Is Formal Personal Finance Education a Failure? Some Thoughts on Improving It

When I was in high school, I took a consumer education proficiency test and passed it with flying colors, demonstrating that I had the knowledge needed to manage my own money and be a savvy shopper. Within ten years, I was buried in debt.

This isn’t an experience that’s unique to me. On The Simple Dollar’s Facebook page (feel free to become a fan), I recently asked “Did you take a personal finance or consumer ed class in school? Was it useful to you? Did it keep you from making financial mistakes later on?”

Quite a few people publicly stated the uselessness of their personal finance education, while still others emailed me or sent me direct messages about it. A sampling of the comments:

Ryan B.: “i had to take consumers ed with drivers ed and [...] no….i had to learn from mistakes…”
Kelly K.: “My consumer ed class in high school was a waste of time.”
Charlie R.: “Yes, I did, and no, it didn’t.”
Baley W.: “Senior year in high school we took FPU. I remembered the principles, but I still got into debt. I don’t think it helped one bit, even though I’d like to think so.”
Shiela F.: “In high school & college along with accounting classes and no, it did not help. ”
Annie J.: “We had a small personal finance chapter in Home Ec./Family Relations class and no, it wasn’t helpful.”

Even some who got value from their classes saw that it didn’t impact their peers. Amanda H. stated: “I took a college personal finance course at the behest of my father. It wasn’t perfect, but it gave me a whole new awareness on things like investing and how interest works. And how important it is to get started young. Which I think was rare and put me miles ahead of my college-age peers.”

Many others didn’t recall any sort of education, which either means there literally wasn’t a class or the class had so little impact on them that they did not recall it at a later date.

Simply put, personal finance education as it currently exists is not reaching people when they need it. Quite often, they learn about it later on through their own difficult experiences.

In fact, I think “experience” is the key word here.

Consumer education and personal finance education is often lumped in with many other classes at the high school level. They’re taught in a classroom environment with minimal examples that actually impact the lives of students in any way. Sometimes it’s a class all its own, but other times it’s just a small piece of another class and at yet other times it’s not dealt with at all.

Just like any other ordinary class, one or two will “click,” a handful of others will approach it like any other academic subject and succeed on the surface without deeply understanding it, and many others will let the info go in one ear and out the other, retaining as little as possible.

Simply put, treating personal finance as just another thing that students need to be “educated” in doesn’t really work.

How can we possibly make personal finance education relevant (beyond the simple step of making sure that it’s at least presented)? Over the past few years, I’ve been collecting ideas from the mountains of personal finance books I’ve read, and I’ve got some suggestions for how to turn personal finance education into something much more valuable than the experiences described above.

First, homework (and classwork) should focus on discussion and actually doing things. Make homework (most of the time) very simple for this class. Go home and ask your parents a basic question about their finances and report on what you learned. Why do they buy a certain product type? What was their best experience at work? How do they do their taxes? The goal isn’t to get students to tell about their families, but to get them talking at home about personal finances.

At other times, focus on actually doing things. Make everyone in the class get a savings account or a checking account in their name. Have them go to the store and find the best bargains they can on enough laundry detergent and dryer sheets to do 100 loads of clothes. Hand out copies of credit card offers and have them figure out what happens if they charge $500 on the card and don’t pay it.

Second, put a big emphasis on personal stories. If you go around and ask people what the one thing that got them on the right financial track and helped keep them there was, it’s almost always someone else’s story and how they translated that into success. Dave Ramsey’s story. My own story. The stories in books like Your Money or Your Life. People see some element of themselves in that story and they want what that person has achieved, so it makes the steps to get there seem much more real and relevant.

If you’re teaching, use your own story, but don’t be afraid to get speakers in very regularly who are open to talking about their own stories.

Third, recognize that you’re trying to plant key concepts that may not “click” for years. Don’t spend a day talking about the difference between 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and Roth IRAs. It’s not relevant to them and it’s too much detail. Instead, make absolutely sure they understand the key things that they’re going to face.

One key technique for this is to cycle back regularly to old topics that you’ve already covered. Just like exercise, you can’t keep a muscle strong if you vigorously exercise it once and then never touch it again. Scatter specific topics and speakers throughout the year that call back to the key topics already learned.

