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Financial Literacy 101

Why don’t we give high school kids even basic literacy in finance?

Money is the biggest stress in most people’s lives – so why aren’t we teaching basic tools to manage it?

Much of the stress stems from a lack of understanding, planning and/or reckless behaviour when it comes to financial management. Once people graduate school and enter the workforce, their lives get busy, while simultaneously the responsibility of balancing income, expenses, and saving/investing is thrust upon them.

Many scramble to figure it out, but all too often, it proves to be frustrating learning this critically important skill while juggling other responsibilities, especially for those who never favoured numbers. Those unable to learn may live with a constant struggle when it comes to money.

It’s time our provincial government mandate that personal finance become part of the BC high school curriculum. With more financial literacy, British Columbians would better understand their relationship with money, and how to budget, save, spend, invest, and borrow it. Ultimately, this would lead to self-sufficiency, less stress, and healthier lives.

Teaching money skills in high schools would also encourage more discussion on the subject. As it stands, money is treated like a four-letter word; talking about it deemed inappropriate. However, if conversations began in classrooms, the topic would become less taboo, which would encourage the exchange of ideas and skillsets all round would improve.

In short, money would become less intimidating.

A clearer understanding of debt, for example, would enable people to recognize good vs. bad debt, when it’s appropriate to borrow, the risks (and how best to mitigate), and how to borrow to pursue opportunities to get ahead. Further, if British Columbians learn how to budget according to personal values and goal-based priorities, they’ll know how to spend, save and invest based on what’s truly most important to them.

Although money is simply a tool and doesn’t actually bring happiness, if used in a manner consistent with personal values and goals, happiness will be achieved.

financial guide for high school students book cover

In 1996, as a Senior Financial Advisor at a national investment firm I wrote and published the National Best Seller First Class, The Original Financial Guide for High School Students. I pursued selling it to the Ministry of Education, to hopefully incorporate into the BC curriculum, but ultimately found the process too challenging.

I’m dismayed that over 23 years since my book’s release, there’s still little financial management taught in high school. Although math, calculus and economics are offered, schools lack courses on their practical application to personal finance.

If our province collectively was more financially astute, it would hold our governments more accountable. Governments would be less able to pull the wool over people’s eyes, because they would be more likely get called out.

Ultimately, if every high schooler in B.C. received a sound education in financial management, it would lead to future politicians being more fiscally responsible while managing the biggest budget in our province.

Lana Marks Pulver is a financial expert, non-profit leader and entrepreneur. Follow Lana on Facebook: Lana is seeking the nomination for the BC Liberals in Vancouver – Point Grey.