Financial literacy essential for growing generations

Jamie Strange 

I believe that we must work together to raise financially-literate young people.

The work force is currently undergoing huge changes, which will present both challenges and opportunities moving forward.

As a father and school teacher, I would like to see some form of financial literacy taught in our schools from an early age.

The ability to understand and manage one’s finances is an essential life skill.

The only time discussions around money tend to come up in our schooling system is at mathematics classes: “Johnny takes 12 apples to the market, sells 8, then eats 1 on the way home. How many apples does Johnny have left?”

Examples like this do not address key practical issues like personal earning, saving, investing, or giving. Whether we like it or not, money plays a huge role in each of our lives.

Vision & Discipline

After twenty years of marriage, my wife and I own our own home and are making progress paying off our mortgage. However, saving the initial house deposit ten years ago, took both vision and discipline. (I must confess that my wife took the lead in this area.)

Advertising companies tell us that we can have anything we want when we want it.

However, this is neither wise nor sustainable.

It is important to teach our children and grandchildren the value of hard work and the joy and pride that comes from carefully saving for something of value.

There is also the important philosophy of being content in all circumstances, while we work towards achieving our goals.

Last year, our eight-year-old son Jack raised $135 during the school holidays to purchase a Lego Technic crane. He achieved this by selling fruit, toys and kindling wood. Angela and I were proud of the way in which he set his mind toward achieving his goal, developed a plan, and worked hard to achieve it.

Secrets of the Rich

We have all seen the cliché headline, ‘Secrets of the rich,’ but there are timeless economic truths that exist.

I believe these should be taught and modelled to our young people from an early age to help them succeed in this area.

There is a widening gap between those with capital and those without in our society. Teaching our children and grandchildren the value of hard work, managing their finances, and smart investing, will help close this gap.

It is unfortunate that very few parents teach financial literacy to their children.

That is because, in the first place, parents have not been taught financial management by their parents or caregivers. Schools can become community hubs for learning, for all ages, with parents learning alongside their children.

Many schools are already developing financial literacy programmes, often partnering with local banks to achieve this.

Elders’ wisdom

Over the years, Angela and I have regularly had to budget carefully, grow our own food, limit the use of our vehicle, and delay instant gratification.

However, we do not want our children to miss out. The essentials of a warm dry house, nutritious food, and a secure environment have remained in place.

We have all made financial mistakes, and grandparents have the wisdom of many years of managing money.

I remember asking my grandfather a few years ago if he wanted to invest in a scheme. His reply was, “Those are very good returns, but let us give it some time to see how it goes.”

The scheme fell over within three months.

As a practical idea, you could try giving your grandchild $20 and saying, “See if you can double this, then return my money and keep $20 for yourself.”

You’ll probably end up letting them keep the whole lot, but it will be a good educational lesson in creative thinking.

Many jobs in the future will need to be self-created; we need young Kiwis with an entrepreneurial spirit.

We can create a generation of financially literate young people. If we want long-lasting societal changes, we must begin with the children. Never underestimate their ability to comprehend and deal with complex societal issues that us adults have failed to find solutions for. We must let their vision and enthusiasm inspire us.

Jamie Strange is a teacher at the Berkley Middle School, Hamilton and Labour Party’s Candidate in Hamilton East in the forthcoming general election on September 23, 2017.

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