A fish or a kebab van: the financial education in schools imperative

At school I always worried about the following proverb:

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for life”.

Why? Because there was a line missing. It should say, “teach a man to fish and give him a fishing rod”; surely!

So what has this got to do with financial education? My many meetings with HR, reward and compensation/benefits leaders often lament this very question: why oh why is financial education not delivered in the school curriculum?

As a secondary school governor, I can answer this with absolute certainty – it is not an examined subject, so it is not taught in any formal way and there is little or no money in the budget of today’s very financially strapped schools to do so.

Poor financial knowledge amongst younger employees

Our industry sees this very clearly in the young graduates and apprentices joining employers each year. Their financial knowledge is poor, if it exists at all. I recently had the pleasure of volunteering to deliver a financial education session to a group of sixth form students as part of their post AS exam enrichment programme.

I gave each student a fictional £1,000 and asked them to tell me what they would spend it on. I pushed for a rapid response to keep the pace up in the room, but also to ensure it was their instinctive and true reaction, rather than one that required too much thinking. The answers varied wildly and included:

  1. Give it to my parents (I liked that one)
  2. Save it for driving lessons (I also liked that – taxi Dad!)
  3. Put it away for my university days
  4. Buy £1,000 worth of fried chicken
  5. Buy a shark
  6. Buy a girlfriend (immediately passed back to the teacher to cover in an entirely different lesson)
  7. Buy a kebab van

We then discussed whether each item was a want or a need. This was great fun but highlighted to the group that in life, your income will be split between both camps – mainly covering the items you need to pay for (rent, mortgage, fuel, food etc) and the luxuries you aspire towards having (a night out, a holiday, a quick flutter, some new shoes etc).

Investing for the future

The young lad who thought of buying a kebab van was ridiculed by his friends, but after some debate we allowed his van to be called a need. Not because he wanted to eat kebabs non-stop, but because he realised he would be investing his £1,000, generating a living and hopefully saving up in order to expand his fleet of vans and save for a new house.

The punchline of the session was simple. Budgeting and planning are key. Identifying ambitions and taking actions are vital in a person’s financial journey. This is never more needed than in the workplace right now.

For me it is an easy choice – a kebab beats boring old fishing every time!

This article was first published by REBA Global on 03/10/2016 

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