Mark Cuban, Ray Dalio: Smart early moves to build wealth and avoid debt

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It is no secret that Americans need to be taught financial literacy while they are young. Financial education has the ability to change people’s lives, but too often people receive inadequate education or no education at all.

April is Financial Literacy Month and CNBC Invest in You is featuring weekly lessons from highly regarded business figures on building a better relationship with money, which Ariel Investments’ Mellody Hobson recently noted is the longest relationship you will have in your adult life.

Mark Cuban: Invest in understanding finance
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Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire investor Mark Cuban wants people to avoid using credit cards. It is his first piece of financial advice: stop using them, and it is nothing new from the “Shark Tank” investor who has in the past lamented his poor management of credit cards in his younger years.

Credit card debt increased during the coronavirus crisis as 51 million people added to their balances. Credit cards are an expensive way to borrow, with the average interest rate at 15.99%.

While it sounds obvious, Cuban also warns against spending more than you earn. Undisciplined spending with a credit card can lead to high-interest debt.

And he said people should invest in their understanding of finance. “If you don’t understand finance it is awful hard to know what you are doing.”

Ray Dalio: Get hooked on investing
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Ray Dalio bought his first stock for under $5 with money he earned from caddying. Unsurprisingly, at least based on what we now know about his success, Dalio was able to triple his investment. Despite not having a lot of money to invest, nor a sophisticated understanding of markets, Dalio invested in shares of a company worth less than $5.

From that point on Dalio , who has built the world’s largest hedge fund at Bridgewater Associates, was “hooked” on investing.

Dalio’s early start in investing helped him learn. His suspicion was that the stock market would offer higher returns over time and he was correct. The S&P 500 has historically returned around 6% per year.

Nathalie Molina Nino: We have to shift our education system
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During the 1960s, America experienced a devastating loss. Their arch rivals, the Soviet Union beat them into space with the Soviet’s Sputnik program.

Determined to pass their competitors, America began to realize it would need to unleash its full capacity, which included overhauling the education system. Students would be taught about science and technology just like Soviet children.

Nathalie Molina Nino, the CEO of O2, a telecommunications company, says America needs to shift the curriculum again to fight the wealth and income gap. “This country today is facing a wealth and income gap, unlike anything we have seen in almost a century.”

Only 21 states require personal finance coursework to graduate high school, with just a handful mandating a stand-alone class, according to the Council for Economic Education

Stacey Cunningham: The American dream is a shared dream
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The American dream is a story of shared success, according to NYSE President Stacey Cunningham.

“Financial literacy is such an important part of that so investors know how to take advantage of opportunities that are out there for them.”

Whether it is preparing for retirement or paying down debt, being financially literate allows people to take calculated risks that can lead to success.

Jay Clayton: Educate yourself now to avoid bad decisions later
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Former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission Jay Clayton understands how life-changing education on investing and personal finance can be.

“In modern society, if you are not educated about credit, savings and investment you will not make good decisions.”

Bad financial decisions, just like good financial decisions, can compound, making it harder to achieve financial success. One way to avoid making the wrong decisions, according to Clayton, is to educate yourself: “The earlier you’re educated the better your decisions the better your outcomes.”

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

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