Free financial literacy program helps kids get money smart

Free financial literacy program helps kids get money smart

Since inflation started to bite in late 2021, millions of Australians have felt the pinch of rising living costs, and with the Reserve Bank of Australia warning of more tough years ahead, there are fears this pinch could escalate to a knockout punch for the economy.

For this reason, financial literacy is becoming as important for young people as it is for the adults providing for them. After all, it is young people who will soon be leaving school and entering a workforce that may not be as secure or rewarding as the one we have today.

However, financial literacy is lacking among many young people, with an OECD international student assessment report finding around 20% of 15-year-olds in Australia do not have basic financial literacy. A separate study of parents with kids between the ages of 8-17 years found 43% of parents believe their children don’t learn enough about money at school.

Recognising this, and its implications, Australian non-profit organisation Ecstra Foundation launched the Talk Money program which aims to deliver a total of 3,130 workshops by the end of the school year.

Ecstra’s CEO, Caroline Stewart, said that while the company’s financial education in schools survey found 98% of parents believe financial literacy should be taught in school, big gaps in financial knowledge, confidence and expectations remain.

“Curriculum content has often not kept pace with the evolving financial environment. Examples include the latest investing concepts, inflation, new credit and digital products such as BNPL and crypto,” Stewart told The Educator.

“Talk Money provides pragmatic, introductory money and finance concepts for students from years 5-10. Schools based learning provides equitable access and opportunity for the many students where their home environment is not optimal to discuss money or where parents/carers may not have the skills or confidence themselves.”

Stewart said Talk Money offers “a number of compelling benefits” to schools.

“Firstly, it is offered free to all schools with no commercial interests therefore there is no underlying product ‘sell’. Ecstra is an independent charitable foundation,” she said.

“Secondly, workshops are delivered by trained facilitators in person in the classrooms, with additional resources available to teachers online, with engaging, relevant content which reflects the diverse experience of students, both culturally and economically.”

Thirdly, says Stewart, Ecstra is measuring and sharing the results as it gathers from data.

“For example, 97% of teachers in the pilot evaluation said it was useful to have an external facilitator, and 100% believe the content is relevant to their students,” she said.

“Talk Money launched in Term 1 this year, even as schools across Australia were still dealing with COVID restrictions and challenges. However, school and teacher support has been fantastic from the outset, and bookings have accelerated as more schools hear about the program.”

Stewart said Ecstra will be expanding its rural and regional school visit schedule in 2023 to help young people in those communities improve their financial literacy skills.

“We will establish a community of practice for teachers and others who share our passion for ensuring kids have the financial decision-making skills and knowledge they need for life,” she said.  

“Our range of Financial Facts sheets will be launched shortly. These are practical, unbiased summaries on topics that students say they want to learn more about. These will reflect the ever changing economic environment and common financial challenges Australians are facing. Topics include inflation, property investment, savings buffers, BNPL, cost of living and digital assets.”