A school pupil’s take on financial education

Laura Whitcombe's picture

Now that financial education is to be taught in all secondary schools from the start of the new school year, 16-year-old Christopher, who is doing work experience with Moneywise today, shares his views on what money means to him.

Moneywise: Have you ever received any lessons about personal finance in school? If so, what kind of issues were covered and do you think the lessons were any use?

Christopher: At the age of 12, we were taught the basics of money. The whole class was told that if they had a horse, they must use it to earn enough to keep it housed and fed. We only really thought of selling our old toys as a way of earning money, rather than making money from owning the horse. So it was fun to talk and think about but there was little point in the exercise.

MW: What would have made learning about money more interesting?

C: Students should only be told the basics as any more detail and most of us will just drift off. For example, while the difference between credit and debit cards would be useful for us to learn about, more complicated things such as subprime lending are futile to teach us.

To make financial lessons more interesting they should be more practical – for example, giving the pupils Monopoly money to spend within a budget. Anything else to make it less like a lecture and more about spending would help to hold our attention. Big words bankers use would flick the off switch in our minds and any finance-related words with more than four syllables should be avoided at all costs. This does sound silly to adults, but so is Monopoly money, and that would work without a doubt.

MW: What do you do with your birthday money?

C: With birthday money, I save it, but not in a bank – it’s hidden somewhere! Then I gradually spend it on things I want to play, wear, eat and drink. Not many of my friends hoard money for a long-term goal. I don’t often save up for things but if I have to I try to make it for as short as possible, or look for to ways to save money by looking for what I want in sales or secondhand.

MW: Do your parents give you money? If so, how often and what do you spend it on? Do they ask you for change? If so, does this make you spend more money or less?

C: My parents do give me money but not at a regular time each week, just when I happen to have use for it – when I’m going to see friends is the most common time. My parents almost always ask for their change back but mostly (and wrongly) don’t want to see our receipts. Instead of making us spend more money, we actually spend less so we can give them a decent amount of change back but still keep a little bit back for ourselves another day!

MW: What do you think a credit card is? Do you know the difference between a savings account and a bank accout? How would you explain it to a friend?

C: I think of a credit card as an adult Oyster card that applies to everything, everywhere but you can spend more than what you’ve topped up with. We don’t know the difference between a savings account and banking accounts as we view them as all the same – where our parents put our money that we won’t see again until we grow up.

MW: How would you improve financial education among young people?

C: Overall, when it comes to money we are; impatient, love to spend and hate to save. But a half hour lesson a year will stop us from ruining ourselves in the first years of financial independence.