Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Younger Relatives and Exposure to Personal Finance

I've mentioned that my parents didn't give of my siblings and I much of a financial education.  In addition the only "finance" course was about two weeks long as part of a high school math class.  I'm an engineer. I LOVE math.  I HATED the finance section of math and didn't understand a thing.  Somehow the idea of compound interest and exponential growth revolved so much around math that the main message of personal finance got lost completely in confusing equations.

Luckily I ran into some personal finance blogs and through reading tons of posts regarding personal finance I'm heading in the right direction.  However, there are a few things that my new understanding of personal finance advice has started me thinking about.

My niece is about to start her last year of high school (I'm by far the youngest of my siblings) and starting to look towards college.  Now, I know that my sibling doesn't have his finances in order and that he most likely hasn't put aside much (if any) money to help my niece.  She is seems to be in control of the situation and has been researching scholarship and funding opportunities but I'd like to try and help her a little bit.

While I was trying to think of how I could help my niece, a conversation with my friend inspired me.  He had read "Your Money or Your Life" and "The Millionaire Next Door" and written book reports for an adult in his life.  That adult turned around and gave him $1000 to go towards educational expenses.  I LOVE that idea, but I'm not sure if it's overstepping.  I think one of the most difficult parts of my financial journey was the shear lack of exposure to personal finance (I learned about credit scores when I had to pay a deposit when I got my first cell phone in college.  Before walking into that cell phone store I had no idea what credit was.)  I was incredible naive because no one had bothered to tell me anything about personal finance and I didn't know I should be motivated to figure it out myself.

Asking her to read a couple of personal finance books for some money for school could be a way of addressing these two things.  I'd be helping her a bit further her education (and as a graduate student I think that education is incredibly beneficial!) and she's at LEAST being exposed to the ideas.  I will never tell her what she needs to do financially (or anyone else for that matter) but I would be willing to discuss ideas with her.  At the very least she has been exposed to the ideas and can choose her path as opposed to blindly going through life.

What do you think?  Am I meddling too much?  How did you receive your first bit of financial education?  Where do you draw the line when it comes to helping friends and family?

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