“Honey, let's crunch the numbers,” is a less-than-popular conversation starter in many households. Balancing the chequebook "at the kitchen table" used to be a common trope describing how families manage their household budgets, but today, it’s less than common. Studies show that one half to two thirds of people in the United States and Canada self-declare having a budget, and yet other studies show that the primary factor determining wealth in retirement is as simple as saving consistently over a long period of time. So, if regular maintenance of a budget continues to be a vital part of wealth management and prediction, why is financial literacy so under-discussed?
Budgeting, at its core, isn’t chock-full of groundbreaking arithmetic concepts. It’s addition and subtraction: income minus expenses equals either a surplus or a deficit. That's it! That’s the heart of it. So, is the math really over our heads?
Why Don’t We Budge on Budgeting?
Our modern lives are much more complicated than the aforementioned equation might imply. People often have multiple income sources, or double income households, and many people don't have a good metric for tracking expenses. Where did I put that cash? How come my bank account is lower than I budgeted for? Which card was that on? I have so many transactions. How can I possibly categorize them? This is where things get a little more complicated, but these questions are not unsolvable without a little bit of confidence and organization, and the math itself, if isolated, would typically be easy-breezy to an average person.
Perhaps we don’t see universal acceptance of budgeting because our busy modern lives have left us with little time for financial reflection. Couple that with the availability of credit that lets us tap into tomorrow’s savings today, and we might have created the perfect environment where we grow up without seeing the impact of personal financial management on daily life, and we may have little desire to discover it for ourselves when we grow up. Our children, likely, will follow suit. It’s possible, then, that lack of budgeting is partially because budgeting seems unfamiliar, foreign, even enigmatic. Having never been taught how to budget, we feel intimidated, which creates a lack of confidence, which short-changes our motivation to begin.
The Intimidation Factor
We see children confronted with unfamiliar, intimidating math every day at Mentorhood. And our philosophy is to take that intimidation factor directly out of the mathematics. Math is not mystical, and it’s not reserved for the most acute minds who can perform mental gymnastics on a dime. Rather, math is an observable reality that we can relate to in our everyday lives, and as such, can be taught from a relatable perspective. And that’s why we believe that math can be mastered at an intuitive level―that when broken down, even the most difficult concepts can be swallowed by the most math adverse individuals.
Budgeting is about rolling up your sleeves and believing that if you sit down, open up the computer, check the credit card statements, and plug some numbers into your spreadsheet or app, you’ll be able to get to the bottom of your financial situation and do something to influence it. If we can empower our children neutralize the intimidation that often surrounds things like math, we could see more willingness to approach mathematical activities, such as budgeting, in daily life. This effect can proliferate itself into a whole host of economic decisions they make as they grow up: how they choose their careers, how they save and plan for the future, how they pay for education and expenses along the way, how they manage credit, and how they build into their lives the freedom to pursue the things that satisfy them.
The Simple Secret
Math can be intimidating. But turn that on its head, and a confidence to apply mathematics in daily life can be incredibly empowering. Budgeting is not a tool for being miserably miserly. Budgeting celebrates the resources you have, and puts you in the driver’s seat to decide how you are going to allocate those resources. Budgeting creates a policy of full disclosure between you and yourself, allowing you to fully see how well your financial bloodstream is supplying resources to all the vital parts of your life. Budgeting is about peeling back the curtain―which can be incredibly scary! And that’s why we believe that the first step towards good financial management for the kids that we teach is to take some of that “scary” out of the math.
By providing classroom environments where children are encouraged to explore mathematics from a concrete and visual perspective, where they can build their intuitive understanding and be celebrated as they make strides, we’re paving the way for tomorrow’s adults to approach their lives―and their pocketbooks―with courage, confidence, and good cents.
Backman, M. (2016, October 24). Nearly 3 in 5 Americans are making this huge financial mistake. CNN Money. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://money.cnn.com/2016/10/24/pf/financial-mistake-budget/index.html.
Debt.com. (2019, April 4). Fewer Americans are budgeting in 2019 -- although they think everyone else should. Cision PR Newswire. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/fewer-americans-are-budgeting-in-2019----although-they-think-everyone-else-should-300824384.html.
Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. (2020, May 29). Canadians and their Money: Key Findings from the 2019 Canadian Financial Capability Survey. Canada.ca. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/programs/research/canadian-financial-capability-survey-2019.html.
Ramsey Solutions. (2021, September 27). The National Study of Millionaires. Ramsey Solutions. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://www.ramseysolutions.com/retirement/the-national-study-of-millionaires-research.