FT Campaign for Financial Literacy and Inclusion: Teaching Personal Finance with Hair Extensions

This article is the last part of the FT Financial Literacy and Inclusion Campaign

How would you persuade a teenager that learning about personal finance is worth their time and attention? For Nicola Butler, the answer was hair extensions.

The teacher at Ysgol Eirias, a secondary school in Colwyn Bay, Wales, once overheard female pupils discussing the hair procedure, which can cost up to £ 400. “How can you afford it?” One of them asked. “Mum will put it on credit,” was the reply.

Butler was taken aback but saw an unorthodox opportunity to open a discussion with the 14-year-olds about the allure of consumer debt, interest rates and the true cost of borrowing.

It is by capturing such conversations – using his own experience of everyday life and that of his students – that Butler brings home money lessons to students from all walks of life, from the rich to those in the queue. weekly at the food bank. “I try to stay as realistic as possible,” she told the FT.

This week, her accomplishments were publicly recognized, as the winner of the Interactive Investor Personal Finance Teacher of the Year award. The annual awards give cash prizes to seven schools whose teachers have distinguished themselves as supporters of a subject that is not always seen as central to the curriculum.

The two winners – Butler in the secondary school category and Nick Redfern of Powers Hall Academy in Witham, Essex, for primary education – receive £ 5,000 for their schools.

Redfern initially trained as a teacher, but spent more than 25 years working as an investment banker in London before returning to a teaching role. With a high proportion of working-class children in his classes, he created lessons exploring the dangers of debt, asking students to determine what would be the cheapest form of borrowing – a bank, a card. credit or salary. lender.

Showing students old advertisements from Wonga, a now defunct payday lender, allowed him to warn about sophisticated marketing techniques lenders use to attract new clients.

The judges also praised a “Money Personality” quiz designed by Butler, which introduced key financial concepts by exploring scenarios students were likely to encounter, as well as school trips in. local banks or – with sixth grade girls – at the annual Women Mean Business event. Conference.

Butler, 53, became a teacher seven years ago and is well positioned to explain the risks and rewards of financial services having spent most of her career in finance, working for NatWest bank, asset managers and other businesses.

But she also has a personal insight into the challenges faced by low-income and jobless families. When she was five, she was sent to a private school, but within a year her father left the family home and her debt-ridden mother was declared bankrupt. She spent much of her childhood being displaced and taken out of schools, at one point facing homelessness.

This meteoric experience made him feel strongly that even for his most privileged students, personal finance is an essential life lesson. “I tell them that if things change, you have to understand that you have to be able to plan for yourself and not rely on anyone. I am very, very aware of it.

Another educator recognized in the annual awards was Jonathan Shields, a finalist in the high school category. A teacher at Harrow School Online, he encouraged his students to acquire challenging financial skills. In 2009, one of them became the youngest UK financial advisor ever to qualify, with a qualification from the Chartered Institute of Insurance. Shields now presents students with the Investment Transactions Certificate offered by the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment – normally reserved for financial professionals or graduates.

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This article is part of the FT’s financial literacy and inclusion campaign to develop educational programs to strengthen financial literacy for those who need it most.

Financial literacy education provides young people with the foundation for future prosperity and can help economically disadvantaged people escape poverty. Join the FT Flic campaign to promote financial literacy in the UK and globally

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Personal finances should be a central part of every school’s curriculum, he argued. “It’s a national scandal that young people don’t understand credit cards, investments and all the other basic financial infrastructure that is so essential to the life of a successful adult. “

This is a need recognized by The Financial Times, which launched a campaign to promote financial literacy and improve the prospects of millions of people by helping them understand how money works in everyday life.

For Butler, these lessons have become more urgent in recent years, as financial products have become more widely available to all. She remembers working at Pizza Hut’s corporate headquarters in the 1980s when the finance team made the first credit card payment for a meal at one of their restaurants. It was another time, when credit was more difficult to access. “Now all of a sudden it’s just accepted. Everyone has credit cards, ”she said.

As she worries about the temptations to put purchases on plastic, helping students understand the ramifications is hugely rewarding. “Suddenly you see the penny drop. They will start asking questions and saying “Oh, that’s why my dad is doing this”. It is absolutely amazing to see.