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By Damon Cline
It’s the cruelest irony of our education system: We dedicate anywhere from 12 to 20 years teaching people how to earn a paycheck and almost zero time on how to spend it.
And the results are painfully obvious.
Just 39 percent of Americans can cover a $1,000 emergency expanse, says financial services firm Bankrate. Forty-four percent of respondents to a Debt.comsurvey reported being in over their heads on credit cards. The Federal Reserve Bank says 28 percent of non-retired adults have no retirement savings whatsoever.
Two-thirds of state K-12 systems have no personal finance curriculum, according to the Council for Economic Education’s 2018 Survey of the States report. Georgia and South Carolina are among the lucky third – students have to take a money management class before graduating – but both could probably use more robust programs.
The lamentation I’ve heard most often during the past 20 years of writing about business, economics and personal finance is: “I wish they would have taught me this in school.”
If it seems everyone is saying schools should teach personal finance, it’s because everyone is saying that – 99 percent of adults in a Harris Interactivepoll said money management should be taught at a high school level.
Seeing so many adults constantly struggle with money was one of the reasons I volunteered for years with the local office of Junior Achievement. I thought all the hours that Richmond and Aiken County teachers let me spend in their classrooms would be worth it if I could help just one kid (ideally a dozen or so) become financially literate adults.
What is the purpose of education if not to prepare young people for a future?
We’ve spent years turning schools into STEM factories because future jobs will require more science, technology, engineering and math skills. Yet we give personal finance short shrift even though money is something everyone will need to know how to manage.
Of course, there are compelling arguments on why personal finance doesn’t belong in the schools. One is that most teachers aren’t qualified; a University of Wisconsin study showed only one in five teachers said they were comfortable giving lessons in money management. That’s not surprising considering most teachers have no background in economics or business administration.
Another is the notion that financial literacy is solely a parental responsibility. You know, since personal finance has less to do with money and more to do with individual behavior.
Lastly, there is a 2014 study by Harvard Business School, Wellesley Collegeand the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago that says the curriculum does no good: “Mandates requiring high school students to take personal finance courses have no effect on savings or investment behavior.”
My quick retort:
1) Any moderately intelligent and halfway responsible adult can deliver a personal finance curriculum (this isn’t rocket science folks).
2) Whatever wisdom (or lack thereof) that parents have isn’t trickling down to the kids. Only 31 percent of parents say they are comfortable talking about money, according to T. Rowe Price’s 2017 Parents, Kids &Money Survey.
3) Is it fair to close the book on personal-finance education when two-thirds of schools haven’t even tried it?
Yes, many people will ignore the money lessons of their youth. But that doesn’t mean the lesson needs to be done away with.
I think most of us (maybe even 99 percent) can agree financial literacy is as important as, say, being able to write an effective essay, read at a 6th grade level or understand the Bill of Rights. Many of us would probably rank money management as more valuable skill than diagramming a sentence, expressing a polynomial or identifying Afghanistan on a map.
Honestly, what educational subject has any value if you always spend life one paycheck away from financial disaster?
Trust me, your master’s degree isn’t impressing anybody at the bankruptcy court.
AN APP FOR THAT: This past week the online chore chart BusyKid was released for iOS and Android. The platform, which was created by a father of six to promote a work ethic and responsibility in children, enables kids to get their allowance direct deposited on Fridays if they get all their work done.
The app lets the children create a budget, spend on a prepaid Visa card and even purchase shares of real stock – with parental approval, of course. Learn more at BusyKid.com.
CUPID’S CHECK: Restaurants see a big spike in business on Valentine’s Day, right?
Not as much as you think, it turns out.
Womply, a software firm for small and mid-sized merchants, studied transactions at independent restaurants nationwide during the past year. It found Valentine’s Day revenue at Georgia restaurants to be only 12 percent higher than the average day.
In fact, Feb. 14 was only the 107th best sales day in 2017. The typical Friday, Saturday and Sunday is just as busy (weekends account for 54 percent of all Georgia restaurant revenue).
Womply said the average non-chain Georgia restaurant takes in $54,000 a month in sales, ranking the state No. 12 among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The average ticket is $31.49, which to me sounds a little low.
I’m assuming they were omitting the bar tab.
MIXING IT UP: If you are out and about on Valentine’s Day, and happen to find yourself downtown at Craft &Vine, treat yourself to a Peach Mode or a Cupid Arrow, both made with Fruitland Augusta peach vodka.
IN DA CLUB: Club Car offered up a special “retro”-styled wagon for silent auction at last week’s annual Golf Industry Show in San Antonio as part of the manufacturer’s 60th anniversary. The “Special Edition Woody Carryall” comes with smoothie hubcaps over red rims, custom green pain and a natural wood side kit.
Nothing against Club Car’s nostalgic workhorse, but the big show-stopper has been the company’s new “Tempo Connect” line of fleet golf cars, which were unveiled at last month’s PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.
The first all-new model since 2004’s Precedent, the Tempo Connect features an automotive-inspired front cowl, a rust-proof aluminum chassis and an on-board touchscreen that displays an electronic scorecard, 3-D flyovers, hole overviews, a rangefinder and a GPS-messaging system.
The vehicle also is the first to pair Visage, a connectivity platform used by golf course operators, with the Greg Norman/Verizon “Shark Experience” system, a Club Car-exclusive entertainment system.
