Thursday, 18 August 2011

Shouldn't financial education be compulsory?

Today teenagers across the country will be getting their A level results and finding out whether they're en route for Oxbridge or Uxbridge. 
In three years time many will emerge with a degree - and a debt of up to £54,000* 
Debt used to be a dirty word but since the introduction of Uni tuition fees it's now not only OK to have debt but the government encourage it. 
Isn't it sad then that many students come out of school having had NO education in managing debt, understanding interest rates and financial management? 

Today the Department for Education said:
It's a national disgrace that in the 20 years since introducing student loans, we’ve educated our youth into debt when they go to university, but never about debt. We're a financially illiterate nation, with millions caught by misselling, overborrowing and being ripped off. Is it any surprise we’ve just had a debt imbued financial crisis. This must change. Companies spend billions on marketing and teaching their staff to sell – it's time we got buyers' training. The most cost effective way to start is to ensure every child in the country gets a basic understanding of personal finance & consumer rights before leaving school. This isn’t a large resource requirement. Some schools already do it, but the majority don’t and that needs to end. Unless it's compulsory, head teachers can’t prioritise for it. 97% of people support this, yet no one will take up the baton. We have one of the world’s most complex consumer economies; it's time our children were taught how to thrive and survive in it.
You can sign a petition to support compulsory financial education in schools here
The extent of the debt - and it's not just the kids who need educating:
*£54,000 calculated by the long-term savings and investment company Standard Life. Their research shows that many parents are also ignorant about the extent of student debt. More than half of parents underestimate the maximum amount of debt their child could leave university with. 
When asked to take into account the increase in tuition fees to a maximum of £9,000 per year from 2012, and any other debts accumulated from living expenses, student loans, bank loans, etc, 58 per cent of parents think the maximum debt their children could leave with is £40,000 or under, including many who think this would be a lot less. Despite this, a fifth (21 per cent) of parents have started to make regular savings to help ease the costs of their children's university education. And nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of parents are putting money aside on special occasions (e.g. birthdays or one-off windfalls). 
Julie Hutchison, Head of Technical Insight at Standard Life, said: "The findings of our research are positive as they show that parents have identified the need to save for their children's time at university. Unfortunately their expectations of what that cost could be and therefore the target amount they want to save might actually be too low."

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