Over the past several months, I’ve noticed a trend among my 20- and 30-something friends on social media. Many are small-business owners, farmers and ranchers, but they seem to be lamenting the lack of financial skills in the upcoming generation – Generation Z – and the need to reintroduce basic life skills in our schools.
Working in the banking industry, I can testify to the lack of financial skills in the next generation, although it’s honestly not just the Gen Z’ers. Many lack the ability, or patience, to balance their accounts, preferring to go by their current balance online or at the ATM. For them, and of course I’m generalizing, using overdraft protection without penalty is standard procedure, while instant gratification seems preferable to paying obligations on time.
Some of the reasoning behind these and similar decisions is character-based, but a good percentage is just the lack of education in our society about personal finances and the financial system in general.
What I’ve found most interesting, however, is that if someone has ties to agriculture, either through 4-H, FFA or an SAE project, more than likely they have a good handle on their finances. They seem to know what a business plan is and how to utilize it. They can balance their accounts, keep track of expenses and income, and know where their money is going. These are all skills that will help them run a business, secure a loan and live the life they want.
What’s even more interesting is just as people are starting to clamor for more life skills to be taught in schools, we have others – OK, sometimes the same people – saying there is no longer a need for ag programs, ag teachers or FFA in our society. Of course, it’s these very programs that are teaching today’s youth and young adults the very life skills they’re demanding.
I want to see future generations excel and succeed in both areas. What that entails will vary from school to school, family to family and person to person. Maybe it’s bringing home economics back or providing a similar life skills class. Maybe it’s financial institutions offering basic tours to elementary kids and internships to high schoolers and undergraduates.
More so, perhaps a solution can be found by helping others learn from mistakes and allowing them to be responsible for their actions. Parents can involve their children in family budget discussions and certainly set budgets for allowances and funds earned. It’s not easy, but taking the initiative and enrolling in a financial course at a college, church or after school program can make a major difference.
Whatever it is we do, we must make sure that the next generation, and the generation after that, is properly prepared for life as an adult. That includes their financial literacy. These kids and young adults are our future – let’s make sure they have the skills to make it a good one.
*Steps off soap box*
Jessica Allan is an agricultural lender and commercial relationship manager at Guaranty Bank in Neosho, Mo. A resident of Jasper County, she is also involved in raising cattle on her family’s farm in Newton County and is an active alum of the Crowder College Aggie Club. She may be reached at