Finally, focus on goals and how to approach them. One of the few examples of personal finance that I remember from school was when a teacher in elementary school kept a jar on her desk. She told us that if she just put a quarter in that jar every single school day, there’d be enough money in that jar for a pizza party for the class at the end of the year, and every little bit students tossed in would make that party better.

Every day, she’d add a coin to it at a time when she knew everyone was watching. Sure enough, that jar slowly filled up. Sure enough, at the end of the year, the money in that jar paid for a big pizza party.

It stuck with me for a lot of reasons. Repetition, of course, was one of them. The big pizza party at the end was the other one.

Even now, though, the idea that there was a goal set at the beginning of the year, that a plan was put in place for that goal, and that a little bit of effort each day brought the class to that goal has an impact on me.

Don’t be afraid to do this exact thing. Even more so, don’t be afraid to share your own goals right in front of the students. “I’m saving $20 per school day for a car,” you might say, then actually buy a car with that cash at the end of the year. Save $10 a day during the first semester, then buy a laptop (or some other item they might care about) before Christmas.

The simple truth is that a typical classroom experience isn’t going to reach most students – and even trying new things won’t reach every student. Instead, focus on doing everything you can to hammer home a few key ideas – debt is bad, saving money is good, planning ahead is great – and try to relate that to their life.

I think Sarah D. put it best: “Honestly, I don’t think you really learn anything that you are not invested and interested in. The very best lessons I learned about money were from actual experience.” Experience, not classroom learning, gives people the personal finance lessons they need. This goes not just for teachers, but for parents, too.

In fact, I’ll leave this article with a note to parents. Personal finance is a life skill, just like changing your underwear. Be involved in teaching your kids how to manage money, just like you were in teaching them to change their underwear.

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  1. I agree that you have to be invested in a topic to truly learn it, and expereince is always the best teacher.
    But, personal stories are the next best thing. When someone that you know and trust is telling you something from their experience (rather than preaching from a book) it is more apt to resonate and take hold.
    IMHO, of course.

  2. Baley says:

    Great ideas! I think those ideas would have helped personal finance stick in my mind after high school. One of the things I didn’t like about FPU was the amount of time spent on topics that weren’t relevant to me at the time (like investing, 401k’s, etc.). I think basic life skills such as frugality, saving, goal setting, etc. are the most important things.

  3. MikeTheRed says:

    I think the core issue is that a subject like Personal Finance can’t be taught or discussed in an abstracted, academic setting. Talking about the theory of money management without having any skin in the game so to speak makes it hard for the concepts to really stick.

    I was taught all the theory and the best practices and ideas by my parents growing up, but it didn’t mean anything as I didn’t have anything to apply it to in a way that really mattered. I had to experience the pain of doing it wrong before I could realize the true benefit of doing it right.

    It’s like teaching a kid to not touch hot things. Telling them “This is hot. It will hurt if you touch it.” doesn’t mean a whole lot as they don’t have a real concept of what the consequence is. They burn their hand and they learn what that warning really means. It’s the same thing really with personal finance.

  4. Adam P says:

    There’s a chart in David Bach’s Automatic Millionaire book that is very powerful I think for younger people and I think should be shown to as many highschoolers/university/college kids as possible.

    It’s the chart that shows what saving from 18-26 a few thousand dollars a year will turn into compared to saving from 30-65 the same amount. It really is a phenomenal chart and I have used it on my younger siblings to drive home the point about saving for retirement in your first jobs as much as you can afford.

    And I don’t really like Bach much, yet I still praise that part of his book.

  5. Pat Chiappa says:

    Learning about money in high school is too late.

    Financial education, beginning in grammar school should be mandatory, no question.

    Having parents who are good money role models is the best case scenario for kids to start off with a ‘good relationship with money’, but sadly, it’s not often the case for most.

  6. Hunter says:

    I think the national savings rate is a great indicator of how well the population understands personal finance. It currently is a fraction over 5% and is much lower than it was in the 70’s. The system reinforces consumption. There’s no advertising urging people to manage their cash-flow wisely. Also, up until about 2002 most people could manage finances poorly and still get-by. But the economy has changed, real incomes are falling, unemployment is high, real asset values are falling, people are slow to realize that this is permanent. Real behavior must change or poverty will become reality for more and more people.

  7. Jonathan Vaudreuil says:

    Here’s something to think about: how big an emphasis does society put on being financially sound, and how much emphasis does society put on buying things?

