were very young and continue with them now that they are grown. It’s one of the best t gifts you can give them.


Absolutely one of the best gifts to give your family, we always want to save them from mistakes if we can and education is a great first step.

Rosamund Sheppard

My parents always told me that whenever I had any money some of it could be spent but some must always be saved. They explained that you may have money in your hand today but may have nothing tomorrow so savings were essential.


Crazy isn’t it how those olde cliches (like don’t forget to save for a rainy day) are so true! Wonderful lesson they modeled for you!


My grandmother and grandfather always said “safe for a rainy day, money doesn’t grow on trees. I believed them. I was brought up to work an honest day for an honest dollar. I made good financial decisions and lived within my means & today @ 72, I am debt and mortgage free. I always thought of it as common sense however, I think I’m an exception to the rule. Thank God I was raised in the 50s.


Yes, too often it seems a lot of common sense is out the window these days. Society is all about instant gratification and that can get people in trouble in a hurry.

Sema Ely

Margaret, such an important topic for us !
How to find competent, honest financial advisors?
Unfortunately, so many are selling investment products that have significant financial benefit to the advisor ; serious conflict of interest.
The usual response is to find advisor who legally qualifies as a fiduciary.
The problem there is that their fees for service are very high.
I don’t know where to turn.
As to financial literacy we need to become informed consumers. The system needs to include teaching the basic concepts of financial investment.
Really , it’s never too late to learn.
It should be noted , we need to be wary
of teachers who are also selling investment products.
Consumer Beware!!!


It can be a challenge to find someone trustworthy and experienced. Understanding how they are paid is definitely important to be aware of potential conflicts of interest. There are more choices these days with independent advisors who have more flexibility in how they can help people. Sometimes just an annual review or initial series of meetings to answer questions, get on track and then DIY your financial life may be just what you need. Feel free to check out my complementary Financial Wellness Review as an example at Financial Wellness Review (

Financial Literacy in schools is slowly getting better but so much further to go! Lifelong learning pays off on this topic for sure!

The Author

Marie Burns, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®), advocates for women’s financial health. She is an author of a financial checklist book series, speaker, podcast host and partners with clients to offer friendly financial advice in her independent practice Visit her at or

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