Harsimran Chohan: Teens, Financial Education and Being Prepared for the Real World
High School is arguably one of the most impactful periods of a person’s life. We are in a crucial and awkward transitional phase that can result in a lifetime of consequences. We are neither adults nor children. Expectations, tensions, and anticipation for new and next experiences run high. We engage in roller coasters of emotions as we advance our education, explore passions and the world around us.
The high school experience is meant to prepare us for the “real world”. I hear the words “real world” in the classroom an astonishing number of times! So, it’s crystal clear where we are heading – to the real world – to work! What’s cloudier is how prepared are we? This question came into focus for me unexpectedly on a recent trip with my parents to purchase my first used car!
Big milestone, right? Yes. But not the one I was relishing. It might have been had the car magically appeared in our driveway, with the tank full of gas, and the keys in the ignition ready for me to drive into the dream world teens often imagine.
Unfortunately, or probably fortunately, the “real world” came full force twisting and turning my dream into a “teachable” moment. (Looking back, that annoying “teachable” moment was truly a blessing in disguise). It unfolded right at the car dealership while my parents and I completed the negotiations and paperwork.
I watched and listened. My parents asked detailed questions. They discussed credit checks, financing, prepayment penalties, etc.
Listening to the conversation, I was completely lost. How did they know what questions to ask? It was as if the agent and my parents were conversing in a foreign language. Candidly, at a certain point, I plastered a smile on my face, nodded at random points, and thought about how I could never do anything like this alone.
It made me think about what other things concerning my financial future I did not know and was unprepared to solve. And, why is that? Buying a car is something lots of young people do. Many do it for the first time as teens, while in high school. It also occurred to me my parents aren’t going to be there for me every time I needed to make a financial decision.
My Disney moment was disrupted. It was unsettling. It struck a massive nerve for me. I have always been an independent, “go after it” person. I pride myself on it. I have other dreams and goals for my future. One is to graduate from law school. I am currently one month from completing my junior year and have begun the countdown to graduation. Now, instead of feeling the certainty and confidence of knowing I am ready to take the next step, I am experiencing the uneasiness of being tossed into the world having no clue how to file taxes, arrange living situations, or responsibly opening a credit card. Instead of feeling the normal pressures of applying to college and taking my final exams, I am more concerned about my financial future.
I am 17 and I am scared.
It also occurs to me, if I feel this way, other teens must as well.
I concluded I had to find a way to learn this “money stuff” fast!
High school prepares students for life in a variety of ways. But by and large, financial education, including how to make consequential decisions like car and college purchases, is not one of them.
It is a mind boggling system failure.
Here is the good news. The twenty-first century has seen financial literacy resource availability and accessibility accelerate amazingly. The internet has changed everything for everyone. If one truly wants to learn about calculus, coding, cooking, cars, college, financial education and you name it, the opportunity is as close as one’s fingertips. For a shrinking percentage of others, it may be at a library or a friend’s fingertips. I am optimistic, my generation will further shrink or zero out the challenges of availability and access.
But, that still leaves us with some huge hurdles to overcome. Can we get teens, teachers, and parents to type an internet search on “financial education?” How do we captivate the teenage audience for more than a second or two? With the rise of platforms like TikTok, our brains are being wired to spend hours scrolling through our ‘For You’ pages looking at these ten second videos, which in most cases we scroll past once they lose our attention. If we can’t make it through a ten second video, how can teens learn the complexities of personal finance? Whether in a classroom, online or in a life experience, education is a process. It requires time, repetition and sometimes determination.
These are some of some of the challenges. Some are new and other are not. Stick with me! I plan to keep asking questions, provide potential solutions and spread awareness on the complexity and absolute necessity to get a financial education.
I invite you to join me and do the same. Let’s learn and grow together. I look forward to embarking on this journey with you. It will be a blast sharing stories like why I am considering attending college abroad; the daily challenges, the cultural contrasts and conflicts a young Indian woman has to navigate growing up in the Silicon Valley; as well as highlighting your experiences!
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Read more thinking from young leaders.
Gen Z Will Pioneer the Future of Money! Andy Niser, Teen Leader, Incoming Freshman, Vanderbilt University
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The Money Hub Story! Mohammed Faisal, Financial Education Entrepreneur