    As long as there is more emphasis on buying things than being financially sound, then the majority will buy things to the point where they are not financially sound.

    Why?

    Education, no matter what kind, cannot change our surroundings. You can teach someone every strategy and technique to manage their money properly, you can give them real world examples, and you can go so far as to help them do some of it. Odds are you will get some success, and some learning lessons.

    The thing is, this kind of education does not attack the underlying problem. We’re all under the weight of societal norms and pressures whether or not we think we are. Studies have shown that our willpower is great, but only in perfect circumstances. Add a little too much stress, take out some sleep, or just give a person a mental challenge and you’ve shut off part – or all – of their willpower.

    Learning about personal finance and making the right decisions is about more than education. It’s about understanding that we’re bombarded with the message “buy buy buy!” and it’s hard to tune it out. The people most successful with personal finance are those who have come up with ways to resist the message and live life differently. If you don’t value that different kind of life, if you value “buy buy buy!”, then no education will help you.

  8. Maureen says:

    “Personal finance is a life skill, just like changing your underwear.”

    Personal finance really involves MANY skills. Education helps, of course, but it is important to develop habits such as bugeting, researching, saving, and planning. Discipline is also vital. Creativity can certainly help too. A lot of these skills are used in many areas of life. They are not unique to finance.

  9. Des says:

    “I think the national savings rate is a great indicator of how well the population understands personal finance.”

    Not really, though I’m sure that thought would stroke my parents’ egos :)

    The savings rate is heavily influenced by interest rates, which are currently at historic lows. Since rates were much higher in the 70s, it logically follows that the savings rate was higher, too.

  10. Lise says:

    I think your ideas for making financial education more useful are good, but I too ultimately agree that personal experience is the best teacher. Most good advice, alas, is not useful to the person at whom it’s directed, because the person is just not in a place to understand it yet.

    It’s one thing to know, “you should only spend 25% of your net income on housing,” but quite another to feel that rule applies to you in a real way.

  11. Pat S. says:

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but I had no idea about finance, investing, credit or anything related to economics until I graduated from college and made some costly mistakes. Thankfully, I’ve recovered, and grown a lot in the process, but I think that personal finance education is non-existent in our educational system.

    Is this because our leaders find it in the best interest to keep the populace poor and living paycheck to paycheck? Maybe.

    The people who know the least about finance are also the driving force of our economy. The wealthy don’t buy the bulk of consumer goods in this country. Its the people who can least afford it. The over spent and underpaid, and those in debt.

    Maybe this is because if these folks understood finance better, they would cut the hyper-consumption that is so prevalent in this country, and lines the pockets of the wealthy.

  12. Riki says:

    How about parents taking responsibility for teaching personal finance through example and practical application?

    Sure, schools can discuss things in an academic setting, but when will we stop relying on schools to teach EVERYTHING? All the positive pro-fiancial-responsibility messages in the world from a teacher simply cannot override poor examples or a lack of teaching at home.

    Besides, schools can’t fix everything. How can I teach critical thinking and advanced problem solving skills when I also have to teach the basics that should be learned at home?

  13. Des says:

    @Pat S.

    I didn’t (really) learn about personal finance until I got a job working in customer service for a bank. That was partially because we HAD to understand all the different financial products we were offering, but it was also because you got to see the way other people handled (or didn’t handle) their finances. People would call in and ask for overdraft fees to be refunded month after month because they never kept track of what they spent. Shockingly (at the time), those were the same folks with Best Buy and Chili’s charges showing up every week. Then you’d have the retired Army colonel with $2 mil in plain savings who would call to make sure his interest posted correctly to the penny.

    Seeing that granular information on how different people manage their money teaches you right quick the kind of person you want to be with your own money.

  14. Jackiebooks says:

    I’m a little confused about this article. Is this directed at teachers? Just so you know, curriculum is decided by the ministry of education, not the teachers. There is not a lot of freedom to change learning expectations.

  15. Jules says:

    Another blogger (I’d mention his name, but not put up a link, except that I’d get relegated to comment purgatory) writes that being financially responsible is not about education AT ALL–not even with discussions, real-life experiences, whatever–and more about realizing that your behaviors must change, and implementing tactics to change your behaviors. Example: I want my boyfriend to eat more fruit. Rather than nag at him, I put a big bowl of fruit within easy reach of “his” spot (it’s really the cats’) on the couch, and the same principles apply to personal finance. And, I’m finding, entrepreneurship, as well.

