I think the education system needs a massive overhaul and is ripe for disruption. No longer are we children of the British Empire training to be clerks in far flung places. We’re a part of mass globalisation (whether we like it or not) and need the skills to be able to cope with the brave and constantly evolving new world.
No longer do we need to graduate being fluent in Algebra, all over Pythagoras’s theorem, knowing how to dissect a frog, being able to wrangle a Bunsen burner or able to recite Romeo & Juliet (Ok, maybe that.)
What we need is a mass of life skills – how to open bank accounts, understanding medicare and health insurance, learning when and how to switch off from devices and social media, defensive driving courses, how to cope with moods and emotions (our own and others,) getting job ready, learning about business and how to run a home. You know, real world stuff.
And teaching kids about money is vitally important. Yet often, we haven’t been taught ourselves to pass those lessons on. Sometimes we’ve had to learn the hard way, but sometimes we wish we’d known a lot more a lot earlier.
Money permeates every part of what we do. We work to earn money to make and living and a life. We need it to put a roof over our head, food on the table, buy the shirt on our back, fund the phone and pay for those holidays and hobbies we want along the way. Yet few of us know that insuring our income should be our top priority for without it, we can’t fund the rest of our lives.
We also seem to be moving ever closer to a cashless society. Money is becoming invisible in the digital age. (My sister tells me I’m considered a vagrant because you’re supposed to have at least 40 cents in your purse for a phone call, which I rarely do – but seeing I have a very capable mobile, I really don’t see the need!) How much harder for children to understand the value when it’s not even a physical commodity anymore!
Fortunately, there’s also a lot of tools online now available to help. Start talking to your children about money when you head to an ATM or you withdraw cash at the supermarket, even when writing up a shopping list. Tell them how many hours you had to work to buy that week’s groceries and how banks and lenders give you money for big purchases but charge you extra for the privilege. Discuss online purchases and how to handle them securely and explain the difference between our needs and our wants. Make it real and understandable in words they can comprehend and appropriate to their age.
Explain the relationship between leaving the lights on and the power bill you receive. Help them work out their first budget when they start work. Do they need to pay board, cover debt, give to a charity, save for their first big purchase, make sure they put aside for petrol, registration and insurance? Open lines of communication can be started with basic concepts introduced as early as preschool.
So, don’t leave it to the education system. Be your babies first line of financial defense in the world that awaits them.