“We can’t get the numbers to work and would appreciate some help,” pleads Eric, a 41 year old physician who lives in Vancouver, B.C. and makes $300,000 a year. His wife is a dentist and together they typically earn a combined household income of $450,000. Eric regrets “not having bought a house years ago.” He further admits that he has “no pension whatsover.” It’s clear that the couple in this Globe & Mail article has trouble making ends meet.
Furthermore, Eric and his wife do not have life nor disability insurance, which is a dangerous and unnecessary risk, especially when they have five children. With annual expenses totaling $300,000 a year, this desultory family is basically living paycheque to paycheque. So far they’ve put their lifestyles ahead of their financial matters and now, like a crab in financial difficulty, they are starting to feel the pinch. Oh woe is them.
Vancouver may not be the cheapest city to raise a family in, but no amount of money can fix the problem of living carelessly beyond one’s means. Money can buy a lot of things, but ironically it cannot buy financial freedom, which is where financial literacy comes in. Having money alone is not enough to be complacent. Financial literacy is also paramount to our financial security, and helps us discover what money truly represents. Because what does $1,000,000 in the bank actually mean if we don’t even understand the value of money.
We can also learn to spend with value in mind, prioritizing what’s important to us over the non-essential expenses. We can use these strategies to experience satisfaction and the raptures of life without spending an arm and a leg. Unfortunately no one ever told Eric and his wife about this because they spend $24,000 a year on family vacations, and send their kids to private schools, yet they can barely afford to keep their heads above water, let alone save for their own retirements.
Many celebrities, professional athletes, and lottery winners who were once wealthy are now facing financial difficulties. All those people, just like Eric, have one thing in common; they lack basic financial management skills like budgeting, investing, and financial planning.
Medical professionals are some of the hardest working, and smartest people I know. And they deserve every dollar they make. But having money alone clearly isn’t enough. We must also be financially literate to survive in today’s economy. Intelligence and talent will only affect our abilities to earn a living, but they DO NOT determine our aptitude to keep any of it. Hard work leads to money, but financial literacy shows us what to do with the money once we get it.