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My generation is labeled “latch key kids” and “MTV generation.” Most of us had to fend for ourselves after school and became astute at tossing pizza rolls in the microwave and plopping down on the sofa watching MTV (when it still had music videos). We took shop, home ec, economics, and found our friends on weekends by the number of bikes tossed across the front lawn of someone’s house. We wouldn’t come home until the street lights came on.

Our computers were equipped with Oregon Trail and beastly dot matrix printers whose painful groans would rumble through the house. Atari and Nintendo were technological wonders. Game cartridges were ‘fixed’ by vigorously shaking them and blowing a hard puff of air into the cartridge’s bottom and the console to ‘stabilize connection.’ GenX marked the last generation of teenagers and the transition into screenagers.

Screenagers excel in technological advancements and grew up with mobile phones, better gaming systems, and the worldwide web--which blew our minds. The same blocks that we kicked around all of our lives transformed on a global level. With a little foreplay in the form of agonizing high-pitched screeching followed by the seductive “You Have Mail,” our entire world changed--then technology became ‘smart.’ No one could have foreseen the cost of smart technology on ‘the old ways.’

Technology became sophisticated in solving problems for us, even talking to us (looking at you, Alexa). The world shifted into overdrive, racing each other for a competitive edge. The US entered the race by shifting funds from ‘standard’ education to enhance technology and all of its conveniences. Our appliances can talk to each other without human intervention, and there is an app for nearly everything.

The tragic irony is the same internet providing us access to education, communication, and stunning pictures of food on social media, has left us unable to communicate effectively and critically think our way out of a digital box. Adulting skills have been sidelined because apps will bring you food, clothing, house cleaners, handyman services, or automatically balance your checkbook.

Navigating in-person relationships has dwindled to a disconnect of on-screen interaction and Tinder hookups. We know more people in more places but know less about them. What we know is a staged existence portrayed in perfect pictures on FaceBook. COVID pushed technology to new heights of experiencing on-screen relationships, meetings, education, dating, and some of the funniest Memes (pronunciation pending) I have ever seen.

We are unaware of the costs COVID will charge society, just as we were unaware adulting skills would suffer as technology advanced. Isn’t there room for both? Like most people, technology and I have a love/hate relationship. I love the convenience but feel it has robbed today’s screenagers from graduating high school prepared for life.

Generational wealth has primarily become an unattainable goal as students graduate from high school and begin the perpetual cycle of living paycheck to paycheck because their education did not include life skills. Life skills that include paying for college and saving for retirement.

Colleges have sustained ancient practices of overcharging with government support. Despite technology advancing and society capitalizing on those advancements--some affordable, credible online degrees do not receive the same prestige as on-campus degrees. The flawed system in place sets both high school and college graduates up for failure.

How a student is educated is of profound importance in preparing them for what greets them on the other side of the diploma. Not only are we failing to prepare these students for life, we are not providing the skills necessary to successfully excel in the business world or accumulate wealth.

Starting life after graduation and finding you are ill-prepared is a rude awakening. The discouragement is suffocating and often not recovered from. Students lack the knowledge to:

  • Pay their taxes

  • Create a budget

  • Cook meals & meal planning

  • Car maintenance

  • Homeownership

  • Starting a business

  • Understanding financials, including student loans

  • Negotiating their salary

  • Effectively communicating & handling conflict

  • Credit profiles

And so much more. This lack of knowledge cripples students’ ability and motivation to launch because they are buried in financial ruin before they start. A side-effect of inept education is a crippled economy.

Parents are crucial in relaying life skills to children, but many parents are victims of the same inept education their children received, or hesitant to talk to their children about their finances--a just concern.

The world has changed at an unprecedented pace in the last decade. I have peppered this book with things I learned along the way in hopes that experts, parents, teachers, employers, and communities use it to instigate change and thoughtful conversations in PTAs, teacher meetings, and educational forums.

I have attempted to provide insight and helpful hints to parents to help guide their children through many obstacles that come with paying for education. Anything less than delivering affordable, quality education for our children is doing them a great disservice. They will be running the world faster than we would like to think.

How comfortable are you with that?

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