Financial Literacy 2.0: 6 Modern-Day Upgrades to Classic Money Lessons


ThinkstockPhotos-490265881It may not be Thursday, but let’s talk throwbacks.

You know, like your ’80s perm, pet Tamagotchi … and your checkbook?

That’s right—even old money management mainstays, like scribbling your signature on a check before handing it to the cashier, have evolved over the years.

Be honest: When was the last time you wrote a check for anything but rent?

In honor of Financial Literacy Month, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to see how some of the best money lessons of yesteryear have gotten a bit of an update for today’s times.

But before we get started, a word to the wise: Whether your money style is more old school or new school, being financially savvy never goes out of style.

Classic Lesson #1: Balance Your Checkbook

That Was Then … Way back when, diligent money managers wouldn’t dare skip their weekly checkbook-balancing date.

The value of this crucial to-do was two-fold: Not only was it the only way to know how much money you’d shelled out, but it also helped prevent mistakes. Thanks to the time delays between writing a check and the recipient depositing it, balancing your checkbook helps you determine how much money you really have available to spend.

But the system is laborious, to say the least. Payments need to be recorded and subtracted on your paper ledger at the time of purchase, lest you forget about a transaction and make a costly miscalculation.

This Is Now … If you’re among the 93% of mobile banking users who lean on technology to review your accounts and recent transactions, you’re fully aware that checkbook balancing went out of style long ago.

It was a transition that needed to happen in order to bring our personal finances up to pace with the rest of daily life, says Dan Geller, Ph.D., a behavioral finance expert and author of “Money Anxiety.”

“The modus operandi of the ‘new schoolers’ is mobility, interactivity and speed,” Geller says. “They are accustomed to being in touch and informed at any time and from anywhere—and they expect the same from their banking relations.”

That said, mobile banking apps and other budgeting tools that link to your checking, savings, and credit card accounts haven’t replaced the fundamental reason why people once pored over their checkbooks—apps just serve up the information in a simpler, real-time way.

So take a few minutes every day to scroll through your app and make sure you recognize every charge on your accounts, so you can keep your budget on track.

RELATED: The One-Number Strategy: A New Approach to Budgeting

  • Kelly

    All of the “classic” lessons should still be followed, a lot of people haven’t even mastered them. I take issue with the first one, you should always keep a register of your own accounting. Always get a receipt and balance your own account. Banks and merchants make mistakes all the time and you have nothing to stand on unless you have a receipt. I still keep a register even though I don’t write checks, I don’t want the bank to tell me how much money I have, I need to keep track of it myself. It also helps me stay accountable and on track.

  • Melanie

    Balancing a check book the old-fashioned way is still a good idea, as anyone who has run into overdraft fees because of slow-clearing (and slow-to-appear-online) transactions can attest, or anyone who still has to pay for certain things, like rent, with actual checks.

  • Lisa

    I totally disagree with the idea of not keeping a register and balancing your checking account. Mistakes are made and it is an easier and quicker fix if you can track what happened. Also in the case of a tax audit (especially for business operations) a reconciled bank account will probably be requested.

  • RH1

    Auto pay is not a good idea at all. for the same reason tracking your own purchases with a register or quickbooks or excel is better than relying on the bank not to make mistakes with your money. Personally, I’ve had student loan servicing co. “accidentally” take out 2 mo.s payments or if I have an issue the money is already taken out of my account and as anyone knows the process for submitting payment is super easy. The process for reimbursement takes so long that these companies count on the client forgetting one is even due or do not care to speed up the process for the client convenience. Electronic payment is great just auto pay is all for the benefit of the company not the consumer.