I never thought I would need to learn to read a brokerage statement. After all, I figured that once I had enough money to need to be handled, I would pay somebody to handle it for me. As for my clients, well, I was going to work for poor people. They don’t have investments. They don’t have mutual funds.

The thing about private practice is our clients run the gamut. We don’t have a whole lot of "job creators" who need the service of a solo practitioner who works 25 minutes outside of the city, in a lower-income area. But we have enough clients who had a bit of money (not usually more than $200k or so) and they keep it in investment accounts.

So this leads to the part where I need to learn about stocks, bonds, and dividend reinvestments. I am super happy that I took business organizations in law school, because the most important thing I learned there, that I never learned anywhere else, is how stocks work. (I am also super happy that I took Commerical Law, even though the banks totally don’t follow the rules regarding checks.)

My boss has assured me that I will get the hang of reading the brokerage statements and determining date-of-death values and while I will admit I’m getting better, it’s a landmine of things I don’t know, and never thought I would need to know. It turns out that while poverty is challenging and scary, having money is challenging and complicated.

But I’m not one to shy from a challenge, I tell myself, to make it seem more true. I will stick with it and ask questions and someday, maybe, I’ll understand it. But seriously, it is scary to me, that I, a well-educated person (because even when I’m not that smart, I remain a well-educated person), cannot read these things. A solution, I think, is a "life skills" class should be offered in high school in which you learn how to read a bank & brokerage statement, learn how a mortgage works, learn to prepare a tax return, and learn what happens when you sign up for a credit card with a $10,000 limit that you only pay the minimum balance on at the end of the month.


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