This article is by editor Linda Vergon.

When Donna Freedman tackled the subject of teaching our children about money last week, GetAGrip challenged the premise that parents teach and children learn:

“All sounds pretty, teach them all this information and they will use it, right?
“I’m not advocating not teaching, but just don’t be surprised if they somehow seem to ‘forget’ much if not all of what they were taught and run up the credit card, take out a car loan, and do a host of things that freak your 40+ year old frugal self out.”

Donna responded that of course a lot of what we teach our kids “may or may not be used once they leave the house,” an exasperating fact that every parent has to come to grips with in some form or fashion. “The point of what I wrote is that you must offer the information no matter what.” She went on to describe “a new field of study called ‘emerging adulthood’ [that] indicates that some people simply don’t process the information until sometime in their 20s.”

I haven’t taken the opportunity to read up on emerging adulthood yet, but I see evidence of it all the time – just not necessarily from the standpoint of age. I’m well past my 20s, but I haven’t reached financial independence yet – so, heck, I consider myself to be an emerging adult too. At every stage of personal finance, there are things to learn and things to master – and there seems to be a personal calculus that governs when and how that all comes together for each individual. I want to understand that.

Take Caleb, the young man J.D. Roth encountered in Portland last May who was facing a $900 dental bill but had no means to pay for it. The conversation J.D. described of the young man reaching out for advice and then not accepting any of it was maddening, and it left me shaking my head (like everyone else, judging from the comments). He simply wasn’t ready to learn.

Kristin Wong, on the other hand, has been identifying and navigating all sorts of situations and attitudes that affect her finances for a number of years now, and she recently shared that she’s been moving into the third stage of personal finance. What makes her so ready to learn that she took on the job of moving through not one, but two stages of personal finance in the span of a few years?

Just yesterday, Honey Smith explained the personal calculus that governed her decision to buy a house. Some readers applauded her progress while others took issue with her pace (in the sense that taking on a mortgage would slow down her ability to reduce her debt).

When I read GetRichSlowly, I’m struck by how different each story is. And yet each story seems to resonate with a certain part of my own personal calculus in a way that changes me. In my experience, progress is made incrementally; but if it happens rapidly, it’s much more uncomfortable. The interesting part is that, with practice, I have actually become accustomed to making larger strides.

What stage of personal finance have you achieved, and what do you think governs your progress? How do you decide what to learn, when to learn it, and how fast to learn it?