education? what for?
This is a topic which has come up a couple of times recently, so I figured I’d blog it. The first time was a few weeks ago at work, in amongst general finance related chatter. The second time was over at LAW amid general forum banter if I remember correctly.
Let me put you in the picture - I’m 24, and it’s only through chatting at work that I have become aware of the cost of living for most ‘normal’ people. I don’t include myself in that because I do not yet have my own home, a wife, nor kids. Until these work chats I have been largely naive about the cost of living. Sure, in my head I know it’s ‘expensive’ and if I cared to give it superficial attention I might work out that a wage of £25k would leave me flush, and maybe if I had a house it’d leave me comfortable, but not Mr Rich. Wrong. You see, there’s a list of expenses I hadn’t considered as long as all the snakes on a snakes and ladders board, strung end to end - and they will bite me and you in the ass. There’s a mortgage for starters, which runs a hell of a lot more expensive than I had anticipated. There’s council tax, stamp duty (I still don’t know what that actually is), water rates, electricity bill, gas bill, telephone bill, house insurance, property insurance, life insurance, car insurance, road tax, petrol, MOT, services, new tyres, food bills and National Insurance. Then there’s your pension, assuming you’re wanting to live past the age at which you retire. If you retire at 70, expect to live to 85 and started work aged 20 that means you need to save up at least ten years worth of wages purely for your pension (10 years wages would likely see you through 15years living fine if you’re not paying a mortgage). That’s assuming you managed to pay for everything else in the mean time. So, you work for 60 years, and have to save at least ten of those years wages. And that’s ten years full pay. That’s going to take at least 15 years to do, if you live in a cardboard box for most of those years. That leaves you with 45 years of income to see you through ages 20 - 70. Of course you will start in debt if you went to uni. In those years you have to pay all the bills mentioned above and try and enjoy life while you’re still living it.
Looking at the maths it becomes apparent just what kind of a wage you need to pull in simply to live in ‘nothing special’ land. That doesn’t include any luxuries, like a TV licence, a new car every five years, a new computer every five years, trips to the pub, holidays in the summer, etc.
To cut a long story short - I think this sort of thing should be taught at high-school level. I realise most kids won’t give a monkies, and they’ll just ignore it like they do RE. Fair play, but the aim of the game isn’t to make financial wizards out of the next generation - it’s to make sure they’re at least aware of some of the things that are going to hit their wallet once they enter the big wide world, and the kind of impact that will have on their dreams for the future.
The way the system works at the moment is like you trying to do a Latin exam when you’ve never been taught Latin, and you weren’t even really aware there was such a thing as ‘Latin’. For example I still don’t really know what is meant by ‘APR’, ‘endowment policy’, ’stamp duty’, ‘baseline inflation’ and very likely a host of other fairly vital terms - a few of which I probably don’t even know exist yet.
Education is geared toward the Academic. Too much so. For example, I have wasted years of learning about Geography, French, and German. I shall never need any of the knowledge gained from studying them. If you want to get pedantic I am highly unlikely to need Chemistry, RE, History or Music again either.
Obviously it’s important to get a broad background, so some subjects you studied at school are always going to be a waste of time for some people. I just think a more practical ‘life skills’ type class would be time better spent. Perhaps by year 9, when you’ve chosen your options and dropped a few classes they ought to start up a once a week ‘life lesson’ type class, where you learn about this sort of stuff. After all, the one thing you can pretty much guarantee from every pupil is they WILL go out into the big wide world, and they WILL need to face these issues. Basic politics would be another thing I’d throw in. I still don’t have a clue what left-wing and right-wing actually refer to. Left of what? Why ‘left’? What in hell is the House of Lords? Why should I care? I’m still not clear on what (traditionally) the Tories and Labour agendas actually are. And I’m supposedly educated. I don’t know the very basics of what makes this country tick How am I expected to vote confidently when I’m so massivly lacking in the very basics? I’m far from alone in this. It strikes me as recklessly irresponsible for a nation to bring up it’s young in order to rely on them in the future and not teach them anything of the way things work.
And that was my two pence/euros/cents.