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I attended Homecoming at my alma mater, the University of Cincinnati, this weekend. In the first twenty years after graduating, my only association with the school was through the support of their basketball and football programs. Last year, I reconnected with one of my professors and have become more actively involved by being a guest speaker in the classroom and joining the Foundation’s Planned Giving Committee and the Economic Center’s Financial Education Initiative Committee. Through each relationship, I am gaining insight into how children continue to be woefully unprepared for their financial future.

Many of the students to whom I spoke in a Careers class were not interested in a career in finance. However, I was able to get their attention when I demonstrated what the power of compound interest and time could do to a small investment (ten songs a week on Itunes) and the impact even a small credit card balance can have for many years. I was amazed this was new information to a class ranging from sophomores to seniors!

Through the committee at the Economic Center, we are reaching out to area schools and offering them a financial curriculum and access to professionals in the community to assist their efforts. This will be an uphill battle with the continual budget cuts the schools face. After all, finance is an elective, right? When are kids ever going to need to know how to balance a checkbook?

I don’t have children of my own and have been removed from our educational system for too long. This past year has served as an Aha! moment for me. My reconnection to UC has helped to explain why I see so many clients whose retirement becomes endangered because they feel obligated to bail their children out of a financial hole. If basic budgeting, saving and investing were a core part of our children’s education, this might not be the case.

While school may not be the place for your children or grandchildren to learn about finance, you can lead by example and look for ways to instill good financial habits. There are opportunities on a daily basis to teach children financial skills – by explaining the difference between a need and a want, showing them that saving a little can add up to a lot, and giving them the opportunity to learn the financial and emotional benefit to helping those in need. If you take the time to ensure your children are on a path to financial success, you just may be ensuring that you stay on one as well.

Christine L. Carleton, CFP®