It didn’t start out like I expected. In some ways, it was better. Teachers at the International School of Dusseldorf, in Germany, asked me to speak to their 5th grade students. I used to be a high school teacher, and I’ve never spoken to such a young group of kids. “They’re doing a passion project,” I was told. “So…share your passion with them.”
I had about 10 seconds to prepare my thoughts. At one point, early on, I asked how many of them spoke at least 2 languages. I think every hand went up. Then I asked them how many spoke 3 languages. Most of the hands remained raised. Four languages? About a quarter of the kids said they spoke at least 4 languages.
I was impressed. No, not just impressed. I was amazed and, I’ll admit, somewhat embarrassed. I speak English, and a handful of words in about 12 other languages. At best, I can ask where the bathroom is. I can ask for food and say please and thank you. I can tell you I was bit by a dog in Japanese. It’s hardly an impressive arsenal.
But these kids were amazing. There’s one topic, however, that few of them learn at home or at school. They don’t learn about money. State pension systems in Europe are strained, much like they are in United States. Corporate defined benefit pension plans might not be as generous for those kids as they have been in the past. No, I didn’t bore the kids with those kinds of things. But it did get me thinking.
Later, I spoke to an older group of kids, and the following day, I took part in the school’s professional development conference. I spoke about investing in low-cost index funds. I spoke about the opportunity cost of small, frivolous purchases….which can really add up if the savings are invested. I also spoke about how much money the attendees will need for their retirement.
I learned a lot too. Rosaland Wiseman gave the opening keynote. Let’s quote Wikipedia here:
Rosalind Wiseman is an American parenting educator and author of several publications. Her New York Times best-selling book Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence, released in 2002, was the basis of the 2004 film Mean Girls.
I was invited to give the closing keynote address. I stressed the importance of financial education in schools. I believe, after health/PE, it’s the most important topic a child could learn in school. It’s still rarely taught. But when institutions like The International School of Dusseldorf invite me to speak, I get a sense for what they’re thinking.
Thank you ISD!