Financial capability: How do you get students interested in finance?

18 July, 2016

Teaching finance can be a hard sell these days. Students have a lot to learn across a plethora of subjects, so why should they take finance lessons on top of all that other pressure? And what will make it easier for them to engage in the subject?

Stuffy old men. The dad from Mary Poppins. Goblins at Gringotts. The Wolf of Wall Street. These are all common stereotypes of finance professionals. It’s no wonder students are either bored by the concept or infatuated with the hyper-inflated ‘glitzy’ part of the industry.

In reality, finance is a fast-moving, exciting industry that affects everything that we do and everything that you'll come across in the big bad world. But getting young people to engage with this as a subject is very difficult - ‘doesn’t effect me’, ‘my parents will sort it out’, ‘I’ll learn as I go along’; I can hear the ill-preparedness from my desk.

It’s a hard sell these days. Students have a lot to learn across a plethora of subjects, so why should they take finance lessons on top of all that other pressure?

Make it real

In this generation it is almost unheard of for someone in their early twenties to have a mortgage. This is even true as you move upwardly of 30. Is it realistic to teach them about mortgage rates, types of mortgages, stamp duty? While it's important life skills, I’m not sure I would have much interest in learning about something that feels so far away. Now budgeting, that’s something that I would want to know about - and an important message for students who are starting part-time work. The importance of saving, the benefits of compound interest, understanding bank accounts - all information that can be used by students immediately.

Make it fun

There are so many apps and online competitions that students can play, whilst adding a little bit of competition to the mix. Create your own school-wide business challenge, sign up some teams to The Student Investor Challenge. It doesn’t have to be timetabled curriculum or a formal qualification, just get them thinking about money and finance; how we spend it, what’s it worth and what are the products?

Get personal

Hands up who’s been in debt? Hands up who’s had £0 in the bank a week before payday? Hands up who has an overdraft? That’s what students want to hear. They can learn from your mistakes and successes, learn beyond a textbook. It's important to highlight the financial decisions they can actually make right now, students are far more responsive when they can learn by doing.

Celebrity endorsements

I’m not referring to the cast of Geordie Shore, but instead to famous faces who have shown financial gumption and responsible business acumen. Alan Sugar, J K Rowling, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, to name a few, are all self-made businessmen and women who have had huge successes. They all began as start-ups or from a simple idea, and had to work their way through all the financial problems that any company can face. Although we’re not talking about personal finance, programmes like Dragons Den and The Apprentice are good ways to engage students with real life business and financial decisions (while providing a bit of drama and excitement). Whether you’re checking your bank balance or budgeting for resources in a business; its all numbers, it’s all skills.

Get in with the parents

Financial habits are hereditary. We learn by living and by seeing, with our biggest life influencers originating in the home. Financial education was only introduced into the curriculum 2 years ago, we didn’t have access to this much information when we were at school. Pfeg have some great resources to help get you started. Opening this dialogue with parents could not only help their children’s future, but may also make a difference to family spending habits.

Find out more about resources and competitions to help teach students Financial Capability.