National Student Money Week is in mid February and is the highly publicised focus point for financial education offered in universities and colleges across the UK. We are delighted to be involved for a second year and are hoping that NSMW13 will provide a positive message of financial aspiration to the widest possible audience. In parallel we hope that students, both local and foreign, will take advantage of the week to raise their money confidence, knowledge and skills.
For over a year we have been working with student services around the country and have noted, with some worry, that those students who could most benefit are the students who require the greatest push to get financially capable. Foreign students, who often arrive on our shores with deeper pockets and less concern over debt, seem more receptive to setting good financial foundations as do those students who will more likely earn higher salaries. Are other students less interested in their financial futures or have they become prey to the its-all-hopeless-so-why-bother mindset which has become standard in the media?
Overriding pessimism is on all sides from a relentless news-cycle and it's time to draw a line under it and celebrate opportunity and aspiration. Encouraging students to take control of their financial future is a great and practical place to start as financial decisions impact on our present and every aspect of our future. Whether in a trade, a profession, entrepreneurship or the third sector our relationship with money permeates everything from our health to our relationships. So it is time to make money our slave not our master and we can start by no longer saying that everything is helpless and rather say that anything is possible.
50% of the jobs people will hold in 10 years time haven't been invented yet. We don't know where breakthroughs will come, who will be the visionaries of the future and have no idea what will drive the economy in a decade. Five years ago there was no Instagram, 10 years ago there was no Facebook, 15 years ago there was no Google. Pretending we can predict the future is crazy. Saying that we are bereft of opportunity is absurd.
What we know for sure, what we know for certain, is that destiny is in our hands as never before. We know that if knowledge is power then economic knowledge must be economic power and we are certain that those who raise their knowledge will be at a distinct advantage. Those that don't grab it will only have themselves to blame.
This is why we look forward to the day when financial education sessions are packed to the rafters with screaming fans and maybe some thrown underwear. In the near future financial capability sessions will sell out (even if they are free) and people will arrive early to guarantee a seat. They will understand that while scrimping is important it is not a plan for life and we will become a nation of savers and investors.
It is a lofty ideal but not a foolish dream. In a world in which safety nets are disappearing and the generational contract is compromised, is it unreasonable to think that the students who are worried about money, anxious about the future and confused about debt would want to better their own lot? As those under the old fees regime graduate, and the majority of students fall into the new student-tax structure, student advisers are expecting even greater pressure on their time and treasure. Raising the financial capability of all students would alleviate some of the pressure by reducing the needs of the many thus allowing advisors to focus on the few in real dire financial need.
Pro-active and well meaning institutions can provide the opportunities for students, ensure they are effective and independent and then heavily advertise their availability but students must grab them with both hands. Opportunities to learn for the sake of learning don't often come around after graduation so investing an hour in your own future may be the best investment you ever make. But you gotta show up!