Financial education can make a huge difference in people’s life, but where should it start?
A while ago I needed to get some cleaning products so I popped in Home Bargains. I like that shop: it’s not far from home, it’s cheap, and they always have what I need. The only downside is that they sometimes get quite busy.
As I was waiting to pay, I was looking around, aimlessly, as you do when you’re bored but you don’t have much of a choice but wait. As most shops do, they have displays near the tills in a last bid to sell you more. Fair enough: it’s a shop, that’s what they do.
There was a family just in front of me in the queue; a mother and two kids. Both boys were well behaved, they were waiting patiently without fussing. The mother noticed the DVDs on display and pointed them to the eldest boy who, although he had seen them, had not shown any interest. The following conversation ensued:
Mother: Look, they have DVDs
Kid: Yeah, I know
M.: Why don’t you buy one? You had money for your birthday.
K.: No…I don’t want one.
M.: But you have money…. Buy one. They’re cheap.
K.: I don’t need anything
M.: Come on. I’m sure you can find one.
K.: I don’t have any money.
M.: I’ll lend you the money. You can pay me back later
The kid finally cracked, grabbed one dvd without even really choosing.
I was shocked. I obviously didn’t say anything as it was none of my business but I could not understand why a parent would want to push a child into buying something he neither wanted nor needed. The fact that she taught him that getting into unnecessary debt was fine was the cherry on the cake.
People like Martin Lewis from The Money Saving Expert website have fought to make financial education mandatory in schools but sometimes I wonder if it should not be made mandatory for parents as well.