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Financial literacy is the scourge of our times

One of the issues I have with financial services is that it’s frightening. You might not think so, but I grew up in a world of cushioned money. I didn’t know much about money at all. The most I knew about money is begging for more pocket money. The Bank of Mum and Dad was my financial education.

Unfortunately, my mum and dad weren’t very good at it, as they indulged me. I once had a summer holiday when I was about nine years old, and managed to beg enough money off mum and dad to cover the next eighteen months. Yep, it was a fixed term loan, paid back over the next year by weeding and digging the garden and tidying the house. The result? I hate gardening and cleaning the house, and continually spent most of my life in debt.

University debt followed by credit card debt followed by mortgage debt followed by divorce debt … you name it and I had it. The debt issues. I’m sure many faces this issue, and some never get out of it. In fact, The Independent and others report that debt amongst seniors is a serious problem and it’s getting bigger:

New research out this week shows credit card debt levels among people over-55 is soaring by almost 10 per cent a year. Data from Aviva shows overdraft borrowing for this age group is up 17 per cent in the last 12 months. October 2017

What’s the issue here?

Education.

Financial literacy is incredibly low amongst many.

England and Northern Ireland are facing a “crisis” in financial literacy skills, academics have warned, as research reveals one in three people in the countries cannot work out the correct change from a shopping trip.

The two nations are the worst global performers on everyday financial numeracy tasks, above only Turkey, Russia, the Czech Republic and Israel, according to a new study by researchers from University College London (UCL) and the University of Cambridge.

This is as true in America as it is in Europe:

A study by the FINRA Foundation estimated that nearly two-thirds of Americans couldn’t pass a basic financial literacy test. According to the study, Americans have low levels of financial literacy and have difficulty applying financial decision-making skills to real-life situations. In the United States, there are only five states that require a personal finance for high school graduation: Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia.

Why is it that we’re not being educated in money? And  if money is the second most important thing in our lives, how come it’s ignored in our schooling?

I find it ridiculous that humans are not educated in money and that the whole thing is left to parents, who regulate our access to cash. Now, I have seen a few attempts to improve this. I’ve seen several FinTech start-ups focused upon financial literacy. In fact, Singapore-based PlayMoolah won the Sibos Innotribe competition in 2012:

PlayMoolah is a fun online platform for kids aged 6 to 12 to save, manage, and earn an allowance. They bring financial literacy to children by designing technology to persuade real-world savings behaviour.

… but it hasn’t exactly blown the socks off the industry yet.

So, I was interested to read about Revolut’s latest innovation: the Revolut Youth app. From Business Matters magazine:

Revolut is to launch an app aimed at improving the financial literacy of children this summer, the latest move in the fintech unicorn’s expansion plans. Customers will be allowed to add their children to their account as a secondary user. Through the Revolut Youth app children can choose their own card and start using the company’s current account and money management platform. The app will be for children over seven years old with another version for teenagers around 16 years old. Parents will retain control over their children’s account, manage pocket money and view their transactions.

Unfortunately, it still doesn’t solve the heart of the issue – parents are required to deal with children’s financial education – but at least it might help. Meantime, maybe we should start a campaign to get financial education as a compulsory subject in the national curriculum. Right now, it’s just dumped in with math. Not the best way to tell you how to deal with the huge student debts you’re going to accumulate the minute you leave school.

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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