When I was a lad – a good start for any commentary – we didn’t know nothing about money. I got pocket money from my dad but, if I begged hard enough and long enough, my dad would relent and buy me that Batman Corgi car I had been lusting after. At school, they taught math, English, sciences, music, art and more, but I don’t remember a single lesson about how to manage a bank account.
We loved playing Monopoly which, in retrospect, should have taught me to become a property magnate. I got the idea playing, but never had the acumen or assets to make that a reality.
So, here we are. Years later, I look back and think: what did I miss?
I missed the basics.
At school, they should have taught the basics of profit and loss.
“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty-pound ought and six, result misery.”
Charles Dickens's character Wilkins Micawber, David Copperfield
Why are we not taught this from day one?
My children have little idea about money and, tbh, are spoilt little brats. I’m far too soft and every time there is a teeny tantrum, I relent (but not after a fight). Yet, somewhat naively, Nigel Green, CEO and founder of DeVere Group, argues in City AM that we should now be teaching kids crypto in class. Really? Surely it would be better to teach children the basics of money first (btw, if this interests you, free book here helps).
But I take Nigel’s point:
“Traditional financial education often focuses on concepts like budgeting, saving, and investing in traditional assets – which are, of course legitimate areas of study. But, as cryptocurrencies gain prominence, students must also understand the unique attributes of digital currencies, blockchain technology, and decentralized finance.”
Yet, as I read those words, I wonder. Really? Surely it would be better to teach children the basics of money first, but I take the point. Once you get to college, you might be taught some basic concepts like budgeting, saving, and investing in traditional assets. The question is whether we should educate students to understand the unique attributes of digital currencies, blockchain technology, and decentralized finance?
Most of the traditional economic system views cryptocurrencies as illicit, illegitimate, undermining and insidious. Why would any school therefore teach such thinking? On the other hand, if schools only teach what the government likes, are they performing their role of educating children to understand the whole world, the real world and not just the state’s view of the world?
A key aspect here also has to be that the decentralized financial system has grown to multi-trillion-dollar markets over the past decade. Can or should we ignore them?
These are debates I am having regularly as the friction between centralization and decentralization rage. Should we encourage a view of the world that rejects the system, or should we educate our children to understand the system and why it works?
My view is that I want my children to see both sides of the equation, and let them make their own minds up. They should understand banking, finance and money; how it works and how it is structured; the reason we developed these systems, and their pros and cons; and so on.
After all, we all know our system is flawed as typified by Jamie Dimon’s reply to his daughter when she asked him what a systemic failure in the financial system, and he answered: something that happens about every seven years. Our system is imperfect, and we do our best to make it perfect. That’s the reason why we have thousands of regulations that operate at both a macro and micro level. We do not ask for so many regulations, but they exist for a reason. The reason is to make markets work.
When I look at cryptocurrencies and the failure of so many firms that didn’t work – FTX, TerraUSD, Three Arrows Capital and more – do we really want to teach our children about flaky finance rather than real finance? Having said that, arguing the other way, if we do not teach our children about alternative finance and its pros and cons, are we missing a trick?
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...