My Mistake | Learning From The Financial Mishaps Of A Math Teacher (4 min read)

By Megan Cohen - Harvard-Westlake School - NextGenVest Global Business Ambassador - Los Angeles, CA

Everyone can learn from another person’s mistake, so why not learn from our teachers? I interviewed my math teacher about his biggest financial mishaps and the lessons he has learned from them.

A (Current) Role Model

Kanwal Kochar, my mathematics teacher at Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City, California is very cautious about the amount of money he spends and where he spends it. Like everyone should, Kochar understands the importance of money, but he learned the hard way.

Golf Equipment > Saving? 

In his youth, Kochar was not interested in saving. He is a longtime golf fan and would spend most of his income as a teenager on golf equipment and accessories. Overspending on a favorite sport is not unusual behavior for a young person. According to a Rand Youth Poll, 62% of teenagers save only on a short-term basis for items they acknowledge are unnecessary. Kochar wants students now to learn from his mistakes. “Students are good with day-to-day spending but don’t think about long-term consequences,” Kochar explained. Kochar’s own daughter, a senior in college, is a perfect example of this. He’s discovered she is extremely careful with spending her own money, but will not hesitate to ask her father for money, especially when it comes to travel.

How Research Can Reduce Financial Mistakes 

With a guilty grin, Kochar admitted to having not made enough long-term investments in his youth. “Before coming to Harvard-Westlake, retirement funds weren’t even on my radar,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about my future, and I wasn’t making long-term decisions.” According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, the most worrisome categories of personal finance are insufficient emergency savings and retiring with too little money. He also confided that he wasted money by not doing his due diligence for a major expense. “We were remodeling our house and we just didn’t research thoroughly,” he explained. “They didn’t do a good job, so a lot of money was wasted.”

Maturing In Financial Literacy

According to Kochar, “A large part of financial literacy comes with age and awareness.” Only time and new life experiences can help one become more exposed to the consequences of spending unwisely and not saving. For example, Kochar said that as soon as he got married he became more careful about budgeting and spending in general. When he became a father, he grew even more conscious of his finances as he began to save for his daughter’s future.

Taking Risks With Money to Pursue Your Passion

“I don’t think we have enough people willing to take risks in entrepreneurship,” Kochar opined. “If you have an idea, pursue it." An independent study conducted by the Kauffman Foundation corroborated this opinion. The survey found that 54% of millennials (18-34 year olds) would like to start their own business, however, only 11% of those young people plan on actually doing so.As the interview came to an end, my math teacher made sure I know the importance of finishing high school and getting a good education. After all, education is the foundation for later success. He explained that every dollar counts and even 1% of a person’s income makes a big difference. Don’t be blinded by the short-term; instead, think about long-term investments and the consequences of unnecessary spending.

Follow Megan's NGV chapter on Instagram at @ngvharvardwestlake.

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