Finance Is The Language Of The Elite Only If People Don’t Learn It

I watched something on TikTok that made a good point. The premise is that Finance is the language of the elite. It sounds presumptuous and elitist, but it could be true! Have a watch or a listen and see if you agree.

Here's what he says:

Most people are financially illiterate. You know what the biggest issue is between the elite and people that make no money? Financial literacy. And it's a language.

Finance is a language of the elite, just like Latin used to be the language prior to the peasants being able to have access to read the Bible. They would have to go to the elite – the Popes, the Deacons of the Church, or whoever was in charge – in order to get what? In order to get the wisdom because they couldn't read it.

Nowadays, most people are financially illiterate and it's in that financial lack of illiteracy that people get f*cked!

Why do you need a lawyer? Because you don't know the law. Why do you need a tax attorney? Because you don't know tax. Yeah you don't need to know all of it, but if you don't know the basics, anybody can finesse you.

Finance Is A Hard Language To Understand

I agree that Finance is a language that is hard to understand well. I certainly don't want people to be finessed or scammed!

Maybe Finance is a language of the elite. However, it doesn't have to be because we can all read personal finance sites written by finance experts, subscribe to finance newsletters, and listen to finance podcasts.

If something is elite, like a university that doesn’t expand its class size to keep up with demand, most people won't be able to gain access. Elite universities purposefully keep their admissions rate low and tuition rates high, despite claiming they want to help people from all socioeconomic backgrounds, because they desire to stay exclusive.

However, anybody who is able to read and listen should be able to get a better understanding of Finance over time. Everything on Financial Samurai is free. Therefore, Finance is only the language of the elite if the majority don't have access to financial education.

Since most people do have access to financial education, Finance only becomes an elite language if most people don't bother to learn it!

The Language Of Finance Comes Easier Over Time

As a public school student with middle-class parents, I have never considered myself as part of the elite. My SAT scores were mediocre and I stopped math at Trigonometry / Math Analysis, one level before Calculus. With the number of rejections I've experienced, there's no way I will ever be considered elite.

However, my understanding of Finance got better after majoring in Economics and getting my MBA. Working in banking for 13 years and writing over 2,500 finance posts on Financial Samurai since 2009 further improved my financial knowledge.

Today, I have no problem talking to anybody about almost any financial topic. Therefore, I believe anybody with enough desire, time, and practice can also learn the language of Finance. Nobody gets fluent in a language over night.

I get finance, but I sometimes wrongly assume that everybody does too. As a result, I sometimes end up writing over people's heads, which is not beneficial.

Part of my realization came after I was reminded about how little savings many people have in retirement versus what they expect. After writing about the importance of savings for more than 14 years, I had expected to see a lot more financial progress by age in America. Alas, except for a small percentage, I haven't made much of a dent.

Maybe understanding the language of Finance is hard for most people. If so, I need to really work on making my content easier to understand.

An Example Of A Financial Term I Did Not Understand

Although I've invested in private commercial real estate since 2016, I'm not in the trenches sourcing the deals, lending money, and setting up terms.

That's why when I interviewed Ben Miller, CEO of Fundrise in an hour-long podcast, I got a little lost starting at the 52:37-minute mark when he was going through a lending example.

There was one term Ben mentioned I did not understand. Here's what he said when I asked him about why there's an opportunity to be a lender today.

“Nobody wants to perm loan out their loan yet. They want to wait.”

Huh? I immediately thought of folks getting a perm at a beauty salon when he said perm loan.

Then Ben went on to say,

“The borrowers, sponsors, real estate companies, are waiting for interest rates to fall before they put permanent financing on it. And when they do, they will have to raise more money. That's their thinking, and if they just kick the can, they think they are better off.”

The added context gave an idea of what a perm loan is. But I had to look up the exact definition anyway.

Definition Of A Perm Loan

A permanent loan is any loan with a longer-than-normal term, though it’s not actually permanent. These loans are usually taken out for commercial real estate through a bank, credit union, or life insurance company and amortized over 25 years. The perm loan is used to cover development costs, interim loans, construction loans, and financing expenses.

Constant Learning Is Involved In Finance

Without a decent understanding of finance, you may have gotten lost for 10-20 percent of the podcast episode with Ben Miller. But hopefully, you also looked up things you didn't understand and became more knowledgeable in the process.

Reading personal finance sites and listening to personal finance podcasts will inevitably help your financial literacy.

