As another week begins, financial news dominates the headlines. From the panic among Cypriot bank customers who have seen their savings ‘taxed’ in the last few days, to this week’s UK budget statement, finance is very much to the fore.
The problem is, so few people really understand these issues or are aware of how these matters will affect them directly. If everyone was fully conversant in the language of finance, you would have expected us to have avoided many of the horrendous economic problems of the last few years. A financially literate population would be much more capable of challenging the statements of bankers and politicians and thereby improve the level of debate on such topics.
This recent blog post from The Independent highlights the confusion that affects not just the average citizen in the street but also our journalists, politicians, bankers and economists. In the post, John Rentoul points out that even the most revered economists can’t agree on how to tackle our current problems, which leaves you wondering, what hope is there for the rest of us?
Well, there may be a glimmer of hope in the introduction of financial education into the National Curriculum from September 2014. If taught correctly, this generation of young people will learn not just the basics of how to handle their money, but what happens to that money as it flows through our financial systems. Providing young people with that knowledge will enable them to make a much more positive and informed contribution to society, helping to shape future policies rather than just reacting to them.
In recent months, The Citizenship Foundation has been encouraging 14-18 year olds to do just that through its Chance to be Chancellor competition and the launch of The Youth Budget on the 7 March. The proposals put forward by the teenage participants were intelligent and well thought out and showed how much interest young people have in these matters when consulted. If we can improve the knowledge of their peers over the next few years, then we would have good reason to hope for a better economic future.