Friday, November 23, 2012

What did I Learn at School?

All financial experts will agree on one thing - our kids at school are not taught even the basics of personal financial management. We teach them how to make money but do not teach them how to handle it. I am not sure how are the things now, but back in my days, the teachers thought even speaking about money will spoil the students.

When I look back to my school days, I cannot say I was taught nothing on money. I can remember two lessons I learnt at school about money, other than calculating simple interest and compound interest. I will narrate those two things here.

At my third standard, there was one chapter on Life Insurance. It was written as a dialog between a Father and his son. The son is gloomy to go to school as his best friend, Ramesh, is discontinuing his education. The reason? Ramesh's father, who was the sole bread winner of the family, passed away recently.

Then father consoles his son saying Ramesh can continue his studies, because his father had an insurance coverage. Then father explains to his son about the Life Insurance and how it works. At the end of the story, the kid becomes happy and goes to school.

We need to appreciate the people who included such a topic for such small kids. It was, of course, better than nothing. However, the second lesson I was taught at school is a horrible one, and  I had to struggle hard for years to unlearn it.

It was a poem on Money. It is written with a good intention, to educate students against greed. Well, it goes like this. If you get Rs 10, you will want Rs 100. If you get Rs 100, you will wish for Rs 1000. If you get Rs 1000, you will want Rs 10,000. The greed of human beings will never end. It was a Malayalam poem, and please excuse my poor translation. (They say what's lost in translation is poetry).

What's wrong here? Of course, we need to educate our children against greed. Greed and consumerism can easily spoil one's personal finance. But, if you have Rs 10, what's wrong if you try to make it Rs 100? Ideally, every one should try this. That's why we are investing our savings, to make it grow. We work for money, and if you invest the money wisely, the money can work for you, and grow by itself.

The purpose of education is to produce good citizens of the nation, not a few saints. In that case, we cannot accept including such pessimistic poems in school curriculum.

It was nearly three decades ago, and what worries me is that our outlook hasn't changed much. Recently I read an article that Central Government is planning to make finance education mandatory for school kids. A very welcome move. But not all people are happy, and some people commented that finance education will ruin the kids. Another one commented that we should teach our students moral values instead of personal finance. The moment we hear money, we assume that it is against values. It is disappointing to see that some people still believe money is such a bad thing.

I wish some one taught me the basics of personal finance management in the early years of my career. I wish some one told me how bad it is using credit cards, the importance of keeping track of expenses, and the importance of saving and investing. Do we want our kids also grow up as ignorant as we were? I believe it is high time we should include personal finance in school curriculum. Managing money is as important as earning it.

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