And So It Begins…

4 Mar

I am the product of a liberal upbringing.  That is no small feat having grown up in small town in central Montana in the 70s and 80s. Now before my very conservative parents disown me (again), allow me to explain.  I was born and raised in Great Falls, MT – a place not very well known and certainly not known as a bastion of progressive thinking.  But that is understandable – Montana’s economy is based on ranching and farming, a way of life that encourages and rewards hard work and stamina over liberal thought.

Let me be clear, I refer to “liberal” in the classical sense (an upbringing and education that includes a mix of science as well as the arts) and not any geopolitical or socioeconomic belief system.  In high school, I took classes ranging from history, English and calculus to music theory, woodworking and metal shop.

At home, we had a set of encyclopedias where I could explore the larger world; we regularly watched programs on public television; and we often traveled around the state visiting museums and searching for antique treasures.  My parents were the original “American Pickers.”

Not knowing what career I wanted to pursue after high school, I decided to join the Navy.  I served for 12 years, and along the way, I earned a BS in History, Technology and Society from Georgia Tech and an MS in Operations Research from the Naval Postgraduate School.  In 2005, I transitioned from the military to private industry and, in 2009, began pursuing my MBA from George Mason University.

Needless to say (and yet I will) I am a strong proponent of education.

It became apparent to me prior to the housing collapse of 2007, and has been re-enforced since the financial crisis of 2008-2009 that, while we (the average American citizen) were looking for someone to blame for the financial ills of the nation (and there is plenty of blame to go around), we failed to accept our own culpability in the matter.  I believe that much of the distress over the last 5 years could have been avoided if the general population had a better understanding of business, finance and economics.

This crisis was perpetrated by financially savvy individuals who knowingly distorted and subjugated the regulations and regulators in pursuit of profit and compensation.  As much as we may like, we cannot legislate ethics and accountability.  And yet many are looking to the government to do just that.

What is missing from the general discussion on the financial health of America is a call for a more educated and informed citizenry. The depth of our financial ignorance can be alarming.  In recent years, extensive studies have been conducted on Americans financial knowledge.  Many people don’t know the terms of their mortgage or the interest rates they are paying on credit cards. And, at a time when we’re borrowing more than ever, most Americans can’t explain the fundamentals of compound interest. Financial illiteracy isn’t new, but the consequences have become more severe, because the average citizen now has to take more responsibility for their financial security. Pensions have been replaced with by the 401(k); many workers have to buy their own health insurance; and so on. The financial marketplace, meanwhile, has become a dizzying emporium of choice and easy credit. The decisions are more numerous and more complex than ever.

The point isn’t to turn the average American into Warren Buffett or Alan Greenspan, but to help people avoid disasters and day-to-day choices that erode financial security.  The difference between knowing a little about finances and knowing nothing can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime. And, as the past five years have shown, the cost to society can be far greater.

My goal with this blog is not to persuade anyone that my ideas or beliefs are correct.  But to arm friends, family and the general public (as well as myself) with the knowledge to make informed decisions about money, business, finance, economics, life and career.

Thanks for joining me on this journey…

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One Response to “And So It Begins…”

  1. RC 03/15/2012 at 23:28 #

    Well-said my Friend. Let the journey and education begin!!!

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