It's just like watching TV shows in another language. Watch long enough and you will gradually start to get the gist of what the characters are saying. For terms that agitate you the most, you'll look them up.

Put in the time and observe your financial literacy grow! And if finance doesn't interest you, then befriend or marry someone who loves finance.

Understanding Finance Is Also An Insurance Policy

Finally, one of the goals of learning the language of Finance is to feel financially secure. Once you feel financially secure, you feel calmer and more confident to take on the world.

Due to my financial literacy, I know that if I lose all my money, I can claw my way back. If I was financially illiterate, I would likely be much more conservative with my life decisions.

Due to the fear of not being able to recover financially, I may have decided to work at a job I disliked for the rest of my life. Instead, after 13 years in finance and getting an MBA, I took a leap of faith in 2012 to pursue new interests.

Financial literacy gave me the courage to leave. As a result, I decided to share the wisdom I garnered from getting a severance package in my book, How To Engineer Your Layoff. Now everybody has a guide to learn how to exit a job they dislike and do something new with money in their pocket.

Understanding The Language Of Finance Is Up To You

The longer I learn about Finance, the more I realize its importance. The more I also realize how little people know about wealth management, investing, real estate, alternative investments, derivatives, economics, and the pitfalls that come with putting capital at risk.

Even if you don't have an interest in learning about finance, you probably should, just like how you probably should eat more vegetables. The more you learn about finance, the easier it will get to learn new financial terms and concepts.

Or, you can do what most people do and not read any personal finance books, not subscribe to any personal finance newsletters, and not listen to any finance podcasts. Most folks wing it when it comes to their finances. Then they wonder why they aren't richer when they are older.

I'm confident that if you learn the “language of the elite,” you will become much wealthier than those who do not bother. Over time, you might accumulate generational wealth so that you no longer have to worry about money at all.

If you can't bother to learn another spoken language, like every European or Asian person I know, then at least learn the language of Finance! Getting smarter financially is a choice. Make it happen!

Reader Questions and Suggestions

Do you think Finance is a language of the elite? If not, why don't more people spend time learning Finance if so many people want to get rich and experience financial freedom? Why isn't more finance and personal finance taught in schools?

Listen and subscribe to The Financial Samurai podcast on Apple or Spotify. I interview experts in their respective fields and discuss some of the most interesting topics on this site. Please share, rate, and review!

Join 60,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter and posts via e-mail. You will learn the language of Finance if you do.

About The Author

21 thoughts on “Finance Is The Language Of The Elite Only If People Don’t Learn It”

  1. Robert Ruschak

    This is very true.

    The school system does not teach people financial literacy pumps out a nation of debt slaves.
    Get ahead in life by becoming rich , off grid, setup passive/active/portfolio income and live the American dream.

  2. It dawns on me that before I got an MBA, or an undergrad degree, or even finished high school, I became an Eagle Scout. That required a lot of merit badges (among other things).

    But here are 6 of them (among 139) that I seem to recall earning, and 7th that I don’t think I ever saw.

    1. Personal Management: Scouts learn fundamental personal management skills, such as saving money, investing, and time management.
    2. American Business: Scouts explore the free enterprise system, profits, labor relations, interest rates, banks, etc.
    3. American Labor: Scouts learn the importance of labor relations and workers’ rights by investigating subjects like working conditions and wages.
    4. Entrepreneurship: Scouts learn everything about starting their own business, from investing to promoting their products or services.
    5. Family Life 
    Scouts learn family values by conducting family meetings and doing service projects together.
    6. Law: Scouts gain insight into the history of law and different types of law.

    And a bonus one I really could have used:
    5. Scholarship: Scouts learn the importance of scholarship and the skills needed to succeed in school.

    These should all be in mandatory class in high school. Be a lot more value-added than the required state history class. Could also include things like: “How to shop for food and clothes when you have almost no money,” and “How to recognize and deal with problem landlords,” and “What to do if someone owes you money and won’t pay.” and so on.

  3. Becoming financially literate, enough for most people, takes about an hour a day for a month or two, depending on how fast you pick things up.

    Oddly, this is about the same time investment needed for most folks to learn how to juggle, and not too many of them ever actually do that, either.

    The information is all available on the web for free, no need to even buy anything. You want to learn how to save, how to invest, how the different retirement plans work (pre-tax, post-tax, and Roths), how real estate works (homes/rentals/REITs), how personal taxes works (to include capital gains), how to budget, insurance, money market and CD funds, Social Security, mutual funds (and managers), ETFs, stocks, pensions, disability, social and technology trends, etc. It sounds like a lot but generally digging into one area will lead into others; it might be good to take notes.

