Each school varies in how they teach financial education beyond the basics set out in the national curriculum, but the reality is that many barely scratch the surface when it comes to preparing students financially for life beyond the school gates.
Westpac’s Financial Literacy Report recently found that more than half of Australia’s teenagers don’t feel confident or prepared to make financial decisions. And a separate study by HILDA found that teenage girls significantly lagged behind their male counterparts when it came to financial literacy.
Whilst both genders clearly need assistance in this area, it’s particularly troubling that girls are less financially literate than boys – as research tells us that this is a trend that is likely to follow women throughout their adult life.
One in every four women do not have any savings (ANZ), and 41% of women find “dealing with money stressful and overwhelming” (ASIC). According to Financial Capability, only 35% of women know the exact value of their super, 40% understand the concept of diversification, and only 59% pay their credit balance in full every month. Women in Australia currently retire with 47% less superannuation than men.
As a Career Practitioner in a single-sex school, I believe that financial literacy is just as important as mathematics or English in preparing students for adult life. That’s why at Strathcona Girls Grammar, we’re striving to counter the current perception when it comes to young women and financial literacy.
In my experience, it’s certainly not a topic that makes students’ eyes glaze over either. Rather, I have found the opposite to be true in that adolescents have an eagerness, willingness and a sense of urgency to learn more about financial literacy.
With this in mind, it is essential for schools around Australia to start the conversations in class about learning the basics of finance, for example, about budgeting, superannuation, financial investment and taxes.
Through Strathcona’s Year 12 Liberal Studies program, students are educated on various financial topics, such as managing day-to-day budget and finances, understanding superannuation and taxes and how to best save and invest for the future. During the collaborative class, Strathcona aims to debunk queries around financial resolutions, budgeting and entering the job market, all of which are topics that have been noted by students as areas they know very little about.
We also enlist professional help from beyond our school gates. Throughout the year, we have guest speakers attend the School’s Liberal Studies Program, such as a Financial Adviser from Accru Melbourne, Kate Rhodes, who has provided professional insight and advice regarding managing income, expenses and influences on saving. Just like teaching mathematics or linguistic skills, this program highlights the notion that future generations are never too young to learn about financial literacy.
It’s important to note that conversations around finance shouldn’t be limited to the classroom either, but also openly spoken about at home, over the dinner table, or during the commute to school. Young women need to be exposed to realistic and tangible examples of money matters, such as how their family or close networks actively save funds, juggle a mortgage or make significant business or lifestyle investments. Research shows that people whose parents did not provide them with advice on money matters growing up had lower levels of financial wellbeing than those whose parents did provide such advice (ANZ).
Teaching financial literacy in the classroom is one promising way to improve the financial capacity of young women today. Equally, we encourage our students to talk about money with their parents at home. Financial education is a building block for the future, ensuring our next generation of leaders follows the best financial path at every age to secure them the future of their dreams.
Joanna Buckley is the Head of Careers at Strathcona Girls Grammar.