Michigan is on the verge of becoming the 14th state to mandate a high school personal finance course, congratulations. I only wish we had taken a finance class when I was in high school. On my own, well, I’ve put every dollar I made as a lifeguard into my ’55 Chevy, even to the point that I drove to Mexico to have the seats folded and folded in Naugahyde. It cost a fortune, but oh, did it look boss!
However, as we drove home through the hot Southern California desert, a small problem arose. I started smelling something that made my eyes water. As my olfactory nodules swelled to the size of peaches, I discovered that they had stuffed my beautiful new upholstery with horse manure, something you might never notice except on a very hot day.
I sold this car on the coldest day of the year to a classmate of mine who also needed a personal finance course. The only thing I took away from Mrs. Mann’s home economics class was, “Never spend more than a quarter of your income on housing.” That little moral has served me well over the years, but the days when where you spent only a quarter of your income on rent are gone, while rents are $2,500 a month here in Tahoe and double that in New York City if you can find an apartment.
A while back I took a bunch of girls who were hitchhiking to the state line for a night out. In the course of the conversation, one asked the other: “Did you bring any money with you?”
“No, did you?”
These girls could have used a course in finance and maybe a course in sociology. My humble suggestion is this, leave Shakespeare for Twain and leave algebra for personal finance. I’ve never used algebra except to figure out how fast I had to run to finish a marathon in under three hours. And I’ve never used Shakespeare, except to occasionally confess to myself, as Caliban once did, “What a triple ass I was.”
The advice I got from my father, who was very good with money, was simple: “No, we can’t buy Buick taillights for your Chevy, son; Money doesn’t grow on trees.”
Kids graduating from high school today need to educate themselves on cryptocurrencies, compound interest, and payday loans, not to mention what’s hot at the game of the week.
Life was good when I was a lifeguard in Tahoe. I had my ’55 Chevy and a friend who worked at Harrah’s who shared her generous takeout meals. This summer will never come again, not for me, unfortunately for no one. Life is so much more complicated today. So let’s incorporate personal finance as a corps into our high school curricula in our great country and enable our graduates to have more imaginative, successful, and stress-free futures.
— For more than 30 years, columnist and Chautauquan McAvoy Layne has dedicated more than 4,000 performances to preserving the wit and wisdom of The Wild Humorist of the Pacific Slope, Mark Twain. As Layne puts it, “It’s like being a Monday-Friday preacher whose preaching, while not reverentially devout, is fervently American.”
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