  16. Steven says:

    I think there reaches a point when parents need to stop relying on the public school system, especially on practical life matters such as personal finance. It seems that parents expect teachers to do all the teaching and I just don’t feel that’s the way things should be. Parents need to step up and teach their children how to do certain things in life and the public school system cannot be held accountable for all short-comings in knowledge.

    I also agree that many things that students are taught in a classroom are abstract ideas that have no link to real life. Some things can only be learned through experience.

    To summarize, formal finance education, in my opinion, would amount to a failure no matter how it is structured simply because people without experience are unable to relate, and a more practical experience would be by learning at home by being a part of the financial decisions of the family, possibly writing checks to pay the bills, or some other involvement. This isn’t an issue that can really be “book learned” until you have a reason to learn it, and for many people, that reason is debt.

  17. Carrie says:

    We need both education and motivation / readiness to change. To me, saving money is like losing weight. When my step-mother learned she had Stage 2 diabetes and started reading labels, she truly did not know that regular sodas had so much sugar. That was education she needed. She was scared and motivated and once she understood that regular sodas were bad for people with diabetes, she cut it out. Without the necessary motivation, education would have been interesting but would have led to no change. We need both.

  18. Evangeline says:

    Financial education begins at home and starts when children are very young. Like a sponge, they will absorb the information you provide. Just make it age appropriate. I agree with #5 Pat. High school is too late.

  19. Steve in W MA says:

    The first thing to learn in financial education is probably financial controls: knowing how much money you make, planning its use, then tracking actual income and expenditures. This set of planning and tracking skills is commonly known as “budgeting”.

    I don’t think this can be taught in schools. The best place is in the home. Parents can give an allowance to their child, with the requirement that they make a budget and track what they did with the money.
    Now, also incentivize it.
    If this is done every month, (monthly review session with Mom and Dad)O the allowance stays or increases. If it is not done in a particular month, the allowance is decreased.

    Sure, it’s manipulative but the only way to learn how to budget is to practice. Once it’s ingrained, and the kids are older, they will get more use out of their earned income because they know how to track everything on a monthly cycle, which is how businesses work and is how households who are on top of their finances work.

    Of course, if the parents don’t budget in their own lives this message (a) won’t be delivered or (b) probably will be seen as hypocritical.

  20. Steve in W MA says:

    Keep in mind that people who are out of financial control (spend all of their “disposable” income and also up to their credit line) make better customers in the now than the truly financially solvent types.

  21. valleycat1 says:

    I agree with the others who are of the opinion that the classroom is not the best venue for teaching real life attitudes such as responsible personal finance, particularly in a culture that doesn’t support the lessons day to day & if parents aren’t taking the primary role of teaching those skills or attitudes. Very few teachers have the time, inclination, or freedom granted by administration to make such lessons so compelling that kids go against peer pressure to follow what some (to them) ancient teacher says.

    I don’t remember having a PF class in school, other than something in math that might have used a checkbook or compounding interest on a loan to frame the occasional problem in homework or tests.

    And even the best parent modeling and training can only go so far; then you have to hope for the best as the chickadees fly out of the next. I have 4 siblings & each of us has taken our own approach regarding finances & most other life choices in adulthood.

  22. bogart says:

    My brother and I were raised by the same parents in the same household with the same philosophy and one of us “got” personal finance and one didn’t. Ditto my stepchildren. I think there is a huge personality effect, making it difficult to tell “what works.”

  23. Troy says:

    none of this really works.

    What works is what has worked for most all popular pf bloggers.

    Failure.

    Most bloggers came to a point in their life where the pain of pf failure was so great they realized they had to do something about it. lousy income, high debts, too much stuff, etc. They hit a point where they said “can’t do this anymore”

    Similar to the pain of a stove as was mentioned above. Until you feel that pain, you won’t care.

    Granted some learn from others mistakes or from lessons taught at an early age by parents/grandparents, etc. But that is unusual.

    Pain provides clarity and focus. You have to let kids feel the pain so they know what and why they don’t want to experience it again.

