Personal finance now on the curriculum

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At the risk of sounding all nostalgic like the classic Hovis TV ad, when I was a kid, money matters seemed more straightforward than they are today.

Remember the TSB bank cards at school where you deposited a few pence each week? It was a great idea to get kids into the notion of saving regularly – but perhaps not so fair on those kids whose parents didn’t have the money to give them for this each week.

As I got older, I paid in to my bank account what I could from my paper round (the best one in the village I lived in for it had the largest amount of houses, therefore it paid the most!) after sweets and singles (vinyl records with one song on each side for anyone currently aged under 30) had been purchased.

Then came university – and here lies the main difference between then and now. In my day university education was free: there were no tuition fees to pay and you even got a grant into the bargain! The only essential electronic item back then was a calculator. Well, maybe a decent hi-fi too!

Having had money of my own to supplement the modest pocket-money I got from my parents plus a part-time hotel job while I was a student meant that I bought things when I was able to afford them.

Today, students, particularly in England and Wales, even ones who’d been thrifty in their pre-university years, are commonly faced with the concept of credit, but often with little grasp of how it works. Credit for many students is often essential to be able to pay tuition fees, maintenance costs and student digs if they live away from home. The allure of credit is dangerous for many young people, leaving many in their 20s, 30s and even 40s servicing historic debt.

If young people had received some kind of formal financial education, maybe they wouldn’t have so much debt as they do now.

That’s why the fact the government is adding personal finance education to the national curriculum for England and Wales in September 2014 is so welcome.

But school tuition can only help so far. Parents and grandparents can also help enormously in teaching the children in their family about money, saving and debt.

They can also help get their children off to a good start in life by saving for them while they’re young so the level of debt they take on in adulthood could be at least a little less than it would otherwise be.

Junior Isas are worth considering as a starting point. You can invest regularly or with lump sums and other family members and friends can contribute too. You can find out about Scottish Friendly’s new Junior ISA here.

The value of stocks and shares investments can go down as well as up and the original investment is not guaranteed. Tax treatment depends on individual circumstances and tax law may change in the future.

No advice has been provided by Scottish Friendly. If you are in any doubt as to whether a savings or investment plan is suitable for you, you should contact a financial adviser for advice. If you do not have a financial adviser, you can get details of local financial advisers by visiting Advisers may charge for providing such advice and should confirm any cost beforehand.