BC needs to add personal finance to high school curriculum

By on 07/29/2019

Money is the biggest stress in most people’s lives. Much of the stress stems from a lack of understanding, planning and/or reckless behaviour when it comes to financial management.  Once people graduate school and enter the workforce they get busy in their lives, while simultaneously the responsibility of balancing income, expenses and saving/investing is thrust upon them.  Many scramble to figure it out, but it often proves to be frustrating learning this critically important skill while juggling other responsibilities, especially for those who never favoured numbers.  Those unable to learn the skill may live with a constant struggle when it comes to money and are often those requiring handouts.

It’s time our provincial government mandate that personal finance become part of the BC high school curriculum.  With more financial literacy, British Columbians would better understand their relationship with money, and how to budget, save, spend, invest, and borrow it.  Ultimately, this would lead to self-sufficiency, less stress and healthier lives as people would have clearer financial plans and an ability to manage their money more responsibly to achieve what they want in life. 

Financial literacy would enable people to contribute their energies towards productive activities rather than stressing over financial woes. Less stress would mean a healthier society which in turn would impose less strain on our medical system, seniors care, and would create a more tolerant and happy society less dependent on government. 

Teaching money skills in high schools would encourage more discussion on the subject matter.  As it stands, money is treated like a four-letter word; talking about it is deemed inappropriate.  However, if conversations began in classrooms, the topic would become less taboo, which would encourage the exchange of ideas and skillsets all-round would improve.  Money would become less intimidating.

A clearer understanding of debt, for example, would enable people to know what’s good vs. bad debt, when it’s appropriate to borrow, the risks (and how best to mitigate), and how to borrow to pursue opportunities to get ahead.  Further, if British Columbians learn how to budget according to personal values and goal-based priorities they’ll know how to spend, save and invest their money based on what’s truly most important to them.  Although money is simply a tool and doesn’t actually bring happiness, if used in a manner consistent with personal values and goals, happiness will be achieved.

In 1996, as a Senior Financial Advisor at a national investment firm I wrote and published the National Best Seller, “First Class, The Original Financial Guide for High School Students”. Schools and libraries bought my books for their institutions.  I pursued selling it to the Ministry of Education, to incorporate into the BC curriculum, but ultimately found the process too challenging. I’m dismayed that over 23 years since my book’s release, there’s still little financial management taught in high school.  Although math, calculus and economics are offered, schools lack courses on their practical application to personal finance.  A possible reason for its absence is that many government officials and educators themselves lack financial literacy, and therefore could be intimidated and/or unsure how to implement it.

If our province collectively was more financially astute, it would hold our governments more accountable.  No government would be able to pull the wool over our citizens’ eyes, because they would get called out.  Government would be forced to be more transparent and financially prudent.  Ultimately, if every high schooler in our province received a sound education in financial management, it would lead to future politicians being more fiscally responsible while managing the biggest budget in our province.

Lana Marks Pulver is a concerned citizen seeking the nomination for the BC Liberals in Vancouver – Point Grey.  Lana is a financial expert, non-profit leader and entrepreneur. www.lanapulver.ca.  Follow Lana on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/lanapulver.ca/