  4. I think there is some truth to this. The more you learn, the more likely you will take action to improve your personal finances. And you’ll learn by understanding the language.

    People that don’t bother learning are less likely to improve their finances in a significant way, or they may already be elite/rich to begin with.

    With YouTube shorts and tok-tok you can get bit-sized pieces of knowledge everyday.

  5. Hi Sam,

    I don’t think that basic financial literacy is hard to learn. Though, admittedly I have a finance degree and work in banking. So take that bias how you like. I’m not talking about most of what you write about on your site, but just the basics (i.e. budgeting, compounding interest, saving, etc.)

    In addition to those that are not aware or don’t have access to financial literacy, I think a good proportion of people don’t learn it (or act on what they know) because of the sacrifices they should make. People don’t want to sacrifice the now for a future gain. That is the hard part, doing what you know you should. People don’t want to be scared when they think about their finances or the choices they made, so they purposefully stay ignorant.

    1. Disagree on the ‘purposefully stay ignorant’ part. I do not think its a choice to stay ignorant, rather, it is what generations have passed down to you. It is not a coincidence that the wealthy stay wealthy, while others just grind and work till they cannot work any longer.

  6. They don’t teach you financial literacy in school for a reason. The reason being if even 5% of people paid attention and followed a financial literacy class, they would avoid the early pitfalls and not sign up for a credit card when they get to college. The first thing you see walking on campus are hoards of tents offering you a free ‘gift’ if you sign up for a credit card. When you are done with college, you are $20k in debt (if you are lucky) in credit cards and another $50-70k in student loans (Hypothetical). Now you got to go to work and you are already so far behind the 8 ball. By the time you get out of debt, you have lost at least 10+ years of investing time.
    They do this so that you can continue to work till you’re 65. If 5% of the people were financial literate at an early age and were able to retire early making scheduled investments, GDP would go down, less taxes would be collected and there would be less people in the workforce, causing a shortage of workers.

    YMMV will vary of course, different people have different situations.

  7. Many people claim finance should be taught in school, but is not. Sam, what books/websites would you recommend?

    1. Besides this one and Buy This Not That, worth reading the Personal MBA book for some solid fundamentals.

  8. Finance is not the language of the elite. It’s the language of those who care to put the time in to better their future and whom ultimately, have a much better chance of becoming the elite because of it. Who came first, the chicken or the egg?

    My wife and I started our first jobs out of college with $1,500 left in our bank account after paying 90% of my college costs. We are both from middle class families. 11 years later our family is in the top 1% of net worth for our state and my W2 income is also in the top 1% of our state. Our financial education over this period was reading financial blogs and listening to podcasts (including over 10 years of Financial Samurai) and my job education was on the job experience and self driven learning. We’re not elite, just passionate about our future and willing to learn and work for it.

    I’ve never understood why they don’t teach more about personal finance in schools. I will say, I was lucky I that I had an IT teacher who went above and beyond in high school, reaching me some basic financial concepts. I’ve never heard of another 17 year old being asked to write a paper on the finances of social security but that’s what I did. I do thank that teacher for reaching me many financial concept basics hat have helped me along the way. I was that person who started planning for retirement the first week I worked out if college and it started with that high school class.

    Unfortunately, I was laid off five weeks ago (along with half the company I was working at due to the aftermath of Silicon Valley Bank’s failure), but I also happily accepted a new job last week, gaining a 36% increase in total compensation when compared to the job I was laid off from. This was after leaving my previous employer of 10 years due to political challenges, for a compensation increase of 38% in January of this year. During this scary career year, what gave me the confidence and cushion to take a multiple bad situations and make them positive was the financial safety net/passive income we had created and the financial literacy I had developed.

    Unfortunately, many in my network tried to low ball me to get a good employment deal while I was laid off because they thought I was in a risky situation and needed a paycheck. They did not know that I could forgo working for the next 3-5 years before selling any assets and likely could have lasted much longer than that by liquidating those assets.

    This financial security and knowledge allowed helped me to maximize my compensation instead of being controlled by the need for cash flow, even while being laid off. Leverage is important and this was only possible due to not being dependent on a paycheck. I didn’t start as elite and do not consider myself to be so, but I negotiated like I was due to a financial safety net and knowledge.