  24. Lisa says:

    I think home and school should both be educating children. Kids also need to be away from tv media. Even on a family trip, ads are rampant, but can be used for education. My kiddie 6 and 8, have been full of questions about the lottery lately….

  25. Sonja says:

    Much to the dismay of our friends, we made our son an authorized user on one of our credit cards at a very young age (14). We gave him a cash allowance of $200 a month and told him that was his clothing allowance/spending money. He could use the cash or the card, but when the bill came he had to pay us for his charges in cash from his allowance or any money he earned on his own. If he didn’t have the cash he could delay paying us his share of the bill but we charged interest and imposed “late fees” and used it as an opportunity to teach him what the credit card companies do and how they make their money. Of course he screwed up some, but the idea was to learn from us and for us to be the safety net. He is now 25 and always pays his bill in full each month and avoided the whole college credit card debt mess.

  26. Holly says:

    I did the same as Sonja w/my 2 DDs & cc when they got their drivers licenses at 16 (DDs are now 32 & 35). they were amongst the VERY few of their friends & co-workers who graduated college w/NO consumer/cc debt.

    Only DD1 had any student loans & that was only for her masters (from $$ U. Chicago) whcih she got in 1998 and had FULLY paid off by 2003 or 2004). DD1 also has a 2nd masters paid for by her employer. She also had bought a house during this time. DD2 did her master on a pay as she went basis over 3-4 years while getting married and buying a house.

  27. Sue says:

    Your idea of having students find out how their parents deal with differing financial issues is key. I didn’t have formal economic training in school but my parents’ example along with a personal interest in managing my resources were enough to get me to this point in life: debt free and financially responsible.

  28. getagrip says:

    How many folks remember what constitutes a sonnet? How about the quadratic equation? Heck, how many folks really remember how bills are made into laws?

    As with most of the things you are taught in school, that which typically sticks are those things that you internalized or happened to draw your interest. Not what the curriculum or society tried to ram down our throats because they thought it was good for us. Kids will get A’s on the tests, they’ll do the exercises, but until they are living on their own dime, spending their own money, chances are they won’t really get it.

    Best line from my child’s second year at college, “I didn’t know milk was so expensive.”

    Yet she’d gone shopping many times over many years with me and my wife, been sent on errands to get grocieries while in high school, was there walking the isles with us when we helped set her up at college, both years. She’d claimed to understand being frugal, budgeting, how you need to spend less than you earn, etc. and seemed to have it as together as a teenager can. The difference was she’d gotten a job and now had to pay for her weekly needs herself. So suddenly milk was expensive, go figure.

    All schools can do is provide the basics, parents can provide the incentives, but in the end we have to assimilate the information for ourselves.

  29. Catherine says:

    I never had a formal finance class (I really don’t count the account class I took in college – I still don’t understand double journal accounting!), but I will never forget a specific day in my AP Government class senior year of high school. Our teacher was pretty easy to get off-topic and sometimes the class would make a game of it. One day, he got talking about Roth IRAs and gave us a lesson on compound interest. The teacher gave an example of one person that started investing early with $1,000 a year and one who started much later with $5,000 a year. In the end, they both invested the same amount of cash, but the first person had SO MUCH MORE MONEY due to compound interest. It was maybe a 20 minute discussion, but it really stuck with me. That day, I went home and asked my dad if I could start a Roth IRA account – and I opened one within a week. I’ve been investing the max every year since and it has really put me ahead of the pack. Thanks, Mr. Good!

  30. Nick says:

    I got a D in Personal Finance in highschool. I am pretty sure 10 years later I am financialy more secure then anyone else who was in that class.

  31. SwingCheese says:

    @Catherine: Sometimes, it’s all about taking advantage of the teachable moments, regardless if they are directly in alignment with your curriculum. What a great story!

  32. Dana says:

    In high school econ, we had a project where we had to pretend to get a job, apartment, etc. and do a 6 month budget. The gist of it was that you’d tell the teacher what job you wanted, he’d look up your salary in a Kelly Blue Book of Jobs type book, and you’d go from there. He also gave us an estimate for what our health insurance would cost. We had requirements like, take out taxes, find an place to live (we had to bring in a newspaper ad or whatever to prove we did research), buy a car, budget for food, fun, etc.

