Building financial resilience from tots to teenagers

Laying a foundation

Prior to having children, I never thought I’d be thrilled to hear my 23-year-old son say, ‘it’s ok Mum, I’ve got this’, when out for lunch with him, or ‘I can’t afford that right now but I’m saving for it’. I feel like I’ve been successful. The ease with which young people can spend money online in this increasing cashless society is scary. There are so many temptations, including those led by unscrupulous companies: banks encouraging credit cards and loans; gambling sites suggesting quick wins; gaming sites; pop ups; online shopping; crypto currency… the list goes on.  It’s no wonder young people find themselves in trouble with money. What’s important to know is that a person’s attitude towards money is laid down in their formative years. Schools can play a big part in shaping that mind set.

Balancing needs over wants

It is a fallacy that it’s too early to speak to children about money in Nursery or Reception. In fact, research suggests that the earlier key concepts are introduced, the better. Many infant schools have adopted a clear financial literacy programme, such as the one promoted by the charity PFEG (Personal finance education group), including their excellence in financial education awards. Teachers introduce money through the use of the pretend shops. Giving children a certain amount of money and pricing up goods in the ‘shop’. As they are learning numerals 1-10 in early years, the cost of items are in £1 denominations up to £10. In this way children begin to see the relationship between money and goods. Teachers speak to children regularly about the difference between what they need and what they want, especially in the lead up to special events.  The reading books to support these concepts are becoming more accessible and popular, such as, ‘The Giant Who Lost his Gold Coins’, an adaptation of the well-known fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk.

Teaching pupils that living within your means is a prudent way to manage money can be developed further as they get older. Key terms such as debt, credit and saving can be introduced through a school bank. Not only does the school bank idea encourage saving but also crucial money management skills for life. Schools are increasingly using their own ‘currency’ in the school to develop financial literacy. Pupils gain school money through a range of achievements and attributes, such as working hard or being kind. This money is credited into a school bank account and can be used to purchase small items such as a rubber or pupils can save for larger items like cuddly toys.  In this way pupils learn patience for the greater goal. The school’s collective praise for such attitudes will reinforce important life skills. The challenge lies in encouraging young people to cherish the delayed gratification of short term and long-term savings goals, especially when there are competing forces enticing them to get instant rewards at any cost.

Spending is a good thing but…

It is important to learn how to spend. Our economy needs us to spend as well as save. This is a life lesson. Despite financial education being compulsory in secondary schools, I have yet to see a successful programme implemented in my work as a school improvement adviser. In fact, more often than not, pupils tell me they wish PSHE lessons were more relevant. The curriculum requires careful thought and sequencing. There is a distinct knowledge base related to financial education. Pupils need to understand the vocabulary of financial literacy well. It is important that these are taught deliberately in an age-appropriate and meaningful way. Pupils want to know how to budget, how to save, how to make money, what is minimum wage, how to make money, the risks of using credit cards, how to borrow responsibly. Older students need to understand how to live on a student loan. They need to know how they will be taxed on that loan later on.  It strikes me that schools miss a trick when they don’t ask ex-students what they wished they had been taught at school. This may give some valuable insights into the current pressures, issues and concerns of young people. For my son, he said he had to find so much out himself. YouTube has been his go to tutor! But we all know how dangerous this can be. In fact, he revealed recently that even he had been scammed by a fake HMRC message!


Just like the academic curriculum, schools should consider ways that teachers can assess how much pupils know and understand. Often this is best done by using scenarios to which pupils can respond. Roleplaying is a fantastic way for children to learn about money and with programmes such as Premier Education’s Game of Actual Life available, resources are starting to emerge!

Financial reading

The literature supporting pupils’ financial literacy is increasing. However, I rarely see defined sections in school libraries for this type of reading. Schools should consider how pupils can get interested in money matters through their regular reading routines. The founder Martin Lewis, has donated a free text book, ‘Your Money Matters’, which provides resources for schools to develop their financial education programme in secondary schools. How well is this being used in schools?

The post pandemic world requires financial resilience more than ever before…

The pressure to raise the profile of financial education in schools is more pertinent than ever. The link between financial resilience (the ability to ride the peaks and troughs of personal and national economic cycles) and mental health in adulthood is undisputed.

Children will not be immune to the post pandemic economy of higher cost of living and energy prices. It is incumbent upon schools to educate pupils appropriately about the importance of living within your means, recognising the difference between needs and wants, and thinking of others less fortunate than themselves. Some schools are promoting second-hand sales, as part of the school’s sustainability work. Older pupils are encouraged to market their old toys, clothes and unwanted presents to make money or to be exchanged for something else. In this way, they learn about how to manage over consumption but more importantly how to live within a budget.

Registered charity Money Heroes has a variety of resources available to schools and parents to help in the teaching of financial literacy and resilience.

Parental support

Charities that support financial education in schools promote the idea of parents speaking to pupils openly about these pressures in families. Parents could encourage pupils to find the cheapest alternatives in the supermarket shop, or working out how much KWs are used when putting on the tumble dryer, for example. It serves two important purposes. Firstly, to involve them in possible decision-making to manage a tight budget and thus embedding important life-skill.  Secondly, it builds trust and relationships in families. How many schools however provide important guidance and tips for parents to support financial resilience?

I haven’t yet persuaded my two sons that getting rich quick by being a YouTuber or an Instagram Influencer is an unlikely or viable life goal. My voice, at their age, is not nearly as loud as the internet these days!  But that is a subject for a different blog!

In summary, these are my tips for building a curriculum for long term financial resilience in schools:

  1. Start early. Consider the literature to read to children and small world activities in the continuous provision to promote notions of money and understanding ‘needs’ and ‘wants’.
  2. Develop a financial literacy section in the school library.
  3. Consider developing a ‘school bank’ system and using ‘school currency’.
  4. Build a curriculum that builds knowledge in an age-appropriate way. Consider the necessary vocabulary and be ambitious for the pupils.
  5. Develop ways to assess how much pupils know and understand.
  6. Develop creative ways for pupils to learn to ‘live withing their means’. Tackle the problem of over consumption. Develop pupils’ understanding or people less fortunate than themselves.
  7. Use the experience of older pupils/alumni to shape the school’s financial education- making it more relevant and engaging.
  8. Engage with the charities set up to support financial education in schools.
  9. Consider ways to provide guidance for parents to support financial literacy and resilience.



Some Resources

Experian plc – Experian and pfeg to transform 20 schools across the UK into beacons of financial education excellence

Resources and Tools – Young Enterprise & Young Money (

Schools Hub — Just Finance Foundation

Teaching Resources | Interactive Employability Worksheets | LifeSkills (

Your Money Matters – England Edition – Young Enterprise & Young Money (

Manage Money Like a Mighty Girl: 30 Resources to Teach Kids Financial Literacy | A Mighty Girl

Premier Education’s Game of Actual Life

Money Heroes

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