What I’ve learnt from speaking to approximately 1000 young people about money.

Over the past 3 months I’ve been speaking in schools to young people about Money in a broad sense and more specifically about Personal Finance, The Economy and Recruitment on the back of a book I recently published called ‘What Young People Need to Know about Money.’

Why? Because over the past 10 years whilst I have taught Business and Economics and found that whilst the focus is on how money has an impact on organisations, little is discussed about the impact on individuals. In addition I have felt for a while now that our young people are entering a world that is very different from the one that teachers experienced, with credit more readily available through schemes such as Klarna and the ability to spend via more channels that were previously an option. Thus, making them more economically active that previous generations.

Having done 10 talks now here is what I have found.

Young people are aware of graduate salaries but confused as to how salaries in later life work

When I have asked young people how much they expect to get paid, many are aware of graduate salary averages. Where confusion often sets in, is around the expectations of pay increases throughout their career making it more challenging for them to understand how much they could be earning by 30 for example. 

The BBC recently conducted a survey and found that teenagers expected to be earning £70,000 by the time they were 30. In reality, the average is between £32,000 – £35,000. This, as you can imagine, can have a large impact on their expectations and mental health as they get older. What they consider to be success is likely to be largely influenced by these unrealistic expectations as well as the life they expect to lead vs the one they can afford.

Although aware of the gender pay gap many feel there is not much that can be done and don’t realise how quickly it takes effect.

Many of our young people have seen the media attention around the gender pay gap and are aware of it. However it’s something they often imagine will not effect them for at least 10 years, and to be more specific, many girls felt it wouldn’t affect them until they have children. Research by HESA found that 18 months after graduating they already identified a 10% difference in the salary of men and women. So the gender pay gap starts pretty early and we owe it to our young girls to make them aware of this and ensure they feel comfortable discussing finances in work and at home.

Although digitally advanced there are few discussions on how to use technology to counteract inequality in society

Rightly so, schools are warning young people of the dangers of technology through lessons on digital safety. This is necessary and should be the case. However, something that is discussed less often is how technology can allow young people to prosper in the face of adversity. How young women with children no longer need to have a 3 year gap on their CV if they decide to stay at home with their children because they can trade and develop their expertise online. Using this experience to demand a respectable salary should they wish to join the traditional work force. 

How people are using technology to supplement their income and lifestyle is something that needs to be explored with our young people so they can see technology as a tool as opposed to something done to them.

The cost of having a family remains unknown

I recently did a lesson with my economics group where we looked at the supply of labour. We discussed the difficult decision that many mothers face when deciding whether or not to return to the workforce. The conversation naturally turned towards the costs of childcare. It occurred to me that the young people in front of me had no idea how much this was, why would they? (the average guess was approx £100 a month). Upon informing the average costs in different cities one of the boys highlighted that this information should be included when delivering sex education as it’s likely to be a bigger deterrent for early unplanned pregnancies.

The multipotentialite is a reality that they do not expect, but should

When asking what young people expect to be doing in their career I have found that many of them still imagine their working life to be fairly static. 

However, data shows that our young people can expect to have multiple careers, not just jobs in the future. Their ability to transfer skills from one industry to another will be critical to their success in the workplace. 

They know social media isn’t real!

They get it. Influencers can lie. Everyone is presenting their best self. Blah blah blah. But just like with adults, that doesn’t mean they don’t want the stuff they see. What they want to know is how does it work behind the scenes. E.g. product for posts deals where the influencer gets the product for a post and will often post the product back to the brand rather than keep it. Or the tax cuts they get when being an influencer is a full time job so the items work out cheaper for them. I think if we share the details we lose the romanticism of it and can then present it like any other job. For instance explaining that a lot of the time fashion influencers spend time out in the cold getting changed in often dirty public toilets to get the perfect shot to then send a dress back, sounds a lot less appealing than it looks on instagram.