Interactive Investor

Children learning ‘dangerous’ money lessons from TikTok

17th May 2021 13:29

Myron Jobson from interactive investor

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Award-winning personal finance teacher sounds the alarm on social media risks and shares a six-point plan to solve the financial education crisis.

  • National numeracy day is on 19 May 2021
  • Darren Collins, teacher at The Sittingbourne School, Kent, is a winner (secondary school) of the interactive investor Personal Finance Teacher of the Year Awards 2020.
  • Entries are now open for the 2021 interactive investor Personal Finance teacher of the Year Awards, which have a prize pot of £25,000 for schools. Teachers can enter by sending a lesson plan and supporting statement to teacher@ii.co.uk and pupils and carers can nominate a teacher by emailing their teacher’s name and school to teacher@ii.co.uk. Click here for details.

Darren Collins writes: Schoolchildren are learning more about personal finance and investment from TikTok than they are from school and risk being lured into get-rich schemes as young adults, like cryptocurrencies and GameStop that set dangerous habits for life.

With slick marketing to entice the inexperienced and gullible, a growing number of young adults are becoming amateur traders because they learnt it on TikTok – videos with the hashtag #Investing have so far racked up over 2.3 billion views on the social media platform.

This is a perilous situation to be in. We all know that many habits are formed at a young age. Investing in risky assets that aren’t properly understood is certainly a bad habit – in some cases, it’s no different to gambling, and of course some of the “investment schemes” circulating on social media are just scams.

Your youth is your advantage!

In the meantime, children are missing the opportunity to learn good lessons and habits that will set them up for life, including the fundamentals of risk and the benefit of disciplined saving from an early age. I often tell my students, they have one advantage over their parents and teachers – their youth! By putting a small amount of their money into sensible, well-diversified investments, they can reap the rewards of long-term growth and compounding returns.

I have one student who wants to be a financial adviser. He is actually teaching his parents some of the things he’s learnt from my classes. And yet for every student like him, I have several other kids –  and it’s often the smart ones – who have got obsessed with the cryptocurrency Dogecoin, because they saw it advertised on Tiktok.

The Covid pandemic has had a big impact on financial education. According to the latest Young Persons’ Money Index from The London Institute of Banking & Finance (LIBF), 59% say the crisis has made them feel more anxious about money. The majority (83%) want to learn more about money and finance in school, but less than 19% have had recent access.

Personal finance entered the national curriculum back in 2014, but there is still a long way to go in teaching students about prudent money management. Financial education pops up in maths and PSHE (personal, social, health and economics). Sixth-formers get one hour a week of PSHE, but only five or six classes each year will be on finance. In primary schools, you’ve got financial education being taught alongside being a good friend, while in secondaries it’s in the same class as how to put on a condom! Financial education was squeezed further when schools prioritised other subjects in the switch to remote learning during the lockdowns.

Kids love learning about money

Whether it’s interest rates, inflation, mortgages or tax-free savings, the world of money affects everyone. When teachers get the breathing space to deliver innovative classes and assemblies on this subject, the reaction can be amazing. I did an assembly on how to become a millionaire over time to a Year 11 group just before lockdown. I explained how stock markets work and the power of compound interest and at the end got a round of applause. These kids never clap teachers!

Kids love learning about money. We offer an LIBF qualification to some of our sixth-form students. The most common reaction I get when they start it is: “Why haven’t we been taught this earlier?” Parents sometimes ask me about things like Help to Buy or equity release and my fellow teachers are increasingly coming to me seeking financial advice. Because of this knowledge gap I’ve trained and qualified as an independent financial adviser, though I plan to continue teaching.

What is the solution?

I have a six-point plan to solve the financial education crisis.

  1. Leadership from the top: It’s great having charismatic teachers that believe in the importance of personal finance, but you don’t get them in every school. Headteachers take their lead from Ofsted, and this trickles down into the teaching. Ofsted needs to drive this, prioritising personal finance and giving it more space in the curriculum.
  2. Introducing recognised finance qualifications: There is no finance GCSE or A-level. Pupils really appreciate the LIBF courses but these qualifications are currently under review and won’t continue in their current format. What we need is the academic rigour of widely recognised qualifications.
  3. Attract more finance professionals to teaching: Teachers coming to the profession as a second (or third!) career can really make a difference. They bring real-world experience and are often passionate about teaching kids the life skills around managing money, which has the power to turn them into financially responsible adults. We need more initiatives aimed at attracting and retraining financial professionals midway through their careers.
  4. The support of industry: It would be great to see more entrepreneurs and business leaders visiting schools. I’ve heard many moan about the lack of financial education at schools, or the way it’s being taught. Well, come in and help out!
  5. Exploit the technology: Continued adoption of video technology in schools opens the opportunity for the very best financial education to be delivered to all students, wherever they are in the country. Livestreamed lessons could be from the classroom or even in a digital room on the game Fortnite, giving us chance to attract and reward a group of expert finance teachers. 
  6. Share good practice: We need to hear how good teachers are surmounting the challenges of teaching personal finance in Britain’s classrooms today. Initiatives such as the interactive investor Personal Finance Teacher of the Year awards are a great way for teachers to share the fruits of their creativity – and win their schools a useful prize pot in the process. We’ll be using last year’s prize to give some of my most promising pupils an experience of working in the City that will be like the Apprentice TV show.

We need all the creativity we can muster to teach our children vital money skills. It is far too important a job to leave to TikTok. 

  • Entries are now open for the 2021 interactive investor Personal Finance teacher of the Year Awards, which have a prize pot of £25,000 for schools. Teachers can enter by sending a lesson plan and supporting statement to teacher@ii.co.uk and pupils and carers can nominate a teacher by emailing their teacher’s name and school to teacher@ii.co.uk. Click here for details.

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