Why It Could Have Been a Great Idea To Learn About Money At School?
“I'm glad I learned about parallelograms instead of how to do taxes. It's really come in handy this parallelogram season.”
Aah, school days. Passing notes to your friends, swapping packed lunches, learning about how the bank of England sets interest rates and what it means for your cash ISA… err, hold on a sec. Oh yeah, that was happening in the alternative universe where schools actually educate young people about finance.
How would your life be different if, alongside maths, English, history and science you had learned a bit about money? You might have found it boring at the time, but surely you’d have a bit more confidence talking about it now, and a more solid foundation of basic knowledge on which to build as an adult?
Most of us stayed in the dark about personal finance until we left home to go to university. Then we were suddenly given a lump of cash to live on. Naturally, we spent it all on beer, hair dye and grim coach trips to Amsterdam. Naturally, we then ran out of money half way through our first year and had to live off own-brand baked beans until the end of term, whereupon we’d go running back to our parents with a bag full of laundry and an empty stomach. Sure, those were all learning experiences, and to be honest, it all seemed like a bit of an adventure at the time.
What’s the problem?
Fast forward ten or twenty years, and running home to mum isn’t an option. Nor is living on baked beans. So many of the ills of modern society have to do with debt and consumerism: if only we had been taught how to navigate simple things like saving and borrowing when we were young.
Over the last decade, people have been putting pressure on the government to start teaching finance in schools. In 2014 the lobbying paid off, and a policy was introduced to start incorporating some money management skills in to the national curriculum. So the intention is there. But unfortunately, with all the pressures already on over-stretched teaching staff, this general edict to “like, y’know, teach more money and stuff” has not been very effective.
Why isn’t it working?
First, because it’s not clear which area of the curriculum this topic should be taught within. Maths? PSHE? Secondly, there’s a suspicion that teachers themselves aren’t very confident with money matters, so don’t feel equipped to inspire their charges with clear, helpful financial advice. And thirdly, and perhaps most insidiously, there’s still that general taboo around the subject that makes money seem at best irrelevant and at worst a dirty word.
What can we do?
Experts believe that the best way to teach kids about money is to bring in an inspiring expert to do a workshop or give a talk at their school. Well imagine if some funky-ass woman with cool trainers came bouncing in to school and asked – “Who wants to be rich?” You’d be looking at a sea of raised hands and excite young faces. Now imagine her saying “I’m going to tell you how to achieve that. We’re going to be talking a tiny bit about maths and a lot about shopping. I’ll even tell you some secrets about how big companies trick you into giving them your money. Who’s with me?”
It could be as simple as that, getting kids talking sense about money. So if you or anyone you know might have time to share some of your Vestpod-y knowledge about budgeting, long term goals and the basics of different bank accounts, why not offer your local school an hour of your time? You don’t have to be a billionaire or a CEO. We bet they’ll be interested…
If you’re not in a position to get involved yourself, but have kids at school, why not mention to their teachers that money is something you want to see on the curriculum. Because as important as the other subjects are, they are geared towards the old ethos of “getting in to uni and getting a job and then you’ll be financially secure”. But we all know that life isn’t like that any more. Jobs and money are volatile these days, and if our school really want to prepare our kids for the future, they need to start talking about pensions and emergency funds. Because it’s just a little bit more relevant than parallelograms.
We really like MyBnk - a charity who deliver financial education and enterprise directly to 7-25 year olds in schools and youth organisations - 200,000 young people learning about money and business, doing it for real. Check it out!