The government has finally come round to the importance of teaching people about money, after years of campaigning by the financial press. Last September, finance lessons made it on to the compulsory secondary school curriculum in England for the first time. Now all of the UK’s children learn how to manage their money, plan for future financial decisions and understand the link between personal and public money. Hopefully, this will mean that our children grow up to be financially savvy, but what about the rest of us?
Money plays a hugely important role in our day-to-day lives and making financial mistakes such as not getting the right mortgage deal, or choosing the wrong pension investment, can seriously impact on our quality of life. Yet, the vast majority of us don’t know much about finance.
“Financial capability is critical to improving people’s lives, helping them to withstand life’s financial ups and downs,” says Nick Hill, money expert at the Money Advice Service. “In today’s world, when people are even more susceptible to financial shocks, it’s more important than ever that they know how to manage their money.”
Shockingly, research from the Money Advice Service found that one in six adults can’t read the balance on a bank statement.
The bad news is no one is going to knock on your door and offer to help you learn about money – well, if they do, they’re a con artist. But, you can help yourself. There are a whole host of ways you can improve your financial education. Read on to find one that suits your needs.
READ THE PAPERS
You are already on the way to a better understanding of money because you are reading Moneywise, but perhaps a friend or relative needs a helping hand in improving their personal finance knowhow? Taking the time to read a finance magazine can really help. Reading the money section of the newspapers will also show how the stockmarket and global economy can affect your own finances.
If you want to go back to basics and learn a good foundation to money management, then a personal finance book could be a great help.
An excellent guide to the basics is Money Made Easy by Moneywise’s own Mark King and Laura Whitcombe. It covers all the major finance topics including debt, property, insurance, coping with financial shocks, such as divorce or death, and how to save and invest.
Alternatively, try Personal Finance for Dummies by Eric Tyson. For finance from a female perspective there is Love is Not Enough: A Smart Woman’s Guide to Money by Merryn Somerset Webb. Finally, if you want to dip your toe in the stockmarket, try Shares Made Simple by Rodney Hobson.
There are plenty of websites out there that offer a wealth of information on personal finance. Visit Moneywise.co.uk, which is packed with guides and features on all aspects of personal finance. The Money Advice Service (Moneyadviceservice.org.uk) has sections covering everything from debt and pensions to financial planning for growing families – and it also has advice on what to do if you are facing redundancy or are unsure of which benefits you’re entitled to.
You can also use some of the online resources aimed at teaching school children about money. NatWest’s Pocket Money website (Teachers.natwest-pocketmoney.com) has interactive quizzes and games that you can play that will brighten up learning about finances. Even if you think you are clued up, have a play and you might be surprised by some of the myths that you thought were fact.
Alternatively, Lloyds Bank’s Money For Life programme is an array of online resources and lessons that once completed will give you an Open College Network qualification. You’ll learn about financial products, financial planning and where to find financial advice. The course is a 30-hour online programme that you can start at Moneyforlifeprogramme.org.uk.
The course is aimed at people who work in further education, charities or community groups and want to be able to help other people with their finances. But it is open to anyone, so you can just use the resources to improve your own money knowledge.
TAKE A FINANCE CLASS
If you really want to take the time to build a solid knowledge of personal finance, consider taking a class.
The Open University has a specialist unit called the True Potential Centre for the Public Understanding of Finance, which offers a free course that you can take from home. The course has two modules at present – Managing My Money and Managing My Investments – with a third module, Personal Finance: Understanding the Industry and Your Rights, launching next year. You can find out more at Open.edu/openlearn/money-management.
The Managing My Money course is especially good; it takes eight weeks and covers: understanding the different forms of borrowing and how to work out the true costs; how to draw up a household budget; the different types of investments available to individuals; and how to manage your pension. The online resources include videos, quizzes and a free podcast from Share Radio can be downloaded from shareradio.co.uk/registration/ to help you learn.
Another option is to take a night class at your local school or college. There are more than 80 classes available around the country. Ranging from help with polishing up your maths in the context of your household finances to how to understand pensions, you should be able to find something that will help you get a better grip on what personal finance is all about. You can find courses near you via Hotcourses.com, or on your local council website.