What does Financial Literacy have to do with Learning to Drive?


Road to Financial Literacy

I have a confession. Unlike most teens, I did not have a rite of passage of getting my driver’s license when I turned 16. No matter where you grew up, getting your drivers’ license was the symbol of freedom in our society.   It was a big deal. As we watched in Clueless, failing your drivers’ test was a setback in terms of growing up and in terms of your independence.

For the next 10 years, I denied the lack of a drivers’ license was limiting my independence.


What does this have to do with money?  If you are unsure or doubting your ability to learn to invest, this article is for you.

In my household, driving was seen as an incredibly dangerous endeavour that very few could master. This perception shaped my world as my older sister embarked on her driving journey. Being 2 years younger, I watched many weeks of my older sister stumbling out of the driver’s seat in tears; she was with her YD instructor and had made some minor traffic infraction during the lesson.

Her difficulties just solidified my perception that this was not something I’d be able to do.  When I turned 16, I didn’t even try to get my license.

Nowadays, I hear the same denials from many women.  Only not in terms of driving, but in gaining financial literacy.  They feel overwhelmed.  The terms are confusing.  They’ve seen other people lose money on the stock market. They are afraid of making a mistake. Women have been socialized to believe the same about investing that my family had about driving:  Financial literacy was a skill few can master. As a result, many women have the same response I did.  Give up before even trying.

My friends, professional women; lawyers, project managers, abdicate money management to others. One friend couldn’t make a contribution to her TFSA without checking with her father first. He managed her money because according to her, he was “better at it”.  Another friend had no idea if she and her husband had an emergency fund or how much was in it because he “handles these things”.  She rationalized that he was better at understanding all the numbers.

When I hear this, I feel flashbacks to conversations with my friends where I justified not learning to drive. Oh, I can take public transit – my city’s public transit was wonderfully run, or I live downtown so I can walk everywhere.

And you know what? I almost fooled myself. But I wasn’t counting that time I couldn’t go to IKEA to pick up a small piece of furniture. Or the time I couldn’t attend my friend’s wedding in cottage country because I couldn’t drive myself.

Without learning how to drive, I couldn’t confidently say I was independent. I argue the same for those who are not financially literate. They are not in the drivers’ seat when it comes to their money.

Why It’s Important

We are spending more & more time single.

My mom grew up in a generation that it was the norm to marry well before 30 and divorce was shameful.  Actually, by the time my mom was 30, she already had 2 toddlers. And like many women of that era, she let my dad handle all the investing while she was in charge of how much we spent at the grocery store. Today, women are delaying marriage, staying single or getting divorced. We are spending greater amounts of our lives outside of marriage.  We simply can’t employ the same model as our parents’ generation of letting the man take care of the finances.  Some of us will never marry, but we shouldn’t be disadvantaged when it comes to investing in our goals and retirements.

Increasingly, women are becoming higher breadwinners.

Women are completing both university and postgraduate degrees at a faster pace than male peers.  This increases the career opportunities available for women.  In the 1960s, the percentage of female breadwinners (where wives out-earned their husbands) hovered just under 10%, now, that percentage has jumped to 40%.  And where women are not out-earning their husbands, their salaries have increased dramatically.  Over half of management & professional positions are now held by women today.   We are climbing corporate ladders, but data shows that we are not climbing wealth ladders.  Women invest 40% less than men.  Not only is there still a wage gap, but there is an investing gap.

Women are going to control over 50% of all wealth.

Due to demographic changes that have long been in motion, during our lifetime, women will control the majority share of wealth. That dollar amounts are staggering: up to $22 Trillion by 2020 and another $28 Trillion due to inheritances.

Trillions.  12 zeros. That’s a million million.  Are you ready?  Yes, you.

Standing up for ourselves

Another reason financial literacy is becoming increasingly urgent is the #MeToo movement.  Events over the past 2 years highlight the difference between women who have financial resources and those who don’t.  While sexual harassment and assault knows no socio-economic boundaries, those who are financially secure were able to take action.  Hollywood actresses spoke out and accuse their abusers.  They refused projects that put them in the world of sexual harassers.  Often at the peril of continuing their career as threats of blacklisting swirled.  These women could afford to literally never work again.

But what about us; average women? I mean, I need my job. I can’t afford to never work again.  But by being financially literate and having a good grasp of my finances, I can make a decision to walk away from an abusive boss or toxic work environment.  By not taking control of our financial security, aren’t we leaving ourselves a bit … vulnerable?

Intergenerational Wealth

When I was in grade 6, my classmate said something about his parent’s “portfolio” and something about “stocks”.  I had no idea what he was talking about but I knew my parents didn’t have these things.  My school was filled with sons and daughters of doctors, lawyers and corporate executives.  My parents ran a Chinese restaurant.  There was no question whose parents were “better off”.

My parents were not in a position to help me build wealth beyond ensuring I got good grades at school. When we talk about the advantages that privileged kids have, some are tangible like access to private tutors or dance lessons.  Some are intangible: like a 6th grader knowing what a stock is.  I want to be in a position to give my next generation that kind of advantage.  To make sure that generationally, we are doing better and better.

Learn to Drive

At 26, I finally bought my first car and got my drivers’ license.  I finally learnt what all the terms and symbols meant.  There were times I felt overwhelmed as I was merging onto the highway.  I made miscalculations and mistakes while parking. My car got scratches, I ran curbs. These are the normal ups and downs of learning something new.  There was a time when driving was all new to us. Perhaps financial literacy is new to us now, but we have proof we can learn the terms, conquer overwhelm and recover from mistakes.

Imagine feeling confident that you know exactly where you are and where you are going with your money. I imagine it as that same exhilaration feeling of independence on our first solo drive.  So it’s time to get in the drivers’ seat of our finances and start driving.


This article originally appeared on Th Ace Class.

1 thought on “What does Financial Literacy have to do with Learning to Drive?”

  1. Pingback: Here are the 6 Money Myths Holding You Back - and How To Debunk Them - SundayBrunchCafe

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