“I wish that I had…” is a phrase that people often express when they live in regret. As people age, the life that they are living is often the result of actions that they took in their younger days. Most of us who reach our senior years can look back with hindsight at how different things could be. Now seniors are in the position to convey words of wisdom to the younger crowd, only to find that the younger crowd wants to do it on their own.
The place to acquire vital life lessons is in our educational system. The three top areas that we need to address starting in childhood are; how to accumulate a secure net worth, developing relationship skills, and learning the strategies for healthful living.
1. Net Worth
The average net worth among Americans reveals a shocking statistic. For 65-year-olds, the total net worth is $195,000 including the family home. Excluding the family home, the amount is $43,000. Now if you are thinking, there appears to be a lot of people who are very well off, these are in the minority. Ten percent of the population own 75% of the total wealth.
So why are so many people struggling by the time they reach retirement age? In the educational system, students learn about political correctness, math and science, but little about sound saving and investment strategies. While students usually do not have substantial spare change, they can learn the value of regular savings and the effects of compounding interest over time. One thing that we do have in our earlier years is time.
2. Relationship Health
Unless you live out in the bush somewhere, it’s evident that the breakdown of relationships is endemic in our society. Marital animus, divorce and children suffering psychological trauma, have a great impact on our community. Divorce also affects those involved financially with a reduction in net worth.
It’s obvious that many people who get married are mismatched. Sadly, this even applies to those over 50 because the divorce rate in this group has doubled in the last 30 years. It is common for people who tie the knot for the second or third time to re-create the same failed behaviours which lead to marital discord. So what is to be done?
There needs to be a requirement that before signing the marriage document, people need to take a short course and test, on how to make a relationship work. Even better, our school system needs to teach topics such as the role that differing values play in a relationship. People also need to be introduced to the hallmarks of relationships: trust, respect, communication and commitment.
3. Health Maintenance
Today we are living longer, and cure rates of various diseases such as cancer and heart disease are also at an all-time high. The problem is that we have more chronic illnesses than ever. They have been called the diseases of our advanced western lifestyle. Much of this is the result of eating highly processed foods, excessive sugar consumption and a lack of adequate exercise. Obesity rates are at record levels, and we know that there is a link between obesity and an increase in the number of cancers in our society.
We also know that years of poor lifestyle choices ultimately affects the body and so many people in the over 50 generation are suffering the effects of their earlier decisions. The diabetes epidemic is just one such example.
When I attended chiropractic college, we were taught an in-depth course in nutrition. However, there was little emphasis on the long-term effects of contemporary diets. We know a lot more today, and an intensive education about dietary habits needs to start in primary school as childhood obesity is widespread. Good health, especially good nutrition and regular exercise ideally need to be pursued throughout our lives. It doesn’t make sense to wait until we reach our 50’s and are starting to suffer the consequences of a poorly functioning body.
The adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, would apply to finances, relationships and health if they became part of the educational process.