One of the most important lessons that a person can learn is how to manage their money. Many young people go into adulthood with little knowledge about financial management and they end up making mistakes that cost them a lot of regrets in the long run. Educating young people about the importance of financial management and making sound financial decisions will go a long way to prevent them from making costly mistakes. This will also encourage them to be financially prudent when making decisions. Thus, the importance of educating young people on financial literacy can never be overhauled or overemphasized.
Financial literacy is the act of acquiring set of skills and knowledge that allows an individual to make informed and effective decisions with all of their financial resources. Financial literacy also involves the skillfulness of financial principles and concepts such as financial planning, budgeting, forecasting, compound interest debt management, profitable savings techniques and also, the importance of understanding the value of money and the principles of wealth management. The lack of financial literacy leads to making poor financial choices that can have negative consequences on the financial well-being of an individual.
On the 3rd of January, 2019, Acting Gov. Sheila Oliver of New Jersey in America signed a law that mandates the state Board of Education include financial literacy instruction in the curriculum for sixth- through eighth-grade students in public schools across New Jersey. This bill was signed at President Barack Obama’s Elementary School in New Jersey City. Although the new law gone into effect in September 2019, New Jersey has actually been ahead of the financial literacy curve for years now. In 2014, the state adopted the program Standard 9, 21st Century Life and Careers, which include guidelines for what students need to know and be able to do in order to be successful in their careers and to achieve financial independence and health. Included are specific financial literacy standards broken out by grade level. However, the 2017 Financial Report Card from Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy provides the grades for all states, based on their efforts to produce financially literate high school graduates. Sadly, only five states received an “A” grade for their financial education efforts, namely; Alabama, Virginia, Tennessee, Utah and Missouri. These five states require high school students to take at least a half-year Personal Finance course as a graduation requirement. Only 17 states in total require high school students to take a course in personal finance.
After graduation every step our kids take from college through retirement will be directly influenced by their ability to manage their finances: student loans, credit cards, jobs, mortgages, savings, etc. Once they hit 18 years old, they are required, and able, to make decisions that could affect their entire life, often without the necessary financial knowledge and skills. The point being, understanding finance is a critical skill needed as an adult, yet it is not a mandatory high school course in most states.
The Central Bank of Nigeria made a commitment in 2011 which she referred to as the “MAYA DECLARATION”. The purpose of this declaration is to reduce the number of financially excluded Nigerians from 46.3% in 2010 to 20% by the 2020. To ensure the fulfilment of this obligation, a National Financial Inclusion Strategy was accordingly developed and launched in October 23, 2012. The strategy identified consumer protection and its constituent pillars of Market Conduct, Dispute Resolution & Consumer Education as critical to the attainment of its objectives. Sometime in 2015, The Central Bank of Nigeria said it has commenced discussions with the National Education Resource Centre to introduce financial literacy programs into the education curriculum of secondary schools in Nigeria.
At a recent stakeholders meeting conference that was held in Abuja on the 17th and 18th of January 2019, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in collaboration with a variety of financial industry stake holders came out with a number of policy positions that will help to educate more Nigerians on Financial Literacy and its importance in the society today. It said once the discussions with NERC are finalized, Financial Literacy will be taught as a subject in all Nigerian secondary schools before the end of this year. The commencement of the financial literacy program will assist in improving the savings culture among secondary schools in Nigeria. An important aspect of this strategy is the implementation of financial literacy programs across various target groups of Nigerian population. On the 19th of July 2019, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said it is in partnership with churches and mosques in the promotion of financial literacy in the country. The bank’s Director, Consumer Protection Department, Mr Kofo SalamAlada made this known in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja. SalamAlada said the apex Bank had organized outreach programs to educate members of some faiths based organizations with a view to educate them on the program and the need to key into it. CBN decided to use such religious organizations because of the spiritual and religious nature of most Nigerians. However, CBN is ready to work with any organization willing to set up an in house financial literacy program.
The five key points from the conference that was held in Abuja on the 17th and 18th of January at the stakeholders meeting include;
1. With Financial Technology (Fin-tech) becoming an increasingly important part of the business ecosystem , there must be deeper collaboration amongst the various regulatory authorities and private market participants such as deposit money banks (DMBs), Telco, retail stores and payment system banks (or agency banks). The regulators must ensure a seamless set of rules and responsibilities that cover issues related to the services rendered by each retail and wholesale market participant.
