“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is a familiar idiom, but there’s truth in it when it comes to setting good money habits.
Children’s brains are biologically proven to make connections much more easily than adults. And so if we want consumers to be financially savvy and well prepared for their financial future it’s vital we start young.
But with financial education yet to find itself on the primary school curriculum, it’s hardly surprising there’s an extreme lack of financial self-assurance in young adults and the UK public at large.
Around half of young people (those aged 12 to 17 years old) and worse still, half of parents are not confident in their money management skills, according to the Money Advice Service.
That lack of confidence is playing a huge part in the nation’s financial resilience (or lack of it). We are in the midst of a financial epidemic as study after study concludes that we have minimal savings, growing debt and struggle to think beyond the current paycheck. This is simply unsustainable and for many this means a bleak, or non-existent, retirement.
And this is where another common phrase comes into play - “Knowledge is power” - it seems self-evident that education should be the solution to the unsustainable financial path we find ourselves on. We need to teach our children, the next generation of consumers, about good money habits. In fact we - as parents, teachers, policy-makers, economists, financial professionals – should be noisily demanding better financial education for children.
An evaluation report of the industry-supported KickStart Money programme, shows that following financial lessons, two out of three primary aged children were actively working towards a saving goal, more than double the national average. On top of this over 75% of the children that received the lessons delivered by the charity, MyBnk, were able to delay spending. In short, financial education works.
The Government claims to want to tackle intergenerational inequality and it is true that upcoming generations will be worse off than their parents, reversing a decades-long trend. And in an age of low interest rates where it is easier to secure credit at the click of a button, than it is to save and invest, politicians should, as a matter of urgency ensuring future generation are equipped to be good with money.
This is not just responsible policymaking – it is policymaking that has the power to sway voters. Research from ComRes shows an astonishing 72% of Brits support the teaching of financial education in primary schools. When made aware that attitudes toward money are formed as young as age seven there was an even more support.
In these incredibly divided times politicians are unlikely to find much else that the nation agrees on.
Waiting and delaying is no longer an option. We know financial education works and we know it is vital. Government needs to act now to protect the futures of the 4.73 million primary children across the UK.
This article first appeared in Moneywise on 2 December 2019.