As of this September (2014) financial education will become part of the school curriculum. This means it will be compulsory for all students, and will be taught as part of citizenship lessons for 11-16 year olds. In addition to this, there will also be more of a focus on money management within maths lessons.
This has been a long time coming and for many campaigners, it’s a bittersweet victory. The problem that many people have is that it’s taken this long for basic money management to become part of the school curriculum. The onus has been on parents to teach their children about money, but when the parents themselves have not been taught properly, the information they pass on (either deliberately or subconsciously) could be incorrect. There are many families out there who are unable to manage their own finances properly because the school system has failed them in the past, so passing on poor money management is an unfortunate consequence.
Of course, there are plenty of families who have had the right teacher or have learned from their mistakes and who are passing valuable information onto their children. These families should not stop teaching just because the schools will be taking up some responsibility – sometimes the most valuable lessons can come from home.
Very Young Children: 2 – 4 years
Many parents prefer to leave more adult concepts (such as money) out of learning for children this young. This is understandable, as the pressures of adult life should not impact a child’s right to be a child. However, getting very young children familiar with money and bank cards will help them more than you think when the time comes for them to get a more in depth understanding.
Let your child play with coins, notes and cards – let them get used to the feel of them and the different shapes. If you allow them to see and feel money under your supervision, then they should get an initial idea of how to respect cash. Don’t give your toddler money and let them post it through holes in the floorboards or chew on it – this will not help. Instead, show them how to look after cash and perhaps help them to put it into a money box.
Young Children: 5 – 7 years
At this age, children will have some idea about money and that you can buy things with it. Rather than pay for things with card when you’re next at the shops together, withdraw the cash instead and get them to hand it over. Older children should be able to count out money and you could help them to work out what change they should get. If you engage your child in this way for every purchase of the day, they should begin to grasp the value of money and to see that once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Middle Children: 8 – 11 years
Giving your children pocket money at this age can be a great way of helping them to make their own decisions about money. Decide together what they are allowed to buy from their allowance and don’t give them any more if they spend it all at once! Learning that money is not endless is very, very important.
Giving your child control over something like a family meal can be a good way to teach them about making money stretch as far as possible. Get them to think of what they’d like to help you cook for the next day, and then give them an allowance for all the ingredients. Go with them to the shop and help them pick out what they want. Budgeting skills and learning about cost per weight/per item are both valuable lessons to be learned here (not to mention the bonus cooking skills!).
Older Children: 12 – 15 years
Giving teens more control over what they can buy for themselves as a good way to set them up to be more independent in the future. Rather than pay for their hobbies and clothing yourself, giving them the money that you would have budgeted for this and letting them work it out for themselves is a good way for them to learn. There will be mistakes and hiccups along the way – allow your child to learn from them and don’t bail them out every time!