By Frank Conway
A combination of medical science and lifestyle changes has resulted in more people living longer.
At the same time, more employers have stopped offering defined benefit pensions and replaced them with defined contribution schemes. States have also changed retirement rules resulting in future retirees having to work longer before qualifying for a state pension.
This major shift of financial responsibility from both the employer and State to the individual means today’s generation must develop a much broader and deeper understanding of money if they wish to establish the four pillars of financial well-being; a ‘rainy day’ fund, buy a home, protect their family and plan for retirement.
Defining financial literacy
Broadly, financial literacy is defined as the ability to understand how money works in the world, including earning an income, saving and spending, protecting against risk, credit and debt, investing and making financial decisions.
Equally important is educating young adults on the importance of establishing a personal credit score. This can have significant life implications in housing, access to credit, employment and even car insurance premiums.
A 2013 study commissioned by the UK Money Advice Service identified children as young as age seven form life-long money habits. Separately, a 2016 study from MoneyWhizz revealed how adults struggle with important financial concepts, including inflation and compound interest.
MoneyWhizz has developed detailed financial literacy framework segmented for ages 5 – 6, 7 – 11, 12 -14 and 15 – 18. The youth framework sets out both the learning objectives and activities adults should undertake to promote financial education.
The framework is the basis for a new financial education programme from Bank of Ireland developed for kids aged 7-11. The programme uses a mix of stories, promotes critical thinking and includes quizzes and word focus. Critically, teacher / parent worksheets underpin adult / student interaction. During an initial outreach to primary schools in late January and early February, the response from schools right across Ireland has been overwhelmingly positive proving that financial education is valued and needed, even for kids as young as age 7.
A separate programme for secondary schools employs different delivery methods. Class visits and online content has been requested by about one-in-five schools across the Ireland.
Finally, when it comes to adults, there is a major appetite for knowledge, including face-to-face talks.One constant is attendees seeking answers to important money questions. Recently, a tech-savvy individual using an online ‘robo-adviser’sought clarification on the long-term impact of fees (TER/OCF) on investment performance. Despite a wealth of online sources, none answered this important question clearly.
When it comes to financial well-being, one must be informed, patient and humble. In other words, they need to learn about money, they need to plan and grow their personal wealth over time and where they may not understand specific financial issues, they MUST ask questions.
Ultimately, financial literacy empowers people to make informed financial decisions, value the benefits of financial planning,free them to ask important money questions and take greater control over their financial well-being. This is why early intervention is so important.
Frank Conway is the founder of MoneyWhizz.org, a financial literacy initiative based in Dublin, Ireland.