Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ears to Hear

I teach economics to high school seniors.  For many students, I am the first (and sadly the last) person to teach them about personal finances.  Surprisingly, California does not require that I cover personal finances!  (History-Social Science, California Standards)

Nowhere does the state require that we teach how to balance a checkbook, create a budget, manage credit, and make smart consumer choices.  Luckily I can cover the state standards and still have time to cram in a lot of personal finance instruction. 

So you would think that these young adults would eat up the advice I have to offer about finances.  Wrong.  When I talk to young adults I find them typically resistant to sound financial advice.  There are always motivated kids out there who eat up wise advice, but their number is shrinking.  As a teacher who constantly probes for ways to get through.  I have a few theories as to why my teaching is rejected and here are my educated guesses:

  1. I have useful advice but it can be couched in outdated terms that may make me look uninformed.  This one is my fault and I have to always be on the alert for changes in technology and trends.   My lifestyle does not put me socially in the places that interest many of my students.  I just talk differently than them and they may not get my examples.  This one is partially on me and partially on them.

  1. I am discounted just because I am a teacher.  I represent the system that has “oppressed” them for most of their lives.  This failure to learn will consign them to poverty. (Prov. 12:1)

  1. They don’t care about statistics, because they believe they will be well off.  This leads them to believe that there is no reason to listen to advice.  They believe they have a plan that will work (regardless of whether any real thought went into the plan.(Prov. 19:20)

  1. I get discounted because I am old.  I’m only 40, but to a young adult, I may as well be 60.   To some young adults there is a strong perception that older adults hold ideas that are out of date and will not hold true in the future, so my advice cannot be trusted. (Lev 19:32) (Job 12:12) 

  1. I teach concepts that are totally opposite of what they are told in the media.  These young adults are pelted with messages to conspicuously display wealth (Prov. 12:9).  I teach them to spend less than they earn, and it is seen as too embarrassing.   Similarly, the world has told them they can do whatever they want; they just have to work for it.  I tell them their career must line up with both their interests and abilities or it will end in poverty.  This always gets me sour faces. (2 Tim 4:3)

  1. I teach financial concepts that are contrary to the example of their parents. It is hard to overcome a lifetime of teaching in a semester. (Pr 22:6)

  1. I talk about growing money slowly to attain a middle-class lifestyle.  They want to be rich, famous, and glamorous.   These desires lead to a lot of pain down the road.  (Prov 13:11) (Eph 4:28)

  1. The lack of life experience does not allow a young adult to access experience as a guide (Prov 22:15).  This is why I believe it is not appropriate to release all major decisions to a young adult regardless of what the law says.  I believe there is generally a short window of opportunity to get educated to ensure financial stability.  Unfortunately, this window is open at the very time when a person is less capable of thinking long-term.  If a young adult forgoes education during this period, it is very hard to go back later to get it done.  I did my master’s degree while working full time as a teacher, dad, and husband.  I was obviously busy, but I knew how to manage my time effectively, and I worked really hard during that phase of life.  This is another skill that is lacking among young adults. (Eph. 5:16)

  1. Many (not all) young adults are coddled to the point of utter laziness and helplessness, so they don’t want to listen about becoming independent.   I had a student write to me that I should stop nagging them about getting educated because “My mom said I can live with her as long as I want.”  I tried to explain that she will want to some day be independent, or mom may become unable to support her. (Prov. 19:18)

  1. Many (not all) young adults are frozen with fear over the future, so they don’t want any reminder that it is drawing closer.  This fear of failure brings about the very failure they fear the most. (Prov. 10:24)

  1. What I’m talking about smacks of religion, so they shut their ears off.  This is actually true because all of my money advice is derived from the scriptures.  Being a public school teacher I don’t pelt them with verses, but God’s way works very well financially (Prov. 14:12).

  1. Much of my advice requires self control, which is impossible for a person controlled by sin (Gal 5:17).  While a person can fake it to some extent, true self control only comes as a fruit if the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).  This fruit comes only as we yield ourselves to the Spirit (Gal 5:16).  God’s way requires a relinquishing of our wishes, desires, and future to the One who saved us.  This laying down of lordship is very hard for people to do. (Mark 10:21-22)

Many of the teachings of Christ were designed to bring us to the realization that in ourselves we have no power to live by the Law.  It is only when we agree with God about our helpless condition that He can truly save us from our evil desires.

Hear the Words of Jesus

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30