Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Hood vs. Harvard Debate

Remember the first time you heard the pastor say that “Sin is sin,” meaning if you told just a little white lie or savagely murdered someone you were pretty much in the same boat with God. Wasn’t that a hard pill to swallow? Apparently, it’s a hard pill for many even when this concept is extended to talk about money matters.  There’s no separation of what bad decision you get to make because you did or did not go to college. If your issue is renting spinning rims or leasing a car you really can’t afford, the principle remains the same in my holy book of personal finance: poor money management is poor money management. Period. 

It makes no difference whether you were educated in “the hood” or at Harvard, if you don’t have personal finance education you will continue to make poor decisions and therefore limit your potential to compete successfully.  But, it never fails that when I write a blog post about poor spending behavior, I receive an overwhelming amount of comments from people who want to justify their opinions with “I’m a college graduate . . .” as if that means that A. their thoughts are superior to others or B. they don’t share in the same mismanagement.
Let’s be clear: Having a college degree does not somehow make a person intellectually superior in the area of personal finance. Trust me. I know firsthand. I'm a college graduate who left one of the best institutions on the West Coast with an embarrassing amount of debt that did not include student loans. I had grants, scholarships, parental support and a full time job all four years. I was a Dean's List student that unfortunately was just ignorant about money. I wanted the t-shirt and frisbee being offered for signing up for credit cards and eventually received way more than I bargained for, i.e. high interest rates, annual fees and 18 months of putting every extra penny I earned towards debt.    

Today, more than two thirds of the women I counsel are actually college educated.  I have coached women with degrees in finance who run corporations for other people, but can’t balance a checkbook if you paid them extra to do it. I wasn’t alone in my ignorance.  Last I checked, to our own detriment personal finance has yet to be made a federally mandated course on high school and college campuses throughout this country.  Many college graduates make financial mistakes just as much as non-grads do, but somehow it becomes masked in some sort of warped superiority complex.  In child’s play, it’s a conversation that sounds something like, “Betcha my debt is better than your debt . . .  because I went to college!”
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The reality is that most people who are financially savvy fall into two categories.  Either they were taught to make wise money choices growing up or they, for one reason or another, sought out personal finance education on their own. Neither of those groups are necessarily determined by this idea of “Hood vs. Harvard.”  Sure, one might argue, that going to college makes you more aware of the need for wiser choices, but it can’t make anyone actually choose wisely.  It takes a personal decision and personal responsibility, hence, the term personal finance.

It’s not about just knowing better, but doing better.  What good is your college degree in a debate about personal finance if you haven’t learned and applied the principles? While it’s flattering to receive any comments of praise for my thoughts, if they are encompassed in the fact that my “keep it real” spin on financial literacy education is just for “those people,” i.e. the “uneducated, low-to-moderate income people from the hood” then keep the praise.  I’m not writing to impress fellow college graduates in putting “those people” down. I’m writing to assist and encourage any and everyone who could use a little help in changing their mindset towards personal finance education and wealth creation.

So, what’s your take on this "Hood vs. Harvard" debate?  Do people with degrees automatically make wiser money decisions? Let me hear your thoughts.

Until Next Time,

Seek Wisdom, Find Wealth & Be Blessed!



I think you are correct in everything you are saying. People don't understand the importance of financial education. I believe that financial education is just as important in achieving your dreams as getting a college education in the first place. If you can't control your personal finances, you are going to have a hard time in life. Financial education should be a required course in high school and college before you can get a high school diploma and/or college degree of any kind. My advice to everyone in America. Learn to control your finances or suffer the consequences.

Daphne said...

This is what I'm struggling with also. I thought having a college degree would shield me from my current financial problems. But I'm learning the hard way that it doesn't matter how much money you make, it's about doing what's right once that direct deposit hits the bank. I pray that, with God's help, I can free myself from this debt, so that I can enjoy this short life God has blessed me with.

Dennis Howell said...

Great Post Again Patrice,

It also should be noted that the x
college educated folks are worse because they could have at least taken a basic accounting course in college to get a deeper understanding about how money works.

Also, a whole lot of "educated" folks still don't use their disposable income to create new wealth for their futures and their children's future.

We should all make a pledge to get smart about our money in 2011.

Much Love and Continued Success,


Joede said...

Dennis, a basic accounting course teaches how businesses obtain/record/spend money. Those courses don't teach personal finance. Fidelity and Mint are great (free) ways for people to learn and to actually use what they have learned to make smart choices.