We’ve been calling for compulsory personal finance education for a number of years. We want young people to manage their money confidently. And our survey results show it’s needed now more than ever.
The Which? quarterly consumer report has been set up to help us see where people’s living standards are improving or declining. And in the case of the younger generation, it’s the latter.
In our report, due out tomorrow, we found 18-29 year-olds are bearing the brunt of the current economic crisis. On average, each household in the UK is £5,000 in debt – owing 21p for every £1 they earn. It’s the worst for young people who owe 47p for every £1 they earn.
Sadly one in ten confirmed they were unable pay one of their bills in the past month and 45% said they always or often run out of money each month (compared with 38% of all consumers).
A long time coming
I’m a board member for the Personal Finance Educational Group (Pfeg) a finance education charity which offers help and advice to anyone teaching children and young people about money.
Pfeg, working with supporters from the financial services industry, consumer groups and educational specialists, has been instrumental in bringing the issue to those who can ring in the changes – the government. And a campaign led by Martin Lewis has shown the enormous support the public has for the issue as 118,862 individuals signed his petition to make financial education a compulsory part of the school curriculum.
Which? supports the mission because we want to ensure young people are financially capable to make informed choices with their money.
Economic education in schools
In November 2011, Pfeg made a submission to the government when it was reviewing personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education. The charity argued that personal finance should be firmly embedded in any PSHE education programmes of study from 5 to 16.
We were delighted to see the All Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Education for Young People, recommend including financial education in the tuition of both maths and PSHE. Schools minister Nick Gibb is currently looking at the issue as part of the government’s curriculum review.
Whether the responsibility lies with PSHE or maths tuition is an issue you’ve aired with us before. Phil thought we could do more to get the basics right:
‘No good trying to teach children how to handle their finances until they’ve mastered basic numeracy.’
And William said we need to learn to live within our means:
‘I think that it is essential that financial education should be taught in schools. [It’s] the principal reason that so many countries, as well as ourselves, are in the financial mess that we are in today.’
And MB wished they’d had classes at school:
‘As someone who has been useless with money all my life I wish I had had financial education at school, surely it is as important as any other subject and if learnt at young age, would hopefully become second nature by the time a child leaves school or starts work.’
Were you taught to manage your finances when you were at school? What part of the curriculum do you think could take on the challenge?