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MONEY: Teach children earning & budgeting

By Helen Ovbiagele

My goodness! Those are atrociously high shoes! ” exclaimed a cousin of mine when her 22 year old daughter, Diane, came out to whirl round for us to admire her before she left for a social engagement.

“Oh mum!  They’re not that high.  You should see those of  Gladys’.  They’re twice as high as these ones.”

“That’s not possible.  None can possibly be higher than these ones.  Don’t you feel dizzy? It’s like you’re walking on stilts!   They’ll affect your knees, your ankles, your spine and your waist.  They could trigger off joint pains early.  Can’t you change into lovely but sensible shoes?”

“Mum these are what are in vogue right now.  All my friends wear high heels.  Auntie, aren’t they lovely?”

“They definitely are lovely, and so is the rest of your outfit.  You look beautiful.”

“Auntie, God bless you, ma.  You’ve made my day.  Mum, you see?  Some booster from auntie.  I feel good.”

“Er, I haven’t actually said that you don’t look pretty and well-dressed.  It’s the shoes that are unhealthy.  I suppose you have to wear them, at least at this point in time.”

“That’s the spirit, mumsie! That’s the spirit!  One has to move with the times.”

“How much do they cost, by the way?  I mean your shoes.”

“Oh, er, not much.  Er, just forty-two thousand naira, including this matching handbag, mum.  Cheap, isn’t it?  They were on sales in Ikeja.  Gladys’ cost much more.”

“Forty-two thousand!” exclaimed both I and her mother.

“Do you girls pay that much for shoes these days?” I asked.  “That’s a monthly salary for some married people with children, you know. That’s reckless spending, Diane.  Sorry, but it’s true.”

“Ah, my sister, thank you o!” said the mother.  “Diane, how can you afford these on your youth corper’s allowance?  Even if you were a worker and earning several hundred naira a month, you shouldn’t pay that much for mere shoes. How were you able to pay for them?  Don’t tell me you bought them on credit or borrowed money. You don’t have a sugar daddy, do you?  Of course not!”

“That’s a laugh, mum.  Sugar daddy indeed. You know how much I have at any given time, mum.  However,  I borrowed the money, but from my savings. You can go check at the bank.”

“I believe you, but that’s borrowing, all the same.  You purchased outside your earning for the month. That’s bad, very bad Diane.  Your dad would be so upset about it. ”

Diane sighed heavily, murmuring that she would pay the money back into her savings. The mother asked how and when, and she was then given a two minute lecture on how not to spend frivolously.  Poor Diane looked sober as she bade us ‘goodbye.’

Afterwards, I commended my cousin on the lecture, and on her interest in how her children spend their money.  “Well, since you and your husband are accountants, I suppose it’s easy for you to guide your children.  Many of us are not that placed.”

“Maybe.  It’s important for these children to know that you don’t pluck money from the trees in the backyard.  Every child should be raised to budget within his/her earnings, and treat money with respect, buy wisely and learn to go for bargains.

That will, hopefully check their spending habits, teach them how to manage money properly, and stay out of debt.  Those who acquire staggering debts, or spend public money recklessly, don’t acquire the habit suddenly.  It’s something that they’ve been living with unchecked from their early years.”

How true!  With the harsh economic times, many people are finding it difficult to make ends meet, and are merely living from month-end to month-end, borrowing money to make this possible.  While this is as a result of their low-earning power, there are many people who earn passably well, but can’t manage money, simply because they’ve never known how to.  If they can’t manage money, they won’t be able to teach their children how to manage money.

Eh, yes!  With untamed and reckless spending will surely come the temptation to ‘borrow’ public money placed in our care, or placed within our reach, or accept money offered to us by ‘grateful’ people  in the course of performing our duties.  This is certainly not stealing public funds or taking bribes! However, we just have to have the money with which to fund our expensive lifestyle; the alternative is acquiring uncontrolled mounting debts.

It was enlightening to read in a March edition of  the British Mail on Sunday newspaper that financial topics are slotted into lessons across the curriculum in some schools Britain.  This starts at the primary school level so that the young can be caught early; using every day situations in which the children have to spend money.

For example, a Pets’ Shop situation is created in class, with the prices of the toy pets clearly marked.  Each pupil is then given a budget and then they are asked to work out how many pets they can conveniently ‘buy’ with the money they have. The lesson is not just about maths.  ‘The class is urged to think about the meaning of words and phrases such as ‘bargain’ and ‘buy one, get one free’.’

A deputy head of one these schools in Merton, south-west London, and leader of its financial education strategy, says ‘We want children to reflect wisely on the choices they make with their money and to be better equipped as consumers when they come to spend for themselves.’  A seven year old pupil there tells others, ‘If we learn this now, then if you go shopping with your mum and dad, you will know what to spend.’

The school runs a Money Week each summer for the whole school and parents.

The writer of the piece says ‘the lessons have been shaped by a five-year project ‘What Money Means’. The 3.4 million pounds initiative, led by the Personal finance Education Group charity and sponsored by HSBC, has worked with primary schools in 34 local authorities in England, reaching tens of thousands of children.’

I think this a worthy scheme which the government and financial institutions in our country can collaborate to use in educating our children, who as future leaders who will define the financial health of the nation, on how to handle money wisely with respect and discipline.

Of course there are citizens here who are busy stashing away money so that many generations of their families will never know poverty, but even they need to teach their wards how to handle the wealth they’re leaving behind, so that, that poverty they fear may never happen.  But then, they may never know what’s left of their wealth in say, a hundred years’ time.


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