If you asked most parents what they want for their children’s lives? -being happy, healthy and successful would be top of most lists.
But while financial literacy is a key factor that underpins those things, many children do not get as much education when it comes to how they manage their money as they receive in other subjects.
Getting kids interested in money, and helping them to develop an understanding of how financial systems and products work, makes a big difference over a lifetime.
Research has shown that once kids pick up good money habits, they tend to stick with them. Without a good grounding, they’re more likely to simply copy the habits of those closest to them – even if those adults are not setting a good example.
Young people who’ve had some financial education also have higher saving rates and are less likely to get into expensive consumer debt when they branch out into independence.
Some of the responsibility for financial education comes from parents. You can teach kids a lot by simply opening a discourse about money – chatting about bills and how they are paid, working on a budget when you go shopping, giving pocket money from which kids can make their own financial decisions.
But there is also a growing movement to teach kids within the school environment, too. Beyond the work of teachers themselves, there is a range of programmes stepping in to help kids bank some more money nous.
Banqer is one of the most high-profile, co-founded by entrepreneur Kendall Flutey and Kiwibank. It’s an online tool used in primary and secondary schools, and also available in te reo. It covers everything from saving and debt to how to start investing or plan financially for going flatting. Banqer is in thousands of classrooms around the country.
“Hands-on education programmes like Banqer are perfect for children to learn and apply essential money skills such as savings, debt, and planning for your retirement. Because the training is social, it gets people at a young age comfortable with talking about money. Undoubtedly that will help break the money taboo,” Kiwibank’s former chief economist Zoe Wallis said of the scheme. She said helping kids to pick up financial skills in a virtual format would benefit the real economy later.
For something a bit different, the Commission for Financial Capability game Debt Empire teaches kids about the dangers of debt, but from the perspective of a loan shark.
It shows kids how debt works, and how it can be a trap that’s difficult to get out of. Players take on the persona of a shady lender issuing loans, charging interest, adding on fees and using the profits to make money.
As players move through the game they unlock new, increasingly expensive loans to lend to hapless borrowers and purchase the ability to employ loan managers to do the collecting for them. They can also invest in upgrades such as accountants, call centres, and advertising to generate extra funds. They can enjoy the profits of their empire by going shopping for anything from cars, jets and superyachts to tropical islands.
But every time they learn a “trade trick” in the game, they also learn a real-life lesson in how to make debt work for them rather than against.
A spokesman for the commission said: “We’ve used the latest game techniques to hook players in, making it competitive, fun and a bit of an eye-opener.
“In the game, as you’re earning millions and bankrupting innocent people in the process, you’re also learning how to avoid being sucked in yourself.
“Credit is readily available from payday lenders, mobile shops and loan sharks and we know we’re up against some very enticing advertising. People tell us about morning-after regret when they struggle to repay debt. We hope this game will make people more savvy about the pitfalls before they dive in.”
The commission also offers Sorted in Schools, which has been rolling out in secondary schools across the country since 2019. The commission says the scheme is designed to equip students with skills in financial capability at an age when they’re vulnerable to falling into debt through access to credit and loans. The scheme offers professional development support for teachers delivering it.
The big banks are getting in on the act, too. ASB’s GetWise programme has been running for a decade and has had just under a million students participate. It was recently redesigned to use augmented reality, so kids can participate anywhere and the sessions can be completed at home, as well as in classrooms.
The programme helps kids identify needs and wants, learn how to save and how to budget, which the bank says is a good foundation to build on over later years. ASB chief executive Vittoria Shortt says every New Zealand child should be able to learn the basics of money management and making good financial decisions.
“Learning good money management skills from a young age helps set kids up for a better financial future, enabling them to reach their goals, whatever they may be. We want them to reap the benefits of good early financial decisions across their lifetime,” she said.
Other schemes are being developed all the time. Many kids know Life Education and Harold the Giraffe, who has traditionally travelled the country spreading messages about health and wellbeing. The organisation recently launched Smart$, which it says offers an interactive performance to provoke thinking and conversation about everyday financial decisions and opportunities.
Some of the best ways to bed down the lessons kids pick up through these programmes is to keep talking about them at home, and give children chances to ask questions and try a bit of responsibility from time to time.
And remember, it’s never too early or too late to embark on a financial education journey – why not get the whole family onboard?
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