Educating The Next Generation Of Clients

Perhaps it is because my children are coming to the end of their primary school education, but I’ve become increasing aware of my responsibility as a parent to provide them with responsible attitudes towards money to help them through life. While they are beginning to understand the concept that things cost money, they are gradually realising that there isn’t a bottomless pit of cash buried in the back garden to pay for everything! Getting them to understand that saving the weekly pocket money to buy something that they really want is much better than blowing it all on a comic and sweets each week, is an important first step in encouraging them to adopt a lifelong saving mentality.

The Personal Finance Society is the professional body for the financial planning profession in the UK and they have recognised the importance of educating tomorrows savers, with the launch of the My Personal Finance Skills – a pro bono initiative to deliver financial education workshops to secondary schools and colleges across the UK. These workshops include topics such as helping students understand the value of everyday expenses, staying safe from financial scams and understanding the concepts of income tax and National Insurance once they leave school.

I volunteered to be an Education Champion, and despite a little bit of trepidation (there’s a reason why I decided to become a financial adviser rather than a teacher!) I took the plunge to deliver a workshop at a local secondary school just before Christmas. I have to say that it was a really enjoyable experience and was fascinating to see how fourteen and fifteen year old’s think about money – more than one were shocked about the cost of things such as household expenses and rent, especially when they were also informed about the difference between net and gross salary!!

This generation of children are fully immersed in social media and there is no doubt that they are heavily influenced by the lavish lifestyles portrayed by some celebrities. One of the objectives of the workshop was to make the participants aware of the income needed to maintain such as lifestyle, and the dangers of using easy borrowing in an attempt to live the “Instagram lifestyle”.

A number of clients have expressed their concerns over the years about the ability of their children to manage large amounts of inherited wealth, and last year we sought to set up a next generation workshop to provide financial education for young adults. While we didn’t have the level of response that we had hoped for, I’m sure that this will be a topic that we will revisit in the future.

The Importance Of Financial Education

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the latest Personal Finance Society (PFS) Regional Conference, and as the Professional Qualifications Officer for Kent, I presented some slides to other financial professionals on the initiative by the PFS for members to provide pro bono financial education sessions within local secondary schools.

The content is in the form of a board game and looks to provide students with tips on understanding investment risk and financial budgeting, but for me the most important objective is helping young people to avoid financial scams. It reminded me of an article that I’d read on the BBC website a couple of days earlier about London Capital & Finance which went into administration after taking £236 million from investors.

Their marketing campaign targeted first-time investors with promises of fixed interest returns of 8% from secure ISA’s and would spread investment risk over hundreds of companies. The reality was that 25% of the investments made were paid as commission to the marketing agent, and then funds were lent to a total of 12 companies – four of which had never filed accounts and nine were less than three years old!

The financial crisis of 2008 showed that even well-known and reputable financial firms are not immune from the perils of administration, but in the current low interest rate environment, a guaranteed investment offering a return of four times the best Cash ISA rate on the market would be treated with scepticism by the majority of experienced investors.

The government have introduced incentives such as Junior ISA’s and automatic enrolment to encourage younger people to start saving earlier in life, but it is important that we educate them on managing money responsibly. For those children fortunate enough to have parents and/or grandparents funding Junior ISA contributions, they will take over sole responsibility for the management of the account on their 18thbirthday. What’s to stop them investing in the scheme they saw on social media promising double digit returns, and looks so much more interesting than their existing investment?

I’ve done a number of surgeries to talk to people about the pension benefits offered by their employer, and some of the people I speak to are just out of school or university. For the majority this is probably the first conversation they have ever had about pension provision, and while there are those who are lucky enough to have parents who they can turn to for help, I’ve met young people who struggle to understand how deductions from payroll such as Income Tax and National Insurance operate.

Matt wrote a blog a couple of months ago about our intention to host workshops to provide the tools the next generation needs to be successful financially, and while the goal of any investment is to make some money, it is probably more important to teach the lesson of how not to lose it all.

The Next Generation

I have been speaking with my clients a lot over the past few months about ‘the next generation’ in anticipation of our first ever next gen workshop later this year.

The conversations have been fascinating and have highlighted a huge knowledge gap when it comes to personal finance.

The financial world is more complex and faster paced than ever before and yet we seem to be giving young people less and less education to help them prepare for their financial journey through life.

The majority of young people now are entering the ‘real world’ without any knowledge of pensions, mortgages, credit card or interest rates. Knowledge that many of our clients will take for granted.

Although personal finance is supposedly on the national curriculum to be taught at schools, it is thought that only 40% or so of schools are actually delivering these lessons. I might also be to forward as to suggest that teachers might not be the best placed people to be delivering personal finance lessons (an assertion that teachers themselves agree with).

Although sometimes the media can create a self fulfilling prophesy, it has been well reported how a lack of financial education in schools is creating a real challenge for young people as they emerge into a somewhat harsher financial environment than previous generations.

It is well known that the young of today will face higher property prices, a lack of ‘gold plated’ final salary pensions and perhaps lower investment market growth to boot.

Although these issues present challenges, they are here to stay. Moaning about them will do nothing to prevent them and so we must take action to try and overcome these hurdles.

In my view, the first step is education. That is why we will be doing more over the coming years to educate the next generation. Our mission starts in earnest later this year when we host our very first ‘next generation’ workshop.

Our aim is to instil some of the basic financial knowledge that has helped our clients be so successful financially.

Although it is just a scratch on the surface, we have to start somewhere. Watch this space for more news later this year.