On Saturday, May 20, Florida-based author and professor Cary Siegel visited the Puyallup reservation to speak to tribal youth about ways to develop good money management skills. Later, he spoke to their parents/adults on similar topics but the key message for both groups was about effective ways to managing their money.
Standing in front of 18 chairs filled with teenagers in the morning, Cary Siegel said he was glad to be there. Throughout his presentation, he gave away free copies of his book, "Why Didn't They Teach Me This In School?" He said the book was actually just a manuscript that he had written for his own children but now the book is selling 100 copies per day. While he never expected this kind of success when he wrote the book, he said that teachers are now using his book as an education tool.
Married for 23 years to the mother of his five children, Cary Siegel said there are two things that married couples fight about: money and children.
"Money is one of the greatest tools a person can have," he said to the student audience and added that they needed to harness the ability to manage it. "The goal," he said, "is to set up things so you can be successful."
Cary Siegel said schools teach art, math, English and social sciences, but they don't teach personal finance classes. Yet he said the two most important things people can learn from life are: number one, money management, and number two: life management.
Then he began to explain money management in an easy and simple way by listing three rules. "Rule number one: always live below your means," Siegel said. "Americans? We live like pigs!"
He said the U.S. government models what it's like to be in debt and banks encourage folks to take out loans. Even car commercials tell us to finance a better automobile – so the end result is that we live deeper and deeper in debt. Cary Siegel said even people who are earning $5 million are going bankrupt these days thanks, in part, to the many messages that society gives us about spending more than the income we bring in.
Cary Siegel said the second thing that people need to do, after always living below your means, is to develop a budget. "It's got to be in writing and you've got to analyze it," he said.
According to Siegel, most people don't budget because they don't want to know that their income is less than their expenditures. Yet he said budgeting is imperative to living in financial balance. "You need to see what you have coming in and going out."
When Cary Siegel asked for a volunteer, a 17-year-old named Joshua joined him at the front of the room. Then Siegel handed him $2,000 in cash but Joshua was not allowed to hold on to it for long because Siegel began "charging" Joshua for typical monthly expenditures.
He said most people think a $2,000 monthly income is great but when Joshua had to pay him for typical living expenses, the other students could see the money disappearing quite fast.
Cary Siegel asked Joshua for $500 rent, then $200 per month for electric, water, garbage and cable – and don't forget insurance. He asked Joshua how much he would be paying for furniture and a television set. Then he asked Joshua to give him back money for a car, for car insurance, for fuel and vehicle maintenance. By the time Joshua paid him for food, a clothing allowance, and a smart phone, he was almost out of money. That's when Cary Siegel told him about the cost of entertainment, of health insurance, and taxes.
"You've got to live below your means," he reiterated again after the $2,000 was back in his own pocket.
The third bit of advice that Cary Siegel presented, after living below your means and keeping to a strict budget, was that any time a person gets a raise, or enjoys a little bit of increase, they should save that extra money.
To emphasize that point, he asked the audience, "How many of you don't like doing what other people tell you to do?" All students raised their hands. Then he said: "Know what? That doesn't change when you get older."
Cary Siegel talked about all the stresses adults endure and said that peer pressure does not change from when grownups were teenagers. When murmurs of doubt rustled through the room, he explained the principle of adults feeling pressure to “keep up with the Joneses.”
Beyond finances, Cary Siegel taught the teenagers basic ethical lessons about working hard and building relationships with the people they know now because that's how you network and get opportunities later in life. "Put everything you can into your job because it comes back to you," he said.
Later that day, Siegel presented a very similar lecture to parents. Yet for parents he didn't just talk about money management, and personal ethics, he also provided tips on how to raise successful children. For that end, he gave advice about instilling a strong work ethic in their children, demanding responsibility from them, and urged them to build core values and passion in their children.
Cary Siegel said he encourages parents to get their children involved in extracurricular school activities and in the community. He also said parents should model the behavior they want their children to adopt and to get other respectable members of the community to also encourage that same kind of positive role modeling for the children.