Youth money thoughts

Anyone can learn about money.

Anyone can help anyone else learn.

Making mistakes doesn't mean you're hopeless.

Managing money is a lot about relationships & understanding other people.

Good financial education is not about turning people into more savvy consumers.

Good financial education starts with young people's interests and builds on their strengths.

Is real financial education really for all?

Yes. It is for all. And it can be provided by all.

Young people learn all the time. They’re influenced, provoked, challenged by what happens and what people say. As they grow towards independence, working out who it is they want to be, they acquire knowledge, practise skills and develop attitudes.

Real financial education is about creating learning opportunities for young people.

Put like that, the scope is enormous – for anyone. You don’t need to be a financial whizkid to create learning opportunities. You don’t need to be highly numerate to create learning opportunities. You don’t even need to be any good at managing money to create learning opportunities.

In fact, it might even help if you aren’t any of those things. Experts don’t always understand what life is like for the rest of us.

Here are some ideas for real financial education that almost anyone can do. That’s “almost anyone” because it helps to have some form of rapport, some sort of positive relationship with young people. People who do not have that will likely struggle. But if you can relate to young people and them to you, in some reasonable way at least some of the time, think about these:

Watch a short video showing how criminal gangs steal from users of cash machines. Here’s one released by police of a fast and professional distraction theft.  Talk about techniques of resistance. Role play them.

Have a look at a pay slip together. See if you can work out what all of it means. Explain what you can, and admit what you don’t know yourself. No shame in that. Pay slips mystify most adults. Then agree a way to find out – by looking online, or asking someone who works in payroll.

Describe a scenario that could happen in real life. Invite discussion. There are no limits. There are no easy answers either. That’s what makes them – and life – interesting. Such dilemmas or awkward situations can be mini-projects or something to talk about in the back of a minibus. Here are some suggestions:

  • You are part of a group who’ve gone for a celebration meal out. When the bill comes, some people are clear that everyone should pay for only what they ordered. Others are equally sure it is best to split the entire bill evenly between everyone. How do you resolve it – and stop similar arguments in the future?
  • You’ve been invited to your friend’s hen or stag night weekend. You want to go, but you really don’t want to spend the money, which you honestly can’t afford. You don’t want to quarrel with your friend either. Other friends keep saying that it will be all right and you only get married once. What do you do?
  • A group of 12 and 13 year olds are being sold cigarettes in singles for £1 each by an ice cream vendor. It is illegal, but is not the only illegal activity the group are involved in. Would you point out that they could club together and buy a pack of twenty for just over £6 – saving nearly £14?
  • Someone you know, who is just 18, has signed up for a contract for an expensive new mobile phone. You can’t see how they can afford the monthly payments. They admit that they can’t afford it. They say they plan to have the phone for a few months, then give it back and cancel the contract. You think that’s not how it works. Who is right and why?

Get a bunch of Argos catalogues. Ask young people to imagine that they are moving into an unfurnished flat. What will they need? As they move from kitchen equipment,  sheets and pillow cases to electrical goods and living room furniture, list the items, then total the cost. Ask where the money is going to come from? And then think through more realistic ways of getting by.

Are these difficult or impossible? Do they require specialist training, higher maths or financial expertise?

No. They’re just ordinary and effective ways to increase the chances of young people learning what they need and are ready to learn about managing money.

If you object that some are just about talking, remember this. Seven out of ten couples don’t talk to each other about money. “Just talking” has its place.