“We are pushing the limits of our offerings beyond the car by integrating new technology, content connectivity, and customization to help course operators improve their operations, add value and manage their business,” Club Car President Mark Wagner said.
GROUNDHOG DAY, OR MONTH?: Local home sales during January looked an awful lot like home sales in January 2017.
Though total sales were up more than 15 percent, from 410 to 474, pricing during the year-over-year period hardly moved, according to data released by the Greater Augusta Association of Realtors.
The local multiple listing service said the average sales price last month was $173,203, 2.1 percent below the average sales price of $175,951 recorded in January 2017.
The average home sold last month spent 158 days on the market, about two days less than homes sold during the same month the previous year.
APARTMENTS, ON THE OTHER HAND: Augusta rents rose 2.8 percent in January compared to January 2017, according to Apartment List.
The San Francisco-based rental listing service said the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Augusta is $630, and $760 for a two-bedroom.
The city’s year-over-year rent increase lags the state average of 3.4 percent but exceeds the national average of 2.6 percent.
THANKS FOR THE HOTEL. NOW BE QUIET: Be advised contractors: Richmond County’s noise ordinance limits construction activities to between 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The general contractor for the $25 million Hyatt House going up on the 1200 block of Broad Street, ACC Construction Co., was not-so-gently-reminded of that this past week when the county building officials cited it for violating the noise ordinance.
Some of the mixing trucks ACC’s concrete subcontractor ordered apparently showed up before 7.
Residents can rest assured knowing that not even a company with the gall to build an eight-story hotel that will create hundreds of jobs and pump millions of dollars in hotel/motel and sales taxes into local coffers can dodge a visit from the county marshal.
I hope the state-employed construction contractors just two blocks north at the Hull McKnight Georgia Cyber Center for Innovation and Training don’t get into trouble. Those folks at that fast-track site definitely keep odd hours.
ACC Construction Vice President Matt McKnight on Friday sent a formal request to County Planning and Zoning Director Melanie Wilson seeking a variance to allow concrete pours to start at 5 a.m. between Feb. 12-26.
Stay tuned …
DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH: Being a card-carrying member of the American Automobile Association can be pretty handy, which I found out this past week when my wife locked the keys in the car. A call to AAA and she was back on the road within an hour. To me, that alone is worth the cost of annual membership.
Another benefit is knowing the association sends professional inspectors to hotels and restaurants (how do I get that job?) throughout North America in search of the best – a rating reflected in the form of AAA’s “Diamond Ratings.”
Five Diamond hotels are very rare (there are only four in Georgia and one in South Carolina) and Four Diamond establishments are uncommon. But there’s one Four Diamond hotel in metro Augusta, according to AAA’s recently released list: the Rosemary Inn Bed and Breakfast in North Augusta.
Congrats to them, and congratulations in advance to any local eateries that “come up diamonds” when AAA’s restaurant list is released later this month.
WHO’LL CRY FOR MR. PAWN?: My stance on title pawn companies is that they legally provide a service people are free to use as they see fit. In other words, they deserve to exist.
Of course, that doesn’t keep me from smiling on the rare occasion when one of these seedy, bottom-feeding predators goes belly up. And that appears to be the fate of former Mr. Cash location at the corner of Highland Avenue and Gordon Highway.
The roughly 1-acre tract the pawn shop used to occupy has recently gone on the market at just under $500,000. Presley Realty, which has the listing, says the property is “most likely best suited for retail development, such as a quick-serve restaurant.”
The firm said nearly 26,000 vehicles each day pass by the 560-square-foot building, which to me looks like one of those old T-shaped Texaco stations from days of yore.
I agree with the agent that it would be a good place for a fast-food type business. Or perhaps even more leisurely fare, such as seafood. You could even call the place “The Prawn Shop.”
Seriously though, somebody should teach kids about these title pawn outfits – maybe even your friendly neighborhood schoolteacher.
CLASSY TILL THE END: This past week marked the final public appearance for Barry White, the longtime CEO of the Augusta Convention &Visitors Bureau. Later this month he heads to his motherland (a place called “Tennessee”) to head the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau.
He co-hosted the annual State of Tourism luncheon with the CVB’s sister agency, the Augusta Sports Council, on Wednesday to recognize all the hotel managers, event directors and meeting organizers who last year helped organize more than $64 million worth of tourism business in 2017.
On his final trip to the mic, White thanked the staffs of the two groups for helping market the area to visitors, and for providing them with things to do once they get here.
“I have no question at all in my mind that they will continue to do the work that they know they are charged with, and that they will do it professionally, correctly and will do it right,” he said.
But his last comment, addressing metro Augusta’s “potential,” made me a little misty eyed.
“Potential is a great thing. Unless you let it pass,” White said. “It is fleeting, and it has an end if you don’t grasp it. We’ve talked about that, and I think Augusta is on the verge of some fantastic, fantastic things.
“Everything that we see and feel right now is an opportunity that must be grabbed by the horns,” he said. “It’s up to the people. Augusta is made up of people. It’s the people that we work with – y’all are the ones who can make that happen.
“I know you’ve got it in your hearts and I know it’s possible,” White said. “I expect to see great things from Augusta in the future. Thank you very much, it’s been an honor.”
It’s been one for us, too.
Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3352 or firstname.lastname@example.org.