Pine Nuts: Flunking Personal Finance Class


Michigan is about to become the 14th state to mandate a high school personal finance course, congratulations. I only wish we had a personal finance class when I was in high school.

Left to my own devices, well, I poured every dollar I made lifeguarding into my ’55 Chevy, even to the point of driving to Mexico to have the seats tucked-rolled and pleated in Naugahyde. It cost a fortune, but oh, did it look boss.

Photo taken in 1993.

However, a small problem arose as we drove home through the hot Southern California desert. I started to smell something that caused my eyes to water. I discovered, as my olfactory nodes swelled to the size of peaches, that they had stuffed my beautiful new upholstery with horse manure, a thing one might never detect, except on a very hot day.

I sold that car on the coldest day of the year to a classmate of mine who was also in need of a personal finance course. The one thing I did take away from Mrs. Mann’s Home Economics class was, “Never spend more than one quarter of your income on housing.” That little morsal served me well over the years, but the days of spending only one quarter of your earnings on rent have gone missing while rents are $2,500 a month here at Tahoe, and double that in New York City if you can find a flat.

A while ago I picked up a couple girls who were hitchhiking up to the State Line for a night out. In the course of their conversation one of them asked the other, “Did you bring any money?”

            “No, did you?”


Those girls could have used a course in personal finance, and maybe one in sociology. My humble suggestion is this, drop Shakespeare for Twain, and drop algebra for personal finance. I have never used algebra, except to figure how fast I had to run to finish a marathon in under three hours. And I have never used Shakespeare, except to confess to myself on occasion, as Caliban once did: “What a thrice-double ass was I.”

The advice I got from my father, who was very good at managing money, was simply, “No, we cannot buy Buick taillights for your Chevy, Son; money does not grow on trees.”

Kids graduating from high school today have to educate themselves in cryptocurrencies, compound interest and payday loans, not to mention what the line is on the game of the week.

Back when I was a lifeguard at Tahoe, life was good. I had my ’55 Chevy, and a girlfriend who worked at Harrah’s and would share her generous take-home meals. That summer will never come again, not for me, not sadly for anybody. Life is so much more complicated today. So let us include personal finance as a corps to our high school curricula across this great land of ours, and furnish our graduates a more resourceful, successful and stress-free future…


Learn more about McAvoy Layne at


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