· Features

Let's help the next generation by democratising financial education

Human beings are uniquely able to educate their young in order to progress. In no field is this more evident than in technology, but it is disappointing that we have not learnt to make intergenerational progress more effective when it comes to money, says the chairman of Share.

It is said that 51% of people struggle with their living costs. For example, the average age of first time home ownership was 24 in the 1970s and 37 today. Young people still leave school with very little idea of everyday life issues. It was only this September that financial education became a compulsory part of the curriculum.

I believe passionately that all young people should have the opportunity to control their own finances, to feel part of and have a stake in the society in which they live, and to gradually reach the point when their money is working for them, rather than feeling as if they are on an endless treadmill.

That’s why my various activities all embody the name ‘Share’ and are all linked by this common purpose. I run The Share Centre, which provides self-driven investment services for all, no matter what their quantum of assets or extent of knowledge.

I also set up The Share Foundation, a registered charity that operates the Junior ISA scheme for the Department for Education, enabling young people in care to have some resources and financial capability when they reach adulthood. 

And just recently we launched Share Radio, whose mission is ‘sharing ideas about money’, providing information and guidance on everyday money issues.

What lies behind all these enterprises is the concept of democratising expertise: sharing knowledge to enable all to feel more confident with handling everyday life. The financial world has been very good at locking up information in its ivory towers. It tends to put on a seemingly impregnable cloak of expertise, and has used it to build an edifice of intermediation.

Democratising expertise challenges that. We can all become better at controlling our finances and the Government, with its planned major changes to pensions, wants us to do just that. But schools and colleges must help: they need to encourage teachers to feel more confident in talking about financial education and tackle the problems of literacy and numeracy that so often stand in the way of better financial capability.

This is a drum that the Personal Finance Education Group, where I was a board member until it merged into Young Enterprise this September, has been beating for many years:  to empower teachers to feel more confident when talking about money.

Another organisation making big steps forward is Open University, with its new research Centre for the Public Understanding of Finance. They have published an online course called Managing my Money designed for everyone, not just graduates. Meanwhile, the Money Advice Service, formed after the restructuring of the Financial Services Authority, is increasing its capability to provide guidance.

With Share Radio we look forward to providing a dedicated media channel for sharing ideas about money. Our focus is on helping people with everyday money matters. We are ambitious in our aim to empower a new generation to be more confident in handling money than their parents and grandparents.

Gavin Oldham is the chairman of Share and The Share Centre