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Today is the first day of National Teacher Appreciation Week! If you know any teachers, please make sure to say thanks. I always work to show appreciation year round, but will be taking part in several specific activities to appreciate the teachers I work with this week. More appreciation never hurts!
Teachers make a big difference to all of us. Teachers come in a variety of roles, both formal and informal, and use a variety of approaches. As part of the kick off for Teacher Appreciation Week, I asked personal finance bloggers to recognize an important financial teacher in their lives.
15 responded and I’m thrilled to recognize these important financial teachers! They include family members, authors, school teachers, and online content producers. The focus is on the teachers – but I did ask each to share an important lesson learned as well. I hope you enjoy!
A quick note here: Teachers know that every learner is different. The greatest teachers can flex their approach to individual students. Some very good teachers recognize their approach may work for most, but never all. Poor teachers believe that they know exactly what works and can force any student to learn.
You see this in personal finance. For some – tough love is the answer. For others, an approach without empathy and understanding will be a total failure. Some people respond well to pure math answers. Others need to focus on behavior change over optimization.
Some of my most exasperating moments as a principal came when a parent would demand their child be moved from one teacher’s class to another. The conversation would often go like this:
“My child needs to be out of Teacher XYZ’s room immediately. She’s incompetent. Everyone knows that Teacher ABC is better!”
At the same time, I’d have another parent arguing with me:
“Teacher ABC can’t teach at all! I hear Teacher XYZ is the best!”
Don’t assume your teaching (or learning) preference works for everyone.
So, I also asked each person to describe why their teacher worked for them. You’ll see in the comments below what made someone a great teacher was very different across the full range.
Our Financial Teachers
Teacher: Mrs. Juske
What Worked: Mrs. Juske was my high school personal finance and business teacher. She was able to balance both being an expert in the field but also making lessons enjoyable and relatable, which is key for keeping kids interested in finance. We learned everything in that class from how to write a check to what compound interest is, and to this day I still remember many of the lessons!
An Important Financial Lesson: The most significant lesson I learned in that is just how important personal finance is overall. Mrs. Juske instilled the importance of having a handle on your finances, and while many individual topics were extremely valuable, this overarching lesson is what stuck with me.
Teacher: Lonnie Scruggs
What Worked: He taught me his system of investing in mobile homes to create passive income streams. Being that we were both burnt out landlords coming from single-family homes, we had a lot in common. His advice was practical and down-to-earth when it came to teaching me about investing in mobile homes.
An Important Financial Lesson: The value of passive income and time. By creating streams of passive income through mobile home investing, I’d have the time to do the things I want to do not have to do.
Teacher: My grandfather
What Worked: I can’t say I ever specifically had a financial conversation with my grandfather. He passed away before I was out of college and really learning how to get my personal finances in order. But ever since I was young, I paid attention to how he handled finances and investing.
My grandfather was a military man, very diligent and organized in everything he did. Every day, he would review the prices of his stocks and mutual funds, and write them down on his engineering paper (the kind with both vertical and horizontal lines). Without every speaking directly about it, you could tell he was intentional in his investments, and had a plan for where his money was going and what it was for.
I saw this especially after he died. He had carefully constructed a portfolio to make sure my grandmother had enough money to live comfortably (and knowing she was a spender, set up some firewalls to make sure the money dripped out over time and not all in one lump sum).
I think often the best teachers didn’t even know they were having an impact. In the case of my grandfather, it was his example that was the biggest contributor to my outlook on my personal finances, and not any brilliant lesson or conversation. I try to keep this in mind when I think about how I will teach my own kids about money, and that I don’t have to be the world’s greatest teacher. It’s enough to set a good example.”
An Important Financial Lesson: I think the most significant financial lesson I learned from my grandfather was to make a plan and stick to it. He never worried too much about the ups and downs of the market, and he made sure as he got older to diversify to secure various streams of income in retirement. My grandparents were not what I would consider wealthy, but because of his careful planning, and intentional saving over a lifetime, he was able to have the financial security that many only dream of in retirement.
Teachers: Mark and Nan Adams
What Worked: My parents taught through action and always followed what they preached. Looking to them for guidance, I always knew where I stood. Their practical reasoning resonated with me and will always guide my thinking. Further, their humility always struck me as encouraging and something worth emulating.
An Important Financial Lesson: My parents taught me the value of living within my means. If a major purchase forced us to jeopardize our safety margin, we often forwent the purchase. I had no idea how much this would shape my way of thinking as an adult, but cannot be more grateful for it. Seeing many people buy cars, homes, clothing, and take major trips they can’t realistically afford has pained me since becoming gainfully employed. I never wish to overextend myself financially and this caution has provided me much more satisfaction in life than some designer watch or luxury cruise in the Mediterranean. I’d rather travel hack my way there and see things on a more modest budget.
Teacher: My mother
What Worked: She taught through example, repeatedly. She didn’t always explain the reasoning, but she was consistent in her teachings and actions, and it definitely sunk in over the years.
An Important Financial Lesson: She didn’t just teach us the value of hard work and frugality. She taught us the value of spending thoughtfully and honestly. If she was undercharged, she went out of her way to go back and give the full amount. If she was spending money, she was spending it with groups that she supported. And if we wanted something that came from a group she didn’t support, she explained to us why she didn’t want to give her money to that group. Now, my siblings and I all actively choose to whom we’re spending our supporting dollars, and if we’re undercharged, we march right on back to rectify the situation.
Teacher: My grandfather, Richard Grossman
What Worked: I think what made my grandfather a great money teacher was his consistency. Unlike many other teachers, he practiced exactly what he preached. So, even though we weren’t entirely excited about learning his frugal ways, after years and years of seeing him live the frugal life, we eventually came to respect him for it.
