Money Monday: Should Personal Finance Be Taught In Schools?

When did you first start learning about money? Chances are it was the first time that you lost a tooth and put it under your pillow, in exchange for a shiny 50p (back when they used to be huge). That 50p would then probably go on a bag of 1p sweets and a couple of Freddos which, unfortunately, are probably about 50p each these days!

I certainly didn’t learn much about money in school though and it was mainly thanks to my parents efforts that I picked my first current account. I remember that particular account included a sponsorship of a rare breed of monkey. You received colouring pencils and a certificate through the post – and that was me hooked on personal finance since then.

Fast forward many years later, Im working in Finance and still very much hooked on personal finance and moneysaving. Still a fan of cute monkeys. I’m an expert on getting the best deal for myself – switching bank accounts for the highest savings rates, finding the best credit card to reward spending, I’ve even changed my current account a few times (see Money Monday: You & Your Current Account 4eva?, where I discuss the longest relationship I’ve ever been in – with my current account)

I’m fortunate enough to have used my love of numbers to have saved a decent amount and secured myself a place on the London property ladder. However I understand that not alllllll of us are of the mathematical persuasion and not all of us are interested in personal finance – not even one bit right?

I also credit a huge part of my passion to my parents that managed to make ‘going to the bank’ a fun weekend treat for their kid. Though in this day and age, it’s all going online – goodbye to the days of banks like these!

This is why I’m a huge supporter of getting personal finance fully embedded into the National Curriculum. Yes it HAS been on there since 2014 but only as part of Citizenship. Remember Citizenship?! I was in school when that was introduced and I don’t know whether attitudes have changed now, but it was definitely the one (of the many) classes that no one took seriously.

Saying that, I did some research into the current syllabus and it’s definitely moved on to something a little bit more practical.

Year 7-9 students can learn about…. the functions and uses of money, the importance and practice of budgeting, and managing risk. 

I’m not sure what risk exactly that they’re going to be discussing but definitely the importance of budgeting sounds really useful. When do you ever get to learn to budget? I think the first time I thought about budgeting was when I was off to University and I downloaded a budget template from UCAS..

Moving onto Year 10 and 11, the time when we start to get part-time jobs. Students can learn about income and expenditure, credit and debt, insurance, savings and pensions, financial products and services, and how public money is raised and spent”

Pensions and insurance? Now THAT is a great idea. If only those teenagers realise how lucky they are (god, I really sound like my parents here!) Seriously though, I can reel you off a huge list of people I know – some of whom are almost 30, who don’t have a clue about pensions, mortgages or even foreign exchange rates. They’d genuinely kill for a spot in 2nd period Citizenship.

Lack of knowledge is not a personal fault in any way – my non-finance friends are equally talented in other areas that I am terrible at – but it does highlight a huge knowledge gap around personal finance and the options available to us.

It’s no wonder that people get themselves into tricky financial situations, succumbing to the tempting call of payday lenders and store credit cards. Many people still think that a credit card is a dangerous thing that they’re not ready for. 

A Money Monday series like mine can only go so far into telling you about the joys of a well-managed reward credit card, when some people don’t even know the difference between a credit and debit. We should definitely be teaching money management from an earlier age.

The good news is that I think there is definitely a growing interest in learning about it. With younger people becoming priced out of the property market and with an uncertain economic future (cheers Brexit!), the focus on personal finance and saving is definitely less of a geeky secret than it used to be.

But when is the right time to learn? Is school the place to do it? And what are the key things that teenagers (or younger?) should be learning about? Is it something you would want someone else to teach your kids about?

The Money Advice Service (MAS) has recommended a range of policies to the government, ranging from a scheme to help parents talk to their kids about money all the way through to preparing young adults for the transition to independent living at 17 or 18. Can I get an amen?!

I think that more education is never a bad thing. Especially when it’s more of a practical, ‘real-life’kind of education – I’m all for it. Now, if only someone had warned me against the perils of a Sample Sale, I definitely might have had a lot more money in the bank now..

Now that you’ve left school – what are the personal finance issues you still think you have to learn? 

Common questions I get from my friends involve ‘how does a pension work’ and ‘what does my tax code mean?”

Tweet me your suggestions @FaceValueBlog or send me a comment on Facebook page and I might cover one on my next Money Monday!

Zoe Bayliss Wong
Zoe Bayliss Wong

Zoe is a Forbes ’30 under 30′ finance pro, style writer, presenter and panellist, working for a fashion startup and trying to live that best life in the most IRL way possible.

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