Students don’t know money

Financial literacy a serious gap in modern education

Students at Concordia University who want to spend some time in their university library have to say no to a credit card on the way in, then again on their way out, every time they visit the building.

“It’s right in front of the stairs to go up into the library,” Concordia student Brandi Goulding told the McGill Daily last week. “So if you are choosing to study in Concordia’s library, you have to say no or listen to their spiel every time you walk by.”

Credit cards available to anyone who asks for them is a relatively new phenomenon, and that means that the education systems haven’t caught up with the modern reality. And it’s time they did.

Consumer debt in Canada is now over $41,000 per person. That’s more than 2.5 times what it was 20 years ago, according to a report by the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada.

What’s even more surprising is that report also found that Canadians are ready to take on even more debt if it means maintaining their preferred lifestyle. What is lacking, though, is an understanding of what debt means, what interest rates mean and what credit ratings mean.

As people are being targeted at ever-younger ages for credit cards, debt is accumulating before people even have their first jobs or any means of bringing their finances back into the black.

Partially because of this increase in debt levels, and largely because people hate being deep in debt, there is a growing movement to teach personal financial strategies as part of a standard high school or university curriculum.

It’s time that movement came out of the back room and became reality.

Financial literacy is increasingly important to being successful in the modern world. And until we teach it along with basic arithmetic, reading Shakespeare and playing dodgeball, we are failing our youngest students.