Money is a touchy subject for many, the source of deep emotions, conflicts and anxieties.
I would argue that the taboo around money has kept students ignorant of better habits, practices and perspectives.
Why am I waxing lyrical about money? Because discussing it with our young people could be the key to a better future.
The money taboo can keep women and minorities at the low-end of the pay gap, since it makes it harder to learn the true value of their labour. Discuss it and some of that is gone. We can at least begin to hope for a more equal society. The taboo could worsen class conflict by increasing envy and resentment of the rich. We see this divide playing out with recent votes for Brexit and calls to stop immigration. A simple understanding of supply and demand of labour would show that actually as a country we rely on immigration to fill our jobs.
So why don’t we talk about this in schools? Why is information like this limited to the classrooms of business and economics or politics perhaps? Well, traditionally this information has been passed down from parent to child. It’s been an area for the home to cover. You can bet your bottom dollar the parents of the kids at Eton are giving their kids a financial education, whether by discussing investments, demonstrating an entrepreneurial mindset or watching their parents make calculated financial decisions. But here’s the thing. In a recent article by the Financial Times recent research found that 68% of adults lacked basic money management skills which had driven them into debt. We can’t rely on parents to educate young people about money because the topic is heavily emotional and tainted by their parents/carers experiences.
Morgan Housel in his book The Psychology of Money, starts his book off with a chapter called ‘No one’s crazy’ highlighting that people aren’t good or bad with money as such. But more conditioned by their experiences. If bought up in poverty, they fear a lack of money and therefore are likely to make decisions that constrict their chances of making more (risking it in entrepreneurial ventures or even investing it for instance). I grew up as a child of immigrant parents, they knew the only way for them to do well financially (as their qualifications were not recognised in the UK) was to start their own business. Every purchase we made as kids was equated to the number of items we would have to sell in the factory, to cover the cost. Therefore, I grew up around an entrepreneurial mindset. In fact the first Question my father asked me when I qualified as a teacher was when I was going to start my own school! Think about the mindset your parents had around money and how this influenced you.
More importantly how is this influencing our young people? Is it surprising that our poorest young people stay in poverty. Yes a good education will help them to an extent, but an education about money will at least level the playing field a bit for when they enter the world. How can we continue to ignore this?
One of the reasons we haven’t spoken about money is because it’s been a way of attributing peoples value in society, which rightly so has made people uncomfortable. But I would argue this is changing. I recently asked my business class what success meant to them. They didn’t mention a Rolex a Lambhorgini or a big house. Instead they said freedom. The conversation around money is changing. Young people want financial freedom. And we have a responsible to give them the basic knowledge and skills to one day attain it.
My book, ‘ What young people need to know about Money’ is out on Amazon on 13th February. Targeted at 14-25 year olds it can be used by young people themselves or parents/carers can use it with them. Short chapters and lots of activities mean it is something young people can dip in and out of and stay engaged with.