Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School

Book reveals money tips they should be teaching in school

January 5, 2023

We tend to learn from our experiences, and as the old saying goes, wouldn’t it be great to be able to communicate back to our younger selves and lay out some warnings about curves in the financial road ahead?

That’s what Carey Siegel’s book, Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School, tries (successfully) to achieve. Ninety-nine very helpful financial tips are presented in a friendly, factual and frank fashion.

“If you can’t afford something when you’re dating, you most likely won’t be able to afford it when you’re married,” the book begins, urging us to marry — and stay married — to the “financially right” person. A later chapter suggests that a down payment for a house would be a better gift than a lavish wedding.

On first jobs, the book notes that “most young adults feel that if they do more than the minimum, the company is taking advantage of them. On the contrary, the more you put into your first positions, the more knowledge you will gain for jobs later in your career.”

Another interesting tip is to “save/invest 50 per cent of every salary increase.” The author notes that holding to this principle “will put you ahead of the game. If you do this every time you get a raise, you will find yourself ultimately saving a significant amount (upwards of 50 per cent) of your income and investing it in your future.”

If thinking of buying your first car, be sure to shop around to see what your new insurance, license and other costs will be. Factor in maintenance, gas, and parking if you haven’t owned a car before — otherwise you will be grimly surprised later. The same is true of your first home — get an idea of taxes, the mortgage rate, and tally up the cost of water, electricity, heat, snow removal, and maintenance.

An interesting savings tip is to drop “unhealthy” spending habits, the book advises. A pack-a-day smoker will save $2,000 a year by quitting, and this doesn’t include “the cost of lighters, breath mints, dry cleaning, etc.” You may also save on insurance. Similarly, the book advises, cut back if you are buying a case of beer each week or eating at fast-food outlets three times a week.

Another “classic” tip is to pay all your bills on time each month. “If you pay everything you owe on time every single month, you will prevent yourself from developing a money management problem,” the book continues. Ditto for amounts owed to the taxman — pay them on time if you can, author Siegel advises.

Debt, he writes, is a key consideration in money management. “Stop spending more than you have,” this section begins. Stop using credit cards, and try to pay solely with cash and debit cards. Keep one card for emergencies, and “throw away the rest of them,” the book suggests. Then, tally your debt and make a plan to pay it off. Siegel advises that you “pay off the highest interest rates and smallest debts first (so you have quick, easy wins).”

The chapters on investing suggest the novice should have a diversified portfolio with exposure to both stocks and bonds. Low-cost exchange traded funds that are invested in stock and bond indices are recommended in the book.

Don’t jump into investments because your friends are touting something or you want to play a hunch, the book warns. “Of the 20 or so `can’t miss’ stocks friends have told me about, only two performed reasonably well,” Siegel writes.

This is a nice, simple to understand and to-the-point set of useful tips. Well worth a look!

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Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.