I love this month because, well, as someone who makes a living by writing, podcasting and speaking about money, I don’t think enough can be said about this subject.
While bringing more attention to our relationship with money is an important part of understanding our finances, financial literacy isn’t a magic solution to some of the widespread issues we face.
By most commonly accepted measures, the economy is doing gangbusters. At a national level, the deficit is lower and the reported unemployment rate is at the lowest it’s been in decades. While we all hate the impact inflation has on our pocketbooks, it’s also a sign of an economy that’s heating up.
Here’s the thing: The national economy is not your personal economy. Plus, no amount of financial literacy on the personal level can make up for the fact that, in our state, many of our elected officials have no interest in policies that would actually invest in our communities and support hard-working Idahoans. They’d rather underfund education and infrastructure for decades, call it a surplus and then give tax breaks to their cronies.
According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, a four-person household with two adults working 40 hours per week the household could manage a living if both made $22.82 per hour or $43,305.60 per year. PayScale.com says the average hourly rate in Idaho Falls is $17.36 per hour or $36,108.80 per year.
Zumper reports that rent in Idaho Falls increased 15% since last year, and Zillow reports that the median price of buying a home increased 28.8% in the last year. That doesn’t even include what this does to property tax rates for seniors on fixed incomes.
You can’t financial literacy yourself out of these numbers. And yet our Legislature spent more time this session baselessly attacking librarians and teachers than addressing our affordable housing issue — something we’ve been begging them to do since 2016 when the state Legislature passed a terrible property tax policy.
When cities tried to step in and help, the Legislature passed laws to prevent our municipal leaders from creating reasonable policies. Instead, they say, “Get a better job.” But how do you do that when the same politicians also castigate you for getting student loans to pay college costs that have increased 179.2% in the last 20 years?
“What about a trade?” There’s a nationwide shortage of trade instructors because they get more money outside of teaching.
Unfortunately, mouthing empty platitudes about financial literacy and suggesting unrealistic “solutions” doesn’t actually help your personal economy.
We need real leaders at the Statehouse who are ready to invest in Idaho and its people, rather than grandstanding on irrelevant culture war issues.
Financial literacy is important, yes. But the research out there suggests that it’s not enough. We also need family-supporting policies surrounding child care, education, leave and community resources to actually help most Idahoans improve their personal economies.
Miranda Marquit, Master of Business Administration, is a nationally recognized financial expert, writer, consultant and podcaster. She is the state committeewoman for the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee and a candidate for state Legislature.