For generations we’ve heard the same bits of financial wisdom, and we’ve all faithfully passed down this wisdom, reinforcing it each time we regurgitate it.  But it’s finally time for a revolution.  The future of financial literacy looks nothing like the past.

Approximate read time: 4 minutes

To be successful, traditional financial literacy dogma tells you that you must:

-focus on your needs, not your wants (restrict yourself)
-save money every month
-don’t take on ANY debt
-pay your bills on time
-keep a job for 40 years
-make a budget and stick to it
-plan for retirement
-make the right choices, and there is only one right way to make financial decisions

Not only are these chestnuts of “wisdom” deeply interwoven with judgment and shame, but the messaging you get from these antiquated inducements is that if you are not able to do all of the above, that there is something wrong with YOU… that you failed and you just need to take this seriously.  You just need to get your shit together.

Of course I’m not saying that the things like saving and spending wisely aren’t important.  Of course they are.  But reducing debt, paying bills on time, and building your savings are not financial literacy tools, they are the RESULT of well-build, personalized financial literacy/wellness tools.

There is a revolution happening in financial education

And it’s about damn time.  From this millionaire to my own trauma-informed, customizable financial wellness curriculum, more and more of us are weighing the old way of thinking about personal finances and finding it lacking.

Here is what I think the future of financial literacy will look like:

The future of financial literacy is DIY

Every single piece of financial literacy I teach my clients is available for free on the internet.  Most financial products can be purchased through online portals.  There is a world of information out there, and yes, you are perfectly capable of understanding it all.  Contrary to what the financial services industry would like us to think, financial concepts are not understandable only by the privileged few.

The future of financial literacy is not white and male

There is a systemic nature to our financial world, and it’s no accident that the wisdom that world has generated has been woven deeply with messaging around compliance, equating productivity with self worth, and patriarchal authority.  Read or listen to any prominent financial “guru” and you’ll hear the echoes of misogyny and racism.  

The future of financial literacy is personal, personalized, and changes with you over your lifetime 

“Just make a budget and stick to it” has never worked.  I know it looks like it might have for others, but it hasn’t.  Making an adaptable, evolving, personalized budget requires a level of financial literacy (financial mechanics) but also the soft skills of problem solving, decision making and reducing things like procrastination.  Financial mechanics are important, but in order to implement and integrate them into your life, you’ll need those soft skills too.

The future of financial literacy is skeptical 

In the old way of doing things, you complied with a set of expectations about how you spend our money, live our lives, and work.  In the future of financial literacy you evaluate if a tool, concept, or strategy is working for you.  By insisting that the strategies you employ serve your needs, not expecting yourself to meet some benchmark that lost its relevance 3 generations ago.  You can build and adapt a money system (read: budget) that will work for you because you built it.   This means you evaluate and judge the systems you are using, not yourself.

The future of financial literacy is non-judgmental

If just making ourselves and each other feel like garbage worked, it would have worked by now.  I’m guessing you’ve already tried punishing, restricting, and shaming yourself to get from where you are to where you want to be with your finances. The only thing outdated financial wisdom can tell you to do is punish yourself better, restrict yourself in new ways, and shame yourself the right way.  So much of our responses to financial stress (hesitation, procrastination, anxiety, avoidance) have been sold to us as personality defects.  But the instinct to avoid something that is painful, whether it’s yet another budget conversation with your spouse or opening the mail, is normal.  Punishing yourself won’t make it less painful.  The future of financial literacy will teach you the tools to make those daily challenges less stressful, and give you the strategies to get from where you are to where you want to go.

Here are the core tenants of the new financial literacy:

-Trust yourself with your money-Learn to experiment and build systems
-Evaluate those systems, not yourself
-Be aware of your own behavior, patterns, and reactions without judgment, shame, guilt, or remorse
-Practice expected spending, not restricted spending
(read the manifesto here)

So what does your life look like without the shame and judgment of the old financial literacy?  What could you do with your life if you could trust yourself with money, build your own money systems, and not obligate or restrict yourself?

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