From this September children will be given lessons in money management at school for the first time.
The details are still being worked out but it’s likely to cover topics such as budgeting, borrowing, the difference between “good debt” and “bad debt” and the amazing powers of compound interest on both sides of the balance sheet.
The news is a victory for Martin Lewis who has been campaigning for years, partly through his super successful moneysavingexpert.com website for financial education for all, but particularly for children and teenagers.
His point, which is a valid one, is that children who are surrounded by so much pressure and temptation to buy what a generation ago would have been luxuries beyond our imagination – never mind our bank accounts – are ill-equipped to cope, especially if they are being brought up by ostriches who live permanently one pay packet behind.
The debt crisis is very much like the obesity crisis – both are fuelled on a combination of apparently limitless availability of yummy dangerous stuff (food/ever-improving gadgets/disposable fashion) with little means to pay for it (far less active lives/low wages combined with ever-increasing opportunities for debt). If we don’t watch out we’ll all be lying on the sofa swigging wine and scoffing takeaway pizzas with the lights out and the curtains drawn against the bailiffs.
Alternatively I’m hoping that in the same way that Ab Fab’s Saffy became a clean-living hard-working self-starting student in response to Edina – her mother’s, flaky feckless self-indulgence – I think our children will turn their backs on their “loads-a-debt” parents’ generation and start investing in pensions not Porsches.
After all, let’s look at the evidence – today’s let’s-lunch-now-pay-never generation were raised by the real McCoy when it came to frugal living. How many of us sat drumming our fingers waiting for our parents to wind up the ribbon, smooth the tissue paper and carefully fold up the gift bag before they finally opened up the present we’d given them? And did we follow their example? Where do you keep your string? In the kitchen drawer alongside the baccy tin full of spare buttons? Or are you still waiting for the right moment to buy some to put in your darling retro “tin ‘o’ twine” you bought for £25 on eBay?
I think I know the answer.