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From Budgets to Debt Repayment: How the Lessons of Home Ec Helped Boomers

What do you think of when you hear “home economics”? Is it a classroom full of students mixing ingredients for a pound cake? A group huddled around a sewing machine learning to patch a pair of jeans? While the vast majority of today’s classrooms don’t look anything like this, the baby boomer generation grew up living these stereotypes. Sure, home economics taught young women (and sometimes young men) how to cook, sew and manage a household. It also taught them the tenets of basic personal finance. The lessons included how to budget for a household and how responsible budgets can make debt repayment easier down the road.

The baby boomer generation, using the cooking skills learned in home economics, also learned the important lesson of making healthy, inexpensive meals on a regular basis. As an article from Restaurant Central says, baby boomers eat out less often than younger generations. This can partially be assigned to the different curriculum priorities in today’s schools, where home economics have been bounced in favour of more theory-based learning. All this means more eating out and less cooking at home for young adults in 2015, a trend that has continued steadily since home ec has disappeared from our classrooms.

Today, as convenience often wins out over frugality, curriculum trends have shifted along with consumer trends. Mandatory home ec classes have all but disappeared in most schools across Canada. Without the life skills that home economics provide, many millennials had to enter the real world without an understanding of how responsible shopping and keeping a budget can help them avoid accumulating too much debt. Struggling with debt repayment early in life, when job opportunities are scarce and incomes are lower, is crippling – especially if it’s a type of debt that grows over time, like credit card debt.

Certain groups are of the opinion that the boomer generation entered the real world with less challenges than today’s millennials. Their job prospects were improved, housing markets were easier to enter, and perhaps most important of all, not as many of them were burdened with crushing student debt. As of 2014, the average student debt carried by Canadians is around $25,000. When young adults graduate with this amount of debt and are unable to find full-time work, it becomes impossible to make debt repayment in the short-term. When the focus turns to long-term, Canadians often have to turn to consolidation loans or personal bankruptcy.

The financial challenges that millennials are currently dealing with don’t have to exist for the next generation, though. Teaching today’s teenagers valuable life skills and basic financial literacy lessons can put them on the path to being self sufficient adults. Putting mandatory home economics courses back into our school curriculums needs to happen sooner rather than later, as the squeeze on young adults becomes more and more prominent with every passing year.

Do you think home economics should be mandatory in schools? Join the conversation on social media by using the hashtags #LetsTalkDebt and #BDOdebtrelief.



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