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Financial Education: An important life skill for young people

Old Free, Gary Youssef was welcomed back to Freemen’s, where he presented a series of financial education workshops to our Sixth Form students. 

Gary Youssef was Head Boy at Freemen’s in 1991-1992 and shared several stories about his time at school with the students. Gary’s career journey began with his training as a lawyer after which he went on to work as a solicitor and then in Legal Recruitment. He is currently working as a Financial Advisor and Planner at St. James Place Wealth Management and GSQ Wealth.

Part of a wider programme of activities which prepares students for the next stage of their lives after Freemen’s, the financial workshops highlighted the importance of budgeting and gave useful advice on how students can best manage their money. 

The sessions explored what a budget is, why budgeting is important, how to prioritise needs over wants, and how to deal with financial difficulties. Topics covered in the sessions included; debit cards, credit cards, arrears, interest rates, spending habits, what to do if you get into debt and a budgeting challenge for the students to take on.  

Over 100 students gained the opportunity to learn about budgeting in preparation for life after Freemen's. Feedback gathered from students demonstrated the knowledge gained through the workshops. Some of the comments included:

“The session highlighted consequences of missing payments and what I should do to avoid it.” 

“I can now see the consequences of not paying bills and prioritising my most important spending.” 

“It has allowed me to understand budgeting and be more confident that it is simply about keeping income higher than expenses.” 

Thank you to Gary for making the journey back to Freemen’s to share his knowledge and experience with our students.

Keen to give something back to the Freemen’s community, Gary has also written an article on the importance of financial education for young people, which you can read below. 

Financial Education: An important life skill for young people 

Gary Youssef – GSQ Wealth 

Helping young people learn how to manage money is one of the most vital life skills they need.  It is an increasingly important area to address with 94% of Secondary school teachers agreeing or strongly agreeing, that financial education gives students an essential life skill, and 95% of teachers believing it was important or very important. Young Money (formally pfeg) 2017

Highlighting how important financial education could be to society, is the statistic that 371 people a day were declared insolvent or bankrupt in October – December 2018 (equivalent to one person every 5 minutes and 16 seconds) (The Money Charity, February 2019).  These figures could potentially be reduced if more of us were given the life skills to manage our money at a younger age. The average UK household has £2,241 of credit card debt, and the average total debt per UK household is £60,526 (The Money Charity, August 2020).

Some of the consequences of not managing our money might be short-term, but in other areas, they can have a much longer lasting impact, such as a poor credit rating.  If you end up in debt, first, sit down and calculate how much money you owe.  Then pick out those bills which are a priority and should be paid before others.  Priority bills are those which, if not paid, would result in more serious consequences such as council tax; non-payment of which can result in a court summons.  Other priority bills include utilities, as non-payment might result in disconnection from the supplier or being moved onto pre-payment meters which are more costly. 

The key is not to spend money you have not got.  Work out what your essential spending is i.e. expenses to meet your basic needs to live, such as grocery shopping, utility bills and rent and then set your discretionary spending limit, i.e. on your ‘wants’, rather than needs, such as eating out, entertainment and holidays.  Set yourself a budget and stick to it.  

I delivered a financial education workshop to sixth formers at City of London Freemen’s school in October and realised how eager the students were to understand more in this area.  Indeed, a survey of the students found that 44% had a greater understanding as to how to prioritise payments and 32% had a better understanding as to how to analyse their spending after the workshop. This can only be a positive. Their best parts of the session included understanding the full consequences of credit card debt/overdrafts, gaining a better awareness as to how important your credit score and managing your day-to-day bills was and knowing what the possible challenges were in managing your own finances in the future. 

The students thirst for more knowledge in this area is underscored by the 2019 Young Persons’ Money Index which found that 82% of students wanted more financial education in school, 69% of students worried about money and 60% wanted financial education taught as a separate subject.

In light of this, perhaps financial education should become a more integral part of a student’s education, readying them for life beyond the school gates.