    It was a real eye opener for me to realize how quickly your money gets eaten up. It was really depressing for me to realize that since I had to put down a deposit for rent the first month, I basically had no money left for fun. My “fun” money for that month consisted of a rental video and a pack of gum. I think this kind of assignment would fit right in with the kind of curriculum you’re talking about.

    My parents gave me a great financial background, but it was still a very practical project that I remember years later.

  33. Andrew says:

    I don’t think the public schools are the place for personal financial education. I can just picture the PTA meeting:

    Adminstrator: We are pleased to announce that, starting next fall, all sophomores will be required to take a class in personal finance.

    Parent #1: Are my taxes paying for this?

    Parent #2: It’s socialism! Socialism! You’re telling my child he can’t achieve the American Dream!

    Parent #3: And no mention of advertising and the brainwashing of children in a capitalist society? Where is the essential post-Veblen critique?

    Parent #4: What about JESUS!
    Parents #5:: zzzzzzzz

  34. Amen!

    Introducing the concepts is a start, but kids (and adults) learn by doing, not lecture.

  35. Georgia says:

    I knew how to manage money, but in my children’s school years, I let it get away from me. Whenever they or my husband wanted to do something, I put it on the cc. This was okay to a point and we were about $5k in cc debt. With my good job, living in walking distance and paying for a home on a fraction of the normal cost I could and did manage, but then I lost my job.

    It took me one year to find a job. I was looking over the top 1/4 of MO and doing a lot of traveling to interviews. I did regular interviews and took the tests to be on at least 32 registers for State work. Then, when I found a job 90 miles from home, add the cost of rental (and I found a marvelously cheap place to live), gas, food,etc. I went deeper into debt. We got as high as $28-34k. It took us 15 years, but we got it paid off. When I retired, the first withdrawal from my 503b was to pay off our remaining debt – a used car we had bought recently. For the first time in 41-42 years of marriage, we were debt free and I am still that way 5 years later.

    Many are right – it does take the experience and the pain to set you right. Although one financial guru said it was amazing that the schools did not teach about the 2 most important things in our lives – how to raise a family and how to manage our finances.

  36. AnnJo says:

    I think most of the lessons on frugality and financial management I learned were from the many old classics I read during my childhood. Poverty and making-do was such a large part of the subject matter of books like Heidi, Swiss Family Robinson, Oliver Twist, the Little House books, Christmas Carol, and so on.

    My parents also talked about money to a fair degree and also commented on the spending habits of our tenants when we owned rental property and contrasted them to the way their own parents had lived, worked and spent money, and I remember a lot of those cautionary or inspiring stories to this day.

    My high school offered a semester-long bookkeeping class that gave me a basic understanding of profit-loss statements, net worth statements, budgets and cash-flow analysis. And home ec in those days really did focus on the economics of home management.

    All of the above contributed, but the college of hard-knocks still had plenty to teach me.

  37. Nicole says:

    @ #29 Catherine — almost sounds like you had the same teacher I had, although I know that’s not really possible! I also had a math teacher who would often start the day with a few minutes’ discussion on something from the news or other topic that didn’t necessarily have anything to do with math. Not anything formal, just kind of spontaneous. I wasn’t extremely interested in pre-calculus, but I had a much better attitude toward that class and I don’t consider it to have been wasted time (especially when I found out about the second plane hitting the World Trade Center as I walked into that class — it didn’t feel like an even more awkward, unnatural thing to be taking “time out” to find our common humanity). I agree with #31 SwingCheese that we have to find opportunities where we can. And while parents are on the front lines, it would be kind of strange to have the schools completely and eerily silent on the subject of PF given what has happened in the world lately. On that note:

    @ #7 Jonathan — I think part of this “education” we speak of can consist of just making people aware of the psychological manipulation that goes on minute to minute when you are watching a show, or in a store. If people are aware and still let themselves capitulate, that’s one thing; but the numbers of people who are just sort of stumbling along blind to this are just shocking. I met someone in school who was doing a double in marketing and psychology, and got odd reactions from people who didn’t get what they had to do with one another. Frightening.

  38. Shannon says:

    I haven’t read the other comments but as a marketing professional, I think the answer to the questions at the beginning of your post will always be skewed if you poll through your website or Facebook page. People who value your site and the reasons why they keep reading point towards a group who probably mess up their finances (like me!) and they will most likely answer no on the latter question of whether it helped or not.

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