Completely by chance, I found out a friend from high school worked with my 5th grade mentor, Mr. Brownlee.
Let me first explain how I got to know Mr. Brownlee. A few students from each of the 5th grade classes at my elementary were selected to be a part of a leadership group that everyone simply called “Mr. Brownlee’s Group.”
Each month, we met Mr. Brownlee in our school library to talk about a wide variety of different topics. He always brought a special guest so we could learn from people from all walks of life.
I remember one time our guest was a woman who worked at a dialysis clinic. She told us details about her job and showed us an example of the filter that removed waste products from the blood of people whose kidneys no longer functioned.
By inviting the dialysis clinic lady to speak to us, he brought the topic to life and he did that with so many topics!
One day, Mr. Brownlee, who worked as an accountant, gave us a special project to do at home. He gave us each a sheet of ledger paper and told us to work with a parent to create our family budget.
I remember sitting down with my father and learning about all of the expense categories related to a household. Things like mortgages, utilities, transportation, food, clothing, entertainment, etc. He told me how much our family spent on groceries each week and we multiplied it times four to get the monthly cost and multiplied that by 12 to get the total amount we spent on food in a year. I can’t remember the exact number but I was shocked by how much it was!
For each category we totaled up, I was equally shocked. Seeing the numbers written down in front of me on paper made me realize that running a household is expensive and that children are expensive! It also made me much more appreciative of my parents and how hard they worked to provide for our family.
I consider that project to be my very first lesson in personal finance, and I’ve never forgotten it.
It shaped me. I knew I needed a college education so I wouldn’t struggle financially in adulthood, and I made the decision growing up that I would not have children until I was financially ready. That meant I took personal responsibility and all precautions necessary against any unplanned pregnancies.
I’m so grateful to Mr. Brownlee for opening my eyes to the realities of the world because it’s as they say, knowledge is power. For me, there is a clear link between that budgeting exercise and the financially responsible adult I’ve become.
I wrote Mr. Brownlee a heartfelt thank you letter two pages long for being my 5th grade mentor. I told him how he changed my life for the better, and how I’ve never forgotten him or my first lesson in personal finance.
Is there someone, no matter how long ago, who changed your life for the better? What impact could you have on their life now if you took the time to call or write a letter to say “Thank You”?
I’m sure it would mean the world to them if you took the time to do it.
Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. – Benjamin Franklin