It’s slightly depressing to consider what it must be like to teach high school students about finance. Doing the guest lecture this morning confirmed my buried passion for teaching literature instead of any real life application (especially as the students’ ages descend). I looked at these kids, who spend unreal amounts of money with only terse retort in defense of their actions, with pity.

Mistake me not. I do not mean that these kids are the ones making poor decisions, no. It’s their parents who are to blame. You absolutely cannot absolve responsibility for financial pedagogy by speaking. What good is a class on personal finance when the students’ parents either shower them with money and tell them to do whatever or simply show no compassion by conveniently forgetting to lead by example.

We’re in such a state in America that we not only spend more than we make, but we save to the negative percentage. In other words, on average, Americans are literally living on debt. Multiple mortgages, car payments, credit card debt, personal loans. People are buying groceries on debt, for God’s sake!

Yes, I understand that sometimes people just “have to do what they have to do,” but something somewhere along the line has gone awry and must change. If not, these parents who live on and in debt are only going to perpetuate the cycle by continuing to pass along the bad habits.

I don’t think it will ever impress a 17 year old, or even a 21 year old for that matter, if I told them what a mere $50/month would do (almost $2 million if started at 17!). Dave Ramsey can repackage all he wants but without parental example the kids see no value. That $50 feels better when buying the latest video game, hairstyle, outfit, and so on.

I walked in there with the ability to make every one of those kids a millionaire, but they are unfortunately heirs to something else — habits.

For everyone reading this, it’s not too late. Yes, the number could have been greater had you started earlier, but you can start no sooner than today. Pay off your debt, free up your income, and begin building wealth. Not for the sake of hoarding, not for the sake of merely being rich, but for the sake of stewardship. Your money coupled with your brain are the only tools you have to make a change. And maybe one day someone else will walk into a classroom and simply confirm what those students are already poised to do.