TORONTO - With a full month of school under their belts, students are settling into classes, getting familiar with homework loads, and figuring out how to split time between school, activities and friends. Have you ever looked back to the time you where a teenager in school and asked yourself "If I knew more about how to manage my money back then, I wouldn't be in the financial straits I am now?" How many of us have had our spending and saving (or lack of saving) habits imprinted into us from the time we were 14 or 15, up until our present age?
By the time most Ontario teens have finished high school, they will have been introduced the world of earning and spending money, but new research reveals that they may not have the money management skills they need - and want - for life after graduation.
70% of Ontario high school students say that learning how to manage their personal finances is important or very important, according to a new study from the Investor Education Fund (IEF, www.GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca), a leading Canadian authority on financial literacy, financial education and research. Not only do they think that personal financial management is important, 69% think personal finance lessons should be taught in the classroom, an increase of 12 percentage points from a similar study done in 2009.
However, only 4 in 10 felt they are somewhat or very prepared for managing their personal finances after high school, and only about one-quarter say their schools provide them with most or all of the financial information they need. The feeling of being prepared was highest when the schools provided most or all of the available information.
"High school students are just a few short steps away from post-secondary education or entering the workforce. Learning how to use a budget, manage debt responsibly and save money are essential life skills for young adults," said Tom Hamza, President of IEF. "Students will stand a much better chance of long-term financial success if their schools prepare them with these skills."
Some other findings that normally tight-lipped teens loosened up about:
- High school students who felt their school provided most or all of the personal finance information they need are twice as likely to "always budget" (29%), compared to other high school students (15%). In most schools, 42% of students "never budget." This number drops to 18% in schools thought to provide all or most of the personal finance information students need.
- 55% of students admit their knowledge of money could be better.
- Students say paying for education after high school is their biggest money worry, yet only 3 out of 10 are actually saving for school. Instead, clothes, entertainment, cash and gifts top the list for savings across Grades 9 through 12.
There are entertaining and interactive teaching tools for teachers to help inspire students about financial literacy. The lesson plans and tools were developed by IEF in partnership with the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto and are designed to teach students how to apply relevant financial concepts to their lives.
Lesson plans start in Grade 4, where students develop financial vocabulary, use financial symbols and terminology, identify the forms of currency and make simple purchases in simulated situations. By the time Grade 12 roles around, students have the ability to become fluent in financial terminology, create complex personal and family budgets, and analyze the role of individual responsibility in saving, among other money lessons. These teaching resources are available for free at InspireFinancialLearning.ca, a new website designed to help teachers quickly and easily access financial literacy tools.
"Reaching students starting at a young age, with financial information that engages their interests, is the key to making good money habits a lifetime habit," said Hamza. "We hope and expect that this will have a positive impact on Ontarians' financial literacy in the long term."
About the study:
The study was conducted in June 2012 by The Brondesbury Group via online poll with a sample of 400 English-speaking Ontario secondary school students. Survey results have a "worst case" error margin of ±5 per cent, 19 out of 20 times. Interviews were evenly split between the four secondary school grades and by gender.