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 Commentary: Wants Vs Needs – The Cornerstone of Financial Literacy

Wants vs. Needs – The Cornerstone of Financial Literacy

By Hannah McMunn

If we are fortunate, “wants” dominate our lives as kids – because our needs are taken care of for us by our parents or guardians.

“Wants” have deep emotional roots for us. We want the latest game that our friends have or we feel left out; we want the name-brand jeans the popular kids have because we want to be popular too; we want the phone that our wealthy friend has because we want to portray that image also. We are just beginning to develop social skills and relationships, which too often evolve around the peer pressure of “wants”.

From earliest childhood, we are bombarded constantly by sophisticated advertising and marketing campaigns designed to make us “want”, “want”, “want”. Quite literally, we are trained from birth to gratify our “wants”.

Our parents and guardians reinforce this and set examples for us by pursuing their own “wants”. Financial institutions try to lure us into setting up savings accounts by promising us toys and movie tickets after we have made a few deposits; they are inducing us to save because we “want” the toys, not because we understand the need to save.

In a world entirely focused on “wants”, how are kids like me ever to learn the importance of needs and how to make judicious decisions about “wants”. To help my generation prepare for the challenges that lie ahead, we need less emphasis on “wants”, and – if we knew better – would want more emphasis on “needs”

Learning to distinguish between wants and needs is one of the most critical lessons we need to learn in life; and it is the cornerstone of our financial literacy. Parents/guardians and financial institutions need to help convey that education, because marketers certainly will not.

*Hannah was 16 when this commentary was written during the spring of 2011.
© 2011, All rights reserved.

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Brief Abstract

Commentary: Wants vs. Needs – The Cornerstone of Financial Literacy, by Hannah McMunn (age 16), describes the peer and other social pressures which motivate kids to “want”. If kids are fortunate, all their needs are provided by their parents or guardians, leaving them the luxury to focus on wants. Even financial institutions lure kids to establish savings accounts by enticing them with wants. To distinguish between needs and wants, and to set the right priorities are cornerstones of financial literacy; and both parents/guardians and financial institutions need to help convey that education, because marketers certainly will not. (This commentary is provided courtesy of

Reuse Guidelines

This commentary may be reused freely for educational purposes and may even be reprinted in other print publications (e.g., credit union newsletters) to address the importance of learning the difference between “needs” and “wants”, and making informed decisions concerning them. This commentary may not be sold or included in a publication that is to be sold. This commentary may not be loaded on other websites, but the abstract may be used and/or the articles may be summarized on other websites. In all cases, the author and the website must be credited with authorship, and links should be provided back to the website. For other uses of this article, please contact

Other “Free Use” Articles on Roth IRAs for Kids

For additional articles on Roth IRAs for Kids, which may be reused according to the “Guidelines” noted above, please see Articles by Hannah on Roth IRAs -- for Free Reuse Elsewhere.

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