Do you remember when we were kids and we played musical chairs? A very simple game ... you go around in circles while the music is playing. Then, when the music stopped, you scrambled for a chair. The one left standing lost.

Though a simple game for children, most Americans play it with their money 24/7 their entire lives. Instead of building a plan, creating a financial blueprint for one’s present and future, they, like children playing musical chairs, go round and round — dealing with the present — never realizing the music will eventually cease ... kid’s college, retirement, paying off the mortgage, having to buy a car at an unexpected time. The needs and the list go on and on, around and around, with little planning in mind. Then reality sinks in to that individual’s dismay. Tragic, but true!

Last year America was given a new fact: student loans surpassed credit card and automobile debt combined. This debt was closing in on a new, cool, $1 trillion of suffocating, can’t-get-out of it responsibility by our graduating students, who are educated and moving into a workplace offering low pay and part-time employment.

Now that our April tax deadline is behind us, it’s a good time to allow the music to stop. Then all of us individually may pause, reflect, pray, then realize exactly where we’re at in our finances. By doing so, it should sink in that planning for our future by creating a financial blueprint that incorporates the essentials: budgeting, protection, retirement, investing, taxes and estate planning, will provide us not only peace of mind, but clarity in our choices of exactly how we deal with our money.

Let’s examine for a moment why it’s so important. America has done an amazing job, under the radar, of creating generation after generation of financial illiterates. Illiteracy does not mean one is “challenged” intellectually. Rather, it points out that the individual is simply “unfamiliar” with the topic.

America has been and continues to be a country of immigrants. Long ago, when people left the “old country,” they came to America to improve their lives. Often parents worked two or three jobs so they could send their children to college, thus better their lives through a higher education. Noble indeed. In doing so, over time, another realization came into play, literacy taught at all levels. The three R’s — reading, writing and arithmetic. The school became the social engine to pave the way to a better life. With that being said, then it would only be natural for the school to be the “go to” place, versus the home, that deals with such regular issues. Unfortunately, that is far from the case.

We now — with the music pausing — realize almost every state in our union does not include financial literacy as a core curriculum, in education, for our students. Amazing. So this unfamiliarity of handling one’s financial issues falls back on the parents. Guess where they learned? Their parents, and so on. Do you hear the music? We go round and round, never truly realizing just how important it is to learn the financial basics. Though it’s easy to blame the schools, the fact is it is our individual responsibility to learn the financial basics and pass them on to those we love.

Critical thinking is an essential in school. Math, science, computer education all provide this to a great extent. However, the reality of most individuals dealing with money matters, every day, seems to cry out for some expected results in providing the financial essentials, the basics, from our schools. Maybe even for the parents.

Without such education, we as a society will continue to be smothered by the death grip of spending and debt. Doesn’t it seem odd, that when our economy is booming, it’s because Americans are spending (versus saving)? “Spend first, then figure it out” seems to be the “in” thing.

Without proper financial literacy, we position ourselves to sink lower and lower in our financial situations and open ourselves up to more and more bankruptcies, divorces, broken homes, depression, suicides, nervous breakdowns and total despair.

Financial literacy is a big deal. It is incumbent upon all of us to be in the know, become students of our financial bounty and learn to manage our cash rather than having it manage us. The quiet you have, in your pausing to reflect, is the music stopping. It’s time to take a seat, identify exactly where you’re at, and begin the journey of taking self-control of your money and financial situation. The pause is priceless.

Source - San Diego Union Tribune