I grew up in a family where we didn't talk about personal finance. I didn't know how much money my parents made or how much anything cost. I had part time jobs throughout high-school and into college and used it to buy things that didn't really matter, movies, CD's, gas for the car, etc. Part way through college I was estranged from my parents for a while and I was forced to figure things out on my own. I, like most Americans, began accumulating a mountain of debt. Starting with student loans, mortgage, new car payments and the dreaded credit card debt. I look back on it now and I really have no idea what we spent all of our money on, because there wasn't really a lot to show for it. I knew it was time for a change.
Starting in 2006, my wife and I got serious. I started tracking our spending every month and set a budget based on how much income we had. It took some time to get under control, but eventually we did. I then worked on getting rid of debt. Within a year and a half we had eliminated my student loan, one car loan and purchased a lot with which we planned to build a house someday. The amazing thing was, when looking back we didn't notice that we had greatly sacrificed in our lifestyle.
Today I just kick myself thinking about all the time I wasted, not talking about, thinking about or planning our families finances better. We built a new house, so yeah, we still have debt, but we are finding ways to save money and still do the things we enjoy.
I would encourage you to take a look at a great sight I found after I had figured a lot of this out the hard way. J.D. Roth at Get Rich Slowly writes a fantastic blog about personal finance, covering topics from debt reduction, emergency savings, retirement savings, cost reduction and income improvement. His common sense approach and average Joe style makes the concepts easy to understand and easy to implement. Personal finance isn't really as hard of a subject as many feel it is. The thing that has really hit home to me is to start, no matter how small the start is. The longer you wait the less impact you can make.
One of the most important things I hope to be able to teach my children is how to manage their personal finances as they get older. I plan to open up to my children exactly what our income and expenses are every month so they can see and understand what it takes. I plan to share all of the mistakes that I made and hope that they don't make the same ones. If they do make mistakes though, I hope that I can help them figure it out sooner than I did on my own.
I would encourage you to develop your own personal finance plan. Having a goal and working towards it, even if it means years of work, is well worth the effort. Having the peace of mind to be constantly aware of your personal financial situation and yet not worried about it all of the time is a place you will enjoy. It isn't as far away as you think either.