Financial competency is an important condition for a healthy society, allowing people to make well informed and responsible decisions about spending, investing and taking on debt. In England, financial education was introduced to the national curriculum for secondary schools in 2014, yet recent research shows that only 64% of young people aged 15-18 reported that they have actually received financial education in school and 88% of Brits say they lack confidence with their money, with one third stating this also led to a negative impact on their mental health.
When you consider that at 18, it becomes possible to apply for an overdraft facility or credit card, start a gambling account or even buy a house, the potential consequences of a lack of basic financial literacy are plain to see and it’s therefore important that everyone within the financial services industry tries to work together to help tackle this void.
Becoming an Education Champion
As a financial planner, I wanted to find a way to use my knowledge and skills to give back to the local community. Via a podcast, I found out about a programme delivered by professional body, the Personal Finance Society (PFS), called the ‘My Personal Finance Skills’ programme. This is a pro bono initiative that relies on a network of PFS member volunteers, named ‘Education Champions’, to deliver financial education workshops in schools and colleges across the country.
The PFS provides the Education Champions with the resources and materials to deliver workshops on a range of topics supported by Money Advice Service, with training webinars and one-to-one support available to help deliver them confidently and effectively.
This seemed an ideal opportunity, with the PFS taking on responsibility for engaging with schools nationally and notifying volunteers when workshops arise in their local area.
Having submitted my details, the PFS provided me with a suite of lessons and learning materials to familiarise myself with and within 3 weeks, I had my first session arranged at a secondary school in Sheffield.
Getting back to the classroom
My initial workshop centred around helping Year 10 (14-15 years old) students in understanding the cost of everyday living expenses, encouraging them to think about the lifestyle they would like in the future and evaluating whether or not this can be achieved at different levels of income.
Having not set foot in a classroom for some years I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t nervous about going ‘back to school’ and presenting to groups of teenagers for the first time! However, the nerves soon washed away as the teacher ensured I was prepared with the correct materials beforehand and remained in the workshop to oversee the students.
I was pleasantly surprised by the level of engagement I received. The vast majority threw themselves into the interactive activities, with lots of enthusiastic discussion and questions raised on a variety of subjects.
The experience highlighted the varying levels of knowledge between young people – one student claimed to be making over £100 per month trading cryptocurrency online and another had already saved £1,000 from her weekend job where she received £40 per week! However, these were the exception rather than the rule.
The benefits of starting early
My aim was to inspire the students to start thinking about what they want from their future and what they can do about it now, whilst time is on their side. Whilst delivering the session therefore, I tried to think back to what I would have wanted to know at that age and make it relatable.
I think a big issue within financial services is that it can seem very inaccessible and understanding basic products and concepts is the first step to breaking down these barriers. Recent research shows that 90% of Brits lack confidence in managing their retirement money and 88% of the UK also lack confidence when it comes to ISAs. Getting to grips with these later in life might just be too late.
One of the biggest advantages people can give their investments is time and starting early enough could potentially mean the difference between hitting financial goals or missing them entirely.
If you’d like to learn more about teaching young people about financial planning, take a look at our blog on the topic.