    We also have an 18 month old now. I want him to grow up with a strong understanding of personal finance and do not believe schools will teach this at the level they need to. As such, we have two hard copies of “Buy This, Not That” as well as an audio book. One of the copies is for our family, the other is for those who will influence my son. They can borrow the book so they understand my expectations for how he will learn about personal finance. We’re also currently on vacation before I start my new role after being laid off. We are listening to the audio book version as we devise how our lives/personal finances will evolve after this tumultuous career year.

    Arm yourself with knowledge, never fail because you were unwilling to try and put in the effort, and don’t be flashy with your wealth. Saying something is for the elite is an excuse, not a reality, especially in personal finance during the Internet age.


    1. 10 years of reading Financial Samurai! I’m impressed. That’s some good longevity. Hopefully you find my Family Finance and Education articles more interesting now that you have a little one. Congrats!

      A 38% pay raise after getting laid off is sweet. Hope you also got a severance package? You are a good anecdote for a strong economy.

      Thanks for picking up a copies of BTNT. If you have a moment, I’d appreciate a review on Amazon. Thanks!

  9. Hi Sam. Great post and fully agree. Life is about making choices (to the extent that we can and yes bad things still happen) and learning Finance empowers us to make better choices. I have learned a lot by following your blog and a few select others over the years. Those who choose not to learn about Finance among other important life topics tend to blame everyone else but themselves. Thanks for helping all of us Sam.

  10. Great food for thought as always! My kids are in their mid-twenties and are completely uninterested in learning about personal finance and financial literacy. I expect they’ll earn fairly well during their lifetimes as both are highly educated in their chosen fields (having nothing to do with finance/economics/business), so I don’t think income will be a problem. However, I am very anxious about their lack of financial literacy and the possible negative, long term consequences: poor decision making, reduced wealth accumulation, and delayed financial freedom. As a mother, I do feel responsible for not placing greater importance on their financial education while they were growing up. However, my understanding of financial concepts was not that great either until more recently when I started digesting blogs such as this one. Additionally, it seems my kids were rarely exposed to financial education during their K-12 schooling or college. Therefore, I would love for them to read Financial Samurai posts and the many resources/links/books recommended. I’ll continue to creatively approach my reluctant, financial literacy learners. Wish me luck! Thank you.

  11. Hi Sam! This was a great article! I am older than you, as I have written before. My spouse and I did not learn about personal finance much from our parents. We had to learn about it on our own. I checked out a lot of books from the library. It is easier to learn today with the internet. I am still learning.

  12. Christine Minasian

    The first step is pretty simple which most don’t want to follow….live on less than you make. If you follow that, Financial Literacy comes easier. But yes, I agree, it should be taught in school. I taught a personal finance class to high school students. I could not believe the questions they would ask! We as parents need to teach it to our kids as well.

  13. It takes a lot of work to become literate about anything. I believe most people are too scared and don’t trust themselves, or don’t want to spend the time — they want someone to give them the knowledge like a quick fix pill to try to relieve symptoms, rather than working at a lifestyle change to fix the underlying cause. That was me. I still don’t know everything, not even close. It has sometimes been scary. But I have learned over 35+ years and although I made mistakes along the way, I am now very comfortable making my own investment decisions. This in turn made me comfortable retiring from a second career at 57 because I will never have to rely on/pay someone else to manage my money. I am now working PT for a CPA during tax season to try to learn more about taxes. One less (huge for me) thing to worry about! Love your articles Sam!

  14. Kristy Clark

    I do not think it is the language of the elite, especially with the internet. You can absolutely learn anything with the use of the internet. I also think it should be taught in schools.

    1. re: “You can absolutely learn anything with the use of the internet.”
      Of course you can learn anything for free on the internet. The point is, do people proactively search out financial information so they can educate themselves regarding financial matters?

      re: “I also think it should be taught in schools.”
      I completely agree! The problem is, it’s not taught in schools, and it most likely never will be.

      My two cents: Just like any other subject, Financial Literacy takes some amount of curiosity to be motivated to learn it. Then it takes discipline to apply what you’ve learned in ways that make your life better (i.e., less stressful since you’re not worrying about money all the time). It also takes a significant measure of willpower in order not to succumb to the ever present temptation of lifestyle inflation. There is much to be said in finding contentment with what you have already worked so hard to accumulate. How much is enough? Many people are never satisfied with what they have obtained and thus remain on the never ending hamster wheel of accumulation their entire life. There will always be more to get, until you can say, “Enough.”

      A lover of silver will never be satisfied with silver, nor a lover of wealth with income. This too is futility. – Ecclesiastes 5:10

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *