OPINION: Surviving in the Financial Jungle

Evan Oukrop

A student’s high school years are intended to prepare us for life after school.  At age 18, high school seniors are technically “adults,” yet most of us are not fully equipped to easily survive in the “adult” world.  Some students continue to college.  Others pursue jobs and some join the military.  All of us have one thing in common.  We are lacking basic financial survival skills.  This is not Bear Grylls eating bugs in the wilderness survival, but it might as well be.  If we are not equipped to manage our finances, budgets, credit, savings, taxes, bills, etc., then we will sink instead of swim.  

My first in-depth look at the financial world that will face me when I am eventually out on my own was when I recently completed the online Personal Finance course that is required through school.  It was a real eye opener.  There was a ton of information crammed into just a few hours of reading, short videos, and quizzes.  The class contains important information that we will all need and use for the rest of our lives, yet I feel as though we are receiving the Reader’s Digest version of the material.   

In my opinion, this information is too important to just gloss over in a high-level online course.  We may not all become Warren Buffet financial tycoons in the future, but knowing how to manage our finances could mean the difference between financially struggling or not in life.  The financial information covered in the online class should be covered in depth and in a classroom by a teacher for an entire semester.  The world is complex and so is understanding retirement 401K’s, mutual funds, stocks, Social Security, pensions, checking accounts, credit cards, loans, taxes, etc.  

Our school’s list of classes and electives is lengthy.  The classes cover multiple disciplines of the arts, sciences, history, math, English, languages, physical education, and even some vocational training classes.  Some classes prepare us for college, some for a career, and some are required for basic knowledge.  If we did away with some of the currently offered classes, would we still survive in life?  Most definitely yes.  If we don’t learn personal finance skills, will we do well in life?  The answer is easy – no.   If adding a class is not possible, then I recommend providing each student with a booklet covering the material.   That way we can have it for future reference.