Personal Finance

Lessons from a millionaire teacher

My apology to all of the teachers who have been in my life over the years. My wife is a retired teacher and there have been many teachers in our family and circle of friends.

Our school system does a poor job of teaching children about money – spending it, managing debt, using consumer products such as bank accounts, lines of credit and mortgages, budgeting, insurance, financial planning and retirement planning – that kind of thing.

Related article: It’s important to teach kids about money

In his wonderful book, The Millionaire Teacher, Andrew Hallam lays out nine simple rules about money that you should have learned in school – but didn’t, because they don’t do that kind of thing.

Not only do our schools fail at teaching about money and finance but money is a taboo subject in most families. It’s no wonder that we raise young adults who are financially inept.

Did your parents tell you how they saved for and bought their house? Did they tell you how they manage spending and debt? Did they teach you good money values?

It’s unlikely that they discussed these things in front of you. Taboo, right!

As Hallam writes, “Without a sound financial education, students can graduate from top universities with starry academic titles, but with little more financial knowledge that an eighth grader.”

People need to take control of their financial lives otherwise they risk developing the same bad habits that most people have. We spend more than we make, build big debt, put our families at risk with inadequate insurance and have woeful preparations for retirement and for the education of our children.

Related article: Building good financial habits

Author Andrew Hallam didn’t come from money. He became a multi-millionaire on a teacher’s salary. If he can do that, anyone can. I’ve always felt that it’s not what you earn that determines your financial success but what you do with what you have.

Hallam belonged to an investment club whose returns often beat the stock-market indices. That – plus managing his money well – enabled him to build his large portfolio and high net worth.

Millionaire Teacher is interesting and humorous. Hallam is a story teller and he uses those stories to present his nine rules. His book doesn’t overwhelm you with facts – only enough to reinforce his rules.

Rule 1, for example, is one that most investment books ignore. The most important factor in determining your financial success is not, as most people believe, the investments you choose or your rates of return, but your personal savings rate. The road to riches, he writes, is simple and mundane: live within your means, avoid the pitfalls of easy credit and overconsumption, invest your surplus and build your wealth.

Related article: Principles of Saving Money

Millionaire Teacher is a guide to understanding the wealthy, how they think, how they act. It reminds me of The Millionaire Next Door. In fact, Millionaire Next Door authors say that most millionaires live modest lives, with nice, average cars in the driveway. They live well but don’t show it. That’s how they became millionaires.

These average millionaires follow a basic receipt of, as Hallam effectively puts it, living “within your means,” which is simple, straight-forward concept that many of us have failed to adopt.

For the rest of Hallam’s nine rules you should read this outstanding book.

Related article: Another review of the Millionaire Teacher


  1. EY D

    Hi Wayne,
    My apologies to you, but what you said about the school system not teaching about finances is the typical cop-out perception of the general public. This idea that the school system has failed once again to teach an important concept is another form of teacher bashing under the guise that you’re married to a retired teacher and have teacher friends–therefore your comments must have merit. If it was up to the school system (aka teachers) to decide what we want to teach, I’d be teaching that the theory of evolution is flawed and that there is a God (my beliefs). However, we teachers have to follow the curriculum in the public system and while we have some autonomy, we must follow the curriculum closely. My point is that it’s the ministry of education (politicians) that mandates the curriculum and just as teachers are tasked with teaching sex ed, manners, stranger safety, healthful eating and daily physical exercise, etc., etc.,as well as act as counselors and surrogate parents, and now you’re suggesting that it’s the teachers’ fault that we’re not teaching basic finances. Where are the parents in all this? It is the teachers’ jobs now to shoulder all the responsibilities that parents no longer have time for, and we still get blamed for the lack of fiscal responsibility that grown adults show. You’d be more accurate to say that the curriculum needs to change. Please stop falling into the trap of blaming teachers for the lack of parental responsibility which is becoming a rampant problem in this day and age.

    • Claude Mayrand

      EY D,

      Most parents are not teachers. Most university graduates are more educated than their parents.

      Also parents, like me, had an RHOSP to buy my first house. But that doesn’t exist any more. But recently TFSAs were introduced.

      Having financial education as a component of simple math (using money to explain interest for instance), high school and university programs for MERs, fund rebalancing, rule of 72, etc.

      Income tax should be a topic when developing a savings, investment and retirement plan.

      I don’t think Wayne was blaming teachers. But our school programs and institutions show kids that pop and chips is a suitable meal, university graduates earn degrees that don’t get them jobs.

      Parents are definitely part of the financial education of their kids… But most don’t know or understand – they were never shown – how to manage their own money effectively.

      You briefly mentioned religion; remember “money is the root of all evil”? That message taints money and those who value it with an extremely negative image.

      • EY D

        Let me correct you Claude–it’s “the love of money is the root of all evil.” The love of money is the reason why so many crimes are committed. If you believe that “money” is the root of all evil, you are very misguided. And my correction of Wayne was that it’s the Curriculum that needs to change, and you confirmed my point. Don’t you think that many teachers have money problems too? They’re no different from “most parents” and wouldn’t know where to begin to teach about money management, even though there are ones who do try. But my point again is that you cannot blame teachers who are following the curriculum, and the public loves to blame teachers for everything. We need a properly developed curriculum with supporting textbooks, resources, and the ministry of education to implement it. So go directly to the source to demand that all our students learn about money management.

        • H Boss

          This is what it said in the article… “Our school system does a poor job of teaching children about money “. He is NOT blaming the teachers, but the system.

  2. Heather

    i have 2 children who went through the public school system… has graduated from University and is a nurse, the other is in 4th yr of Business. Both of them have lamented that the Ministry of Education insists on teaching them calculus when they would have preferred useful financial math. Neither one has used Calculus in either University or their work. They are both financially very astute, but that is because money management was a common topic of conversation in our home. i believe our educational system should teach higher level maths to those students who plan on a career in engineering or actuarial fields and teach the rest of the students how mortgage interest works, how to create a budget, etc.

  3. EY D

    I agree, Heather. My son is studying at U of Waterloo and even though he was the top student in his high school in BC, he said that he did not learn anything that helped him with his courses. In fact, students from other countries had been taught some concepts that he only knew existed when he took his first year courses. We as parents are very disappointed with what our kids are learning or not learning in the public school system. Even with the changes the BC government is implementing, I am doubtful that it’s going to make a difference to students who are going into the STEM studies.

  4. Wayne Rothe

    I wasn’t criticizing teachers, but the system. I used to go in and guest teach CALM (career and life management) in a local high school for a client of mine who taught the class. I don’t think I was wrong. I think the education system should and can do a much better job of teaching about money and finance. They barely scratch the surface of this is a very important topic. I’d rather children learn about bank accounts, budgeting and investing basics than certain math skills that they’ll never use.

  5. Michael

    Hi Wayne,

    Nice post! The educational system is broke in this regard.

    I have a master’s degree in electrical engineering and started my career with a good salary.

    However, I didn’t have a clue about personal finance, budgeting, and living within my means. Long story short, I had to learn things the hard way.

    The good news is I dug myself out of debt and eventually became successful as a DIY dude with regards to managing my finances.


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