2. Consumer education needs to be broadened and deepened. Multilevel platforms need to be adopted for the education of a wide range of consumers of financial services:
- Market men and women
- Students-primary, secondary and tertiary
- Crop Farmers
- Animal Husbandry Farmers
- Sellers of small unit items at the margins of urban economies
3. Consumer dispute processes must be fashioned in manners that guarantee quick, easy and inexpensive resolution of differences between service vendors and customers. This may also require speedy resolution of differences between regulatory agents, meaning there must be clarity over role and responsibilities in cases of dispute.
4. The target of national exclusion must be reduced from 46.3% in 2010 to 20% in 2020. The current exclusion rate in 2018 was about 36.8% according to a recent report by Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFINA).
5. To reach the financially excluded, market infrastructure needs to be enhanced. Poor communication, especially in respect of Telco services in rural communities need to be urgently addressed. Many payment bank agents suffer frustration because of weak network connection and slow data processing time.
The lack of financial literacy can lead to owing large amounts of debt and making poor financial decisions. For example, the advantages or disadvantages of fixed and variable interest rates are concepts that are easier to understand and make informed decisions about if you possess financial literacy skills. Based on research data by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, 63% of Americans are financially illiterate. They lack the basic skills to reconcile their bank accounts, pay their bills on time, pay off debt and plan for the future.
The current realities in the Financial Sector show that, it is only when the interest of consumers is given proper attention and protected that public confidence would be restored in promoting a strong and stable economy. Though there exits many educated and literate Nigerians, a high percentage of the population does not have the requisite skills to effectively manage their financial transactions and take advantage of the opportunities presented by the financial products and services to improve their well-being. An important aspect of this strategy is the implementation of financial literacy programs across various target groups of Nigerian population.
Consumers of Financial Services have also been subjected to unethical practices from financial institutions which could be attributed to their low levels of financial literacy arising from their lack of knowledge of their rights and obligations in their relationships with the financial institutions. Financial illiteracy affects all ages and all socioeconomic levels. Financial illiteracy causes many people to become victims of predatory lending, subprime mortgages, fraud and high interest rates, potentially resulting in bad credit, bankruptcy or foreclosure.
However, some signs of lack of financial literacy include;
- Not having a budget, a goal or a plan.
- Excessive spending
- Living on debt.
- Not having emergency savings.
- Borrowing for the wrong reasons.
- Banking on an expected money
- Not investing for the long term.
- Ignoring insurance.
- No retirement plan
- Pressure from social media and friends.
- The main steps to achieving financial literacy include;
- Learning the skills to create a budget
- The ability to track spending
- Learning the techniques to pay off debt
- Effectively planning for retirement.
These steps can also include counseling from a financial expert. Education about the topic involves understanding how money works, creating and achieving financial goals and managing internal and external financial challenges.
Financial literacy helps individuals become self-sufficient so that they can achieve financial stability. Those who understand the subject should be able to answer several questions about purchases, such as whether an item is required, whether it is affordable, and whether it an asset or a liability. This field demonstrates the behaviors and attitudes a person possesses about money that is applied to his daily life. Financial literacy shows how an individual makes financial decisions. This skill can help a person develop a financial road map to identify what he earns, what he spends and what he owes. This topic also affects small business owners, who greatly contribute to economic growth and stability.
How can financial literacy be encouraged in Nigerian?
- There is a need for increased consumer financial literacy to improve the literacy penetration ratio which is still embarrassingly low. An 80% penetration by 2021 is targeted.
- Nigerian youths need to be more actively engaged in financial literacy to create a more active financial industry participation rate for a demography group between 16 and 35 years of age. This represents over 60% of Nigeria’s population of an estimated 198million people
- Women need to be especially targeted since research evidence show that they are more reliable borrowers of funds at the MSME levels
- The different segments of the financial ecosystem; banks, insurance companies, pension fund managers and stockbrokers need to be more intimately related to provide consumers
with a more robust understanding of products and services rendered by each market segment and how they are linked or complementary.
- A process of monitoring and evaluation has been designed to ensure that processes or procedure agreed are actually followed
Children and youths are an important target group for the purpose of the financial literacy program. It should be noted that financial literacy is better learned at a young age instead of in adulthood. This is because a habit imparted in the youth at an impressionable age becomes a way of life. Where the youth grow without financial education, it would be difficult for them to have financial literacy as well as being capable of managing their own financial matters in a way that will impact their well-being when they become adults. When financial literacy is achieved, it will help to boost financial inclusion in any country-Nigeria to be precise.
It should be noted that being financially literate is different from acquiring normal education as some people are educated but financially illiterate.
Written by Chukwuma Aguwa