When was the last time you taught someone you love how to do something hard?
This question came up during a recent conversation I (Tom) had with Leslie Kahlenberg, one of our PPA team members. Leslie and her husband live in the Los Angeles area with their two teenaged sons. Their younger son, recently turned 15, is driving now. And Leslie was memorably describing the experience of driving with her son in bad weather for the first time when we started to reflect on learning new things.
The more I listened, the more I thought Leslie’s experiences offer something illuminating on the more universal experience of teaching people important things for the first time. It turns out, helping a 9th grader learn to drive in a downpour isn’t so different from teaching someone about money and intelligent financial decision-making.
So … I asked Leslie for more specifics.
Here are Leslie’s (very lightly edited) thoughts:
Usually, I feel confident in Leo’s skills as a driver, but in this one circumstance, I was more nervous than usual. It was, and had been, raining hard for several days and the streets and freeway flooded in some parts. I was trying to project to him that I wasn’t worried, trusted his judgment, and wasn’t too bad of a backseat driver.
I had to be mindful of how I offered guidance so he would be more likely to hear what I’m saying and, at the same time, understand the reasoning behind it.
I have an older car and it doesn’t have Apple CarPlay, so occasionally I’ll pretend I am the voice of Apple CarPlay when the opportunity for a teachable moment comes up. My hope is not to downplay anything, but instead, offer guidance in a lighter tone. Hopefully that can help him be more receptive to the lessons.
I don’t remember much about getting taught these things. The first day on the road alone I drove into the gas station from the wrong side of the road. Most of my experiences, including the ones we are having with Leo now, have been the result of trial and error. I think it’s important to share those embarrassing experiences as teachable moments.
Helping anyone gain new knowledge or learn a new skill can be a challenge. Where do you start? What do you say? And, as important, what don’t you say? How do you best offer feedback? When is it better not to step in? How do we offer guidance without being too much of a backseat driver?
Our routine, daily life offers an almost innumerable catalog of opportunities to delve into the world of money. With young people, this can be especially fertile ground.
While many adults prefer to avoid money conversations, the “next generation” is, perhaps surprisingly, interested – even eager – to talk about it. There isn’t a lot of concrete guidance on the subject. Financial literacy curricula, while highly valuable, are still missing from far too many schools. Moreover, kids often perceive money as an adult topic. This can make the discussion more intriguing. Talking openly about money can give them the sense that they’re stepping into an adult space.
Over the past few months, our team at Park Piedmont has been talking and thinking and continuing our own learning about how teenagers and young adults can best cultivate a well-informed skill set around intelligent financial decision-making.
Financial education is an integral part of our everyday work with clients, and we’re excited at the prospect of getting to extend some of that work with the young adults in our midst. Maybe that’s your high school or college-age kids or grandkids, or other young adults you know well.
We know this topic can sometimes be stressful and challenging – not unlike that first time teaching a teenager how to drive in the rain. But we’re excited about diving in.
In the meantime, if this is a topic you’re interested in for the young adults in your life, please let us know. We’d love to hear more of your thoughts, as they will help us continue learning about this important topic.