An Important Financial Lesson: Stay home, and you’ll spend less money. This is not as true today as it once was – since we have online stores and the internet – but the idea is the same. The more spending opportunities you expose yourself to, the more you’ll spend.
Max of Tried and True Mom Jobs
Teacher: Gary Miles (My Father)
What Worked: What makes my dad a good teacher is the fact that he is a living example of what he taught me. It wasn’t necessarily what he told me, but it’s what he showed me. He wasn’t one of those “do as I say, not as I do” kind of people and that is why I was willing to learn from him. My dad always had money, he would even hide money in places like the car or books at home, so we could always use it if we were ever in a bind. He taught me how to invest my money and save. It is because of him that I am where I am today, financially free!
An Important Financial Lesson: One significant financial lesson that I learned from my father was to invest early. This is single handedly the best advice I have taken from my father and it’s paying dividends!
Teacher: My maternal grandfather
What Worked: With single income he took care of a joint family of 10. He made sure they all had food in their plates and they were happy most of the times. He couldn’t save anything but taught me how to make every penny go an extra mile
An Important Financial Lesson: No matter how little you earn you can still make your family happy and provide well for them. You need to work hard to get good raises and make most of your earning.
Teacher: Jesse Mecham
What Worked: Jesse’s short and sweet podcasts offer the perfect bite-sized tips that motivate me to take action. Even the more thought-provoking versus action-taking topics usually make me want to experiment with something. His relatability and openness also make it easy to trust that his teaching is genuine and not just an attempt to sell his product (YNAB).
An Important Financial Lesson: The most significant lesson I’ve learned is to only budget the money you have. Ask yourself “What has this money got to do before I get paid again?” That simple step helped us break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle and pay off over $20,000 of debt in less than a year.
Teacher: Mr. L
What Worked: His passion for math was contagious. Even better, he went outside the “traditional” curriculum to teach about important concepts. (Like compound interest!)
An Important Financial Lesson: He introduced the concept of compound interest by posing the “magical doubling” penny question to the class. Then, he spent the next hour explaining how anyone could use basic investments, compound interest, and time to become a millionaire. I was hooked, and to this day, I credit saving $100,000 by age 25 and chasing financial freedom in my 30s to the seed that he planted so many years ago.
Teacher: Mel Lindauer
What Worked: Mel is one of the writers of the Bogleheads Guide to Investing, one of the first investing books I read when starting out. Reading that book was like learning investing from your Grandpa as you knew they had your best interests in mind and weren’t just trying to sell you some product. Mel had great reasonable and long term advice that not only got me interested in investing but also taught me some life long money lessons. There’s no hidden agendas here but just a guy who wants others to have some financial knowledge and that shows in the way he teaches.
An Important Financial Lesson: Investing well isn’t that hard. All it takes is a long term approach using cheap index funds or ETFs and you’ll do better than 90% of people who waste a lot of leg work trying to beat the market. It’s really one of the most important lessons that most people learn eventually (often after losing some money with their own investing strategies) and it was so great to learn it early on!
Teacher: Joe Udo of Retire By 40
What Worked: He is very relatable, we have the same career development. He has always been very humble on his blog and yet achieved incredible success. I am very impressed by his blog and his personal achievements. He managed to keep a very helpful blog that is not drowning in affiliate ads. I always learn something from each of his posts.
An Important Financial Lesson: He was the first one that taught me that retire early is a thing! I discovered Financial Independence thanks to him!
Teachers: Brad and Jonathan at ChooseFI
What Worked: They’ve covered just about everything you can think of when it comes to money and achieving financial independence. Each episode they record is filled with actionable advice and I’ve learned so many things about finance from them.
An Important Financial Lesson: I’ve learned that Roth IRAs and 401ks aren’t always the best option for investing. You can get significant tax advantages from investing in traditional IRAs and 401Ks depending on your income level.
Teacher: My Math Teacher
What Worked: My teacher always used personal finance in our math examples. She mentioned that she had a strong interest in personal finance. By doing math we were also learning personal finance.
An Important Financial Lesson: I learned the importance of saving your money early and to have urgency because the numbers don’t lie for your future projections. If you make good decisions now, the benefits down the road are exponentially better.
Teacher: Robert Kiyosaki
What Worked: Robert writes to explain the source of financial problems, but more importantly, define the solution. He teaches you how to become rich in a simple yet comprehensive ways. He simply simplified financial education.
An Important Financial Lesson: He helped me to take away all the fear I had with respect to money and investing.
EFI of EducatorFI (That’s me – you’re already here!)
Teacher: Big Ern (Karsten) of Early Retirement Now
What Worked: Karten’s credibility from his education (PhD in Economics) and work experience combined with his data-based approach immediately appealed to me. I appreciated how he would raise a potential question or area for exploration, and then work through the answer in a clear, data-driven way. This was reinforced when I heard him on podcasts (Choose FI first) and admired his calm, logical approach and ability to articulate complex concepts. It was no surprise to learn that he taught college economics!
An Important Financial Lesson: Reading through the Ultimate Guide To Safe Withdrawal Rate helped me understand options and considerations in withdrawal rates. I couldn’t feel comfortable with just accepting the “4% rule” and needed the deeper understanding to feel confident about building future FI plans. For me that series is as impactful as JL Collins’ Stock Series.
Thank you to all the financial teachers!
That is a great collection of financial teachers and lessons! Did you notice all the different roles and approaches that worked for people? Credibility, modeling, and authenticity are common themes.
If you’ve got a teacher you want to mention – share in the comments below.
My upcoming Thursday post is dedicated to important financial lessons I learned while being raised by a single mother. My mom was an amazing teacher.
Don’t forget to acknowledge any teachers in your life this week!