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Life Lessons About Money We Wish We'd Learned At School

From credit scores to interest rates, we go back to basics on the vital money management lessons we should’ve been taught.

For many of us, school involved too many algebraic equations and not enough about practical personal finance. With a tough economic climate, tricky housing market and student debt, it’s more important than ever to learn about money.

We’re all capable of becoming financially literate. Make a start by learning the basics of good management right here with these simple life lessons.

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Don’t be shy about money

First things first, get comfortable with talking about money. It’s seen as taboo in society to discuss personal finances, income, investments or savings. This silence means many of us shy away from the topic altogether and don’t seize the right moments to discuss it – and that needs to change.

“If you’ve avoided talking about finances or you’ve never really built a great system around talking about money. Now is the time to start to have money conversations in a thoughtful, neutral and cheery way,” Aditi Shekar, founder of personal finance app, Zeta, explains. “Even though it’s a raised topic where there’s lots of conflict and stress tied to it. Try to take out that negative feeling and bring tensions down that way you can talk about money in context with all of the other decisions.”

The fact that we don’t talk about money is why kids and many adults don’t know anything about finances in general. Talking about money more regularly will help you get outside your comfort zone and ask for help if or when you need it.

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Shop around

When shopping, especially online, it’s important to make sure you are getting value for money. Don’t simply take the first option, as it often isn’t the best or cheapest deal. Whether it’s car insurance, credit cards or broadband deals, using a price comparison tool will help you get what you want for the lowest price.

What’s more, when it comes to money, loyalty doesn’t pay. In fact, by staying loyal to a particular company, service, or product, you’ll probably end up forking out more. Companies know that, and you can bet they’ll take advantage of your loyalty. All the more reason to shop around and keep your options open.

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There’s no such thing as ‘free money’

An overdraft can be a life-saving safety blanket for many, but remember, overdrafts and student overdrafts aren’t free money – it’s still a debt that you have to pay back eventually. The longer it goes on, the more you have to pay and the rates and charges are never favourable.

Set up a repayment plan to work out any money you’re able to free up and how much you owe. Keep tabs on how much you want to pay off each month, then treat it like any other bill. If you’re deeper into your overdraft than you thought, then you may want to consider other borrowing options such as taking out a personal loan or dipping into your savings (if you have any) to repay your overdraft.

Take care of your financial health

Your credit score is used for more than just getting a credit card or loan – it’s an important part of your overall financial health and it can make or break how you manage your finances as an adult.

Credit scores demonstrate your history and ability to pay back credit. Many businesses, landlords, mortgage lenders, utility providers, and even employers use your credit score to predict your future financial responsibility. A higher credit score normally equals more favourable interest rates, access to the best credit cards and a higher success rate of getting a mortgage. By comparison, a low credit rating will limit your choices: most of life’s biggest milestones will be harder to reach, fewer lenders will work with you and there’ll be higher interest rate, which means you’ll pay more in the long run.

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Consider investing

Think investments are reserved for the elite such as lawyers, doctors and the folks at Wall Street? Think again. Sound investments are not just for the super wealthy, they can start small and grow from there. However, it’s important to only invest once you have your finances in order, that way you’ll have a clear overview of how much or little disposable income you want to set aside for saving or investing.

Do your research on what’s right for you and understand the risk factors involved. Ask yourself: how long do I want to invest money for? And what am I planning on using the money for?

When you invest money, it gets tied up and is no longer easily accessible. Consider an appropriate mix of investments and savings and think wisely about your financial future.

Plan for the future (before you think you need to)

Thinking ahead needn’t be daunting and you shouldn’t put it off any longer. If you want to be wealthier or pay off debt, you better get started.

“Getting ahead of it, figuring out your plan around it and understanding what you want your money to be doing for you.” Shekar advises. “Redefine what your goals are and make sure you understand how they’ve shifted in whatever circumstance. Finding ways to automate it and help drive that positive behaviour towards the goals you’re trying to achieve. Like the saying goes: work hard now, play later.”