Financial Education 2013


There’s good news, and bad news.


The good is that people seem to be realising one of the core messages of this site, the training I do and the book – money isn’t a goal, it’s a means to an end.


And there’s a great article in Psychology Today.  It points out, among lots of other good stuff, that research is showing people are beginning to understand that happiness is more important than other things – notably, than being rich.


Incidentally, that’s one of the reasons that the first two chapters of the book are about attitudes to money and happiness, while investing doesn’t appear until chapter 9, money is simply not as important as the person.


So it’s great to see what I wrote, probably four-five years ago, is getting confirmation in academic research, and practice now.


Also the FCA, the regulatory body for Independent Financial Advisers, want to put “more psychology” (that is, more good and valid psychology, not common misperceptions) into the regulations so that the public are better protected, That’s particularly good because the FCA have control of  RDR, the changes about financial advisers having to be better trained, and taking fees rather than commission.   They’ve said that the team looking at the post RDR changes might usefully talk to me about it.


So, with a song in my heart (so to speak) I went to a “summit” about financial education. And made a point of talking to the senior people (either Chair or CEO, can’t remember which way round) of the Money Advice Service (MAS) and the Personal Finance Education Group (PFEG).


MAS is the body that gives “free, unbiased, independent advice” to the public.  PFEG is is the “UK’s leading financial education charity”.  


So in theory, PFEG deals with teaching children, and MAS gives help and advice to adults.


And I spoke to the Chair and CEO (or CEO and Chair) of PFEG and MAS and gave them each a copy of Taming the Pound, suggesting that it might be handy. For example, if adults learned to look at happiness, values etc. they would be less susceptible to being conned into stupid investments, loans etc.  And if children learned to distinguish between what they want because other people have got it, and what they really want, they might be happier with what they get.  And then everybody can use their money to get happy, rather than chase the money, and be miserable (and often, broke).


They both said it sounded interesting.  And I said that I’d contact them in a couple of weeks to arrange a meeting so that we could discuss it.


And there it ends.  That was a month ago.  I can’t contact them, they don’t return calls, they don’t return emails, they’re never in when I call.


And the MAS site and it’s advice is still about products and “life stages”.  Your life stage might be the same as your friends from school, does that mean you want the same things, that the same things make you happy or that you want to spend your money in the same way on the same things?  Or that the same products will be suitable for both of you?


And PFEG tells children about APRs and products, and the banking system and other areas of National economics.  If somebody tells you that payday lenders, Wonga etc. are bad, the APR is high etc. do you change your behaviour?  Only in the same way that people give up smoking because it’s bad for them, don’t get overweight and diabetic because they are told that they shouldn’t eat too much sugar.  If you find out that PSBR has grown 3% against a Treasury estimate of 2.75% does it help you to any degree to live a happier life?


The focus on products, on the complexities of the “mechanics” of money (interest rates, how banks work etc.) is a mistake.  The money is less complex and less important than the people.  So why don’t the PFEG and MAS use the research and start teaching and advising about the people, starting with helping people (child and adult) to determine what would make them happy, then work towards that?  If I ever get to speak to them, I’ll ask.


If they did that, people would start using their money as a tool, instead of their money using them.





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