It’s Volunteers’ Week – here’s how I teach kids about money

Talking cash in the classroom

Talking cash in the classroom

As it’s both Volunteers’ Week and the Personal Finance Education Group’s My Money Week, I thought it’d be the perfect time to share my experiences of delivering financial education classes in my local high schools.

For the past 17 months I’ve volunteered one day a week in the financial capability team of my local Citizens Advice Bureau in Barnet, north London.

As a team, we deliver money management sessions on a range of topics to community groups, residents and schools. While all have their own rewards, it’s working in the classroom that’s really blown my mind.

Getting savvy with credit

The main session I’ve delivered to around 350 year 10 students was one I’d put together myself, from a mix of Citizens Advice and concepts, called Getting Savvy With Credit.

It looked at the APR of different types of borrowing from store cards to loan sharks and many others in between via a ‘higher or lower’ game.

Then they got to choose the best smartphone mobile contract for a mate, where I usually got to chuck in a mention about the beauty of haggling. We also covered financial jargon in a game of ‘borrowing bingo’ that often got very lively!

While not all the feedback from the pupils was positive (I expected no less from a mixed group of teenagers), some of the comments they left made me smile:

"You answered some of my questions I was searching for answers for."
"Very interesting to find out how hard it is to survive with money in the real world."
"I’ve learnt to look for the best offer when buying or taking a card."

And the comment from this student makes me think they’re destined to be a MoneySaver: “If you don’t have the money, why buy it?”

My best day on the job

As one of the main parts of my job at MSE is coordinating our PPI reclaiming campaign, my favourite question of the year was: "What’s all this stuff that’s on TV about PPI?"

That’s exactly the kind of inquisitive consumer our kids need to be in today’s complex consumer marketplace.

To me, part of being savvy means if you don’t know what something means, find out. And this young lady did just that. Hopefully she went away wiser in the world of reclaiming, claims handlers and spam calls after I enthusiastically answered her question!

The schools were already providing financial capability classes for their pupils as part of PSHE, but they took in external speakers to add variety to their own lessons. I only had one session with each class, and it was clear that more were needed when I got comments like these:

"It was an eye-opener to find out how to manage money but there were some things I didn’t understand."
"I don’t like money – I’d like my daddy to carry on paying my bills."
"Needs more dragons." [This student was obviously so financially capable they were already preparing to appear on Dragons’ Den.]

I doubt everything I said sunk into every student. But it’s my hope that when they next hear about payday loans or they’re offered their first store card, they’ll stop and think: “I’ve heard about that before, what does it mean, how much will it cost me, can I afford it and is it the right choice for me?”

I’m so pleased that more students will get the chance these young people did, both during My Money Week, and when financial education becomes a compulsory part of the English national curriculum from next September.

It’s an important stage of their buyers’ training and something that will start building the blocks to help them make the millions of financial decisions they will face in their lifetime.

Let me know in the forum or comments below if you’re taking part in My Money Week, or if you’ve taught your kids, or others’, about money and what your experiences were.