Hey everyone! Today's post is a really special one for me.
A few days ago, one of my former students sent me an email that I definitely wasn't expecting. It was such an important email and message that I felt like I had to share it with all of you. Fortunately, he gave me permission to put the entire email in this post.
Before you read it, let me explain why this matters:
As you've probably seen me write 1,000x times, one of the biggest reasons that I left my teaching job three years ago is that I realized I was passionate about teaching personal finance.
After I paid off my student loans, I started looking for opportunities to talk to my students about money. Honestly…I wasn't doing it with the intention of leaving my job or anything like that.
I just wanted to teach my students things about money that I didn't know.
Every week, we were supposed to teach these advisory lessons that the principal emailed out to the teaching staff. They were ultra-boring. I didn't want to teach them haha (which is probably a good indicator that I needed to work for myself).
So…I ignored those lessons and taught my own. I wanted to teach the kids about personal finance.
It wasn't anything crazy – literally just the basics of personal finance. Credit, debt, interest, stocks vs. bonds, and I think I even threw in one about 403b's (because that's what the district wanted teachers to contribute extra funds to at the time and I was mad about it).
Long story short…that became the catalyst for me leaving my teaching job. I originally wanted to teach seminars and travel to different high schools, but M$M started growing pretty quickly and I realized that I could reach so many more people with this site.
But back to the email – it floored me. There's nothing super-intense or sappy in it. But for me, it was an awesome message to receive from a former student. As any teacher (or former teacher) knows…you never know exactly how much of an impact you're going to have on your students. Some never talk to you again. Some have their lives completely changed by one small thing that you told them and don't even remember doing.
It's pretty incredible, really.
I think the important thing here is that the simple lessons I taught stuck with this young man. He doesn't know it yet, but he's already so far beyond most of his peers for even thinking about the things that you're about to see in the email he sent me.
I guess to boil it all down – I'm proud. I'm proud of him for listening to me a few years ago (as a teacher you're never quiiiiite sure that the kids actually listen to you). I'm proud of the work that I've done with this site and the community we've all created.
And most importantly, I'm proud to see the proof that the things we say to kids about money can change the entire direction of their relationship with personal finance.
Here's the letter from my former student:
Austin C. here. I've been catching up on some M$M reading lately and thought I'd send you an email to keep in touch. As always, I think the site and all its ventures are fantastic and based on your monthly income reports it seems there are plenty of others who think that too.
I've noticed in a lot of your articles you've mentioned how you used to be a band director, how you taught your students about money instead of what you were supposed to, and how you felt trapped in that job. As your students, being young and oblivious, we never considered on the days that you were frustrated that there could have been more going on in the background than just “he's mad because we can't match our stick heights and walk at the same time.”
It's always funny to me when I read your articles and see how much you've achieved chasing this passion of yours because I can still personally remember Bobby Hoyt the band director trying to whip us into shape, and not just Bobby Hoyt the finance blogger. Reading your articles through that unique lens adds a depth to your writing for me. It's been so interesting following your pursuits from the very beginning, like when you'd spend lunch breaks working on generating twitter traffic, and to look at where you're at now.
To say the very least, congratulations on everything you've achieved, and will continue to achieve. I will always wish you the best of luck.
I can't speak for the rest of your students I graduated with, but I know for certain that your money advisory lessons shaped my views on personal finance from the very beginning. You weren't teaching us anything crazy or obscure, just simple stuff like “What is credit.”
But you introducing those concepts to me inspired and motivated me to do my own learning about personal finance, and I've learned so much over just the past three years. It inspired me to open an investment account and take an interest in my credit score and think about all the important financial decisions I'll make in the next 5 years of my life, among many other things. I highly doubt I would have thought about any of these things until I graduated college if it wasn't for your encouragement to learn more about money.
Additionally, I look back on your teaching and realized that whatever it was you were trying to get us to do or learn, you were imparting on us to actively pursue bettering ourselves, and to never just passively hope things will get better, or “mail it in.” The success and state of M$M today speaks for itself in that regard; it didn't become what it is by passively hoping. I sincerely thank you for that, and I just thought you should know how much of an impact it made on me.
The other day I checked on my investment account just to see how it was doing, which I don't do very often. Everything looked fine and dandy, and I was happy to see that the price of the ETF I invested in 3 years ago had increased 30%. But then I realized, damn, I'll likely never be able to buy at that original price ever again. It was kind of an awakening.
I decided that day that I would start setting aside 5% of my income to invest. I realized I can't go back 3 years and buy more shares, but what I can do is not lose any more time in the market and start adding more to my investment account now. I can't afford to throw all my money at investing, but every little bit will count both now and in 30 years.
Also, I just received my first credit card. I applied for one last year but was denied because of my credit score. It was really low because I only had one line of credit which was a student loan, and no other history. But my score improved, and I got the plastic in the mail the other day.
I'm going to use it as a credit building tool so I can improve my credit score and history before I graduate: gasoline purchases only, less than 9% utilization, paid in full every month after the statement is reported. I'm interested to see how much of a positive impact on my score I can make with this.
In other regards, I'm just trying to finish college, trying to secure a job offer for when I graduate, and planning and looking forward to my near future post-college life.
Again, I wish you and Coral all the best in your endeavors.
– Austin C.
A quick note…
If you're a teacher, a parent, or anyone that has a young person in your life that you think could benefit from learning something about money…please, teach them. It doesn't have to be crazy. You don't have to deep-dive into taxes or estate planning.
It can be simple. The only thing you need to do is spark their curiosity, and they'll do the rest. Remember – kids know how to use the internet to figure things out better than even Millennials do! It's kinda crazy haha.
But seriously – if you could change the direction of one kid's life by getting them interested in money…why wouldn't you? It's too good of an opportunity to pass up (in my opinion).