Guest blog: 6 steps to improve UK financial education

Award-winning social enterprise, Money A+E, outline six steps to improving financial education in the UK. 

Money A+E is an award-winning social enterprise that provides money advice and education to disadvantaged groups, Diverse Ethnic Communities (DEC) and young people.  Here Jerry During and Suzy Kirby from Money A+E outline six steps to improving financial education in the UK.

If you’re a UK adult, chances are you wish that you were taught more about money growing up. It might even have helped you to avoid some costly financial missteps!

So how can we improve financial education in the UK? Here are six suggestions.

1.    More is more

It’s a truth many of us already know, but it bears repeating: the benefits of financial education are huge, for individuals and for wider society. 

Quality financial education doesn't just help us to save and stay out of debt and poverty. It supports us to become more confident, to meet our life goals, and to invest in our health, education and careers. 

Money A+E research with UCL during Covid found that people who had received high quality money education were better able to withstand life shocks – such as a global pandemic.

Despite better financial literacy seeming like a no-brainer, 24 million UK adults still report not feeling confident managing their money. And over half of our children aged 7 to 17 have not received meaningful financial education. For Diverse Ethnic Communities and young people, the stats are even starker.

It’s clear that we need to make financial education a major national priority.

2. It’s never too early (or too late)

When is the best time to break the cycle of debt and poor financial choices? 

Before it even starts! Hence Step number two. 

Only 8% of young people cite school as their main source of financial education – leaving them vulnerable to poor quality information elsewhere. But we can close that gap.  

At our workshops we see just how keen young people are to receive more financial education. We were blown away by the enthusiasm when we visited Newham College, east London, for UK Savings Week, and ran a ‘Money Know How’ workshop.

Tanzila from Money A+E leading a workshop at Newham College

One student told us, ‘[the workshop] is a good opportunity for the future’. Another added, ‘saving is good for security for your family, and to avoid bankruptcy.’

Financial education is of course a lifelong endeavour, with many of us playing catch-up. There are many useful courses for adults out there, like MSE’s Academy of Money or Money A+E Money Mentors.  

3. Give teachers a breather

Did you know that financial education is a national curriculum requirement?

But the reality is that many schools are falling short, because of a lack of time in teachers’ schedules and competing priorities.

A recent report by the APPG for Financial Education also found that a lack of awareness, budget and staff training are major stumbling blocks.

Workshops from expert third-party providers can deliver that meaningful financial literacy to students, while reducing the burden on teachers.

4. Keep it real

What about the content of financial education workshops? What – and how – should we be learning?
At Money A+E we have found the approach that works best is to let communities lead.

That means training people with lived experience of money issues (many of whom first came to us as service users) to lead workshops that are co-designed, empathetic and relatable. And we know it works!

Sharing our stories around money – the good, the bad and the ugly – and peer support is key. It reduces shame, while helping us to learn and stay accountable. 

5. Focus on products

Financial products can be partners on our journey to financial wellbeing – provided they are the right ones for us.

As Frederick Limbaya, Money A+E Head of Education, puts it: ‘Financial literacy makes you aware. Many of the people that we see don’t know about certain products that could help them. Being able to make those things visible for them is very important.’  

Learning about products like savings, credit and insurance is crucial, especially right now when the stakes are unusually high. Because interest rates have shot up, we can get bigger returns on savings, but also pay much more on our debts. 

However, trust in financial services can be low, especially among the Diverse Ethnic Communities that we support. Relationships with banking are often coloured by negative and discriminatory experiences.

Learning about financial products is also an opportunity to reimagine them. 

At Money A+E we’re co-leading the Racial Justice Network. We’re aiming to make banking services more accessible, by bringing together representatives of the industry with those who have lived experience of the issues.

6. Teach a man (or woman) to fish...

Teaching someone about money will almost undoubtedly result in their finances improving. Which is great, but...what if they could also teach somebody else?

This is the concept behind Money Mentors. Our programme helps people to improve their financial literacy and skills, and then trains them to pass this on to others in a ripple effect.

Having informed conversations about money isn’t always easy, but it benefits entire families and communities. 

If you think your organisation can help improve the financial education of the UK, head over to the Talk Money Week for some resources to get started!

Find out more: Visit Money A+E

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