A dedicated financial literacy program in Australian schools will ensure young people are better prepared for the future, a new report has found.

The Griffith University paper, released on Tuesday, showed most students did not understand how to manage their personal finances, with girls having poorer financial literacy skills than boys.

One of the report authors, Laura de Zwaan, said financial literacy was often lumped into the maths curriculum.

She said schools should introduce financial literacy as a stand-alone subject or incorporate it into their pastoral care or wellbeing programs.

Dr de Zwaan said schools should also move away from a maths-first approach, and instead provide more context to help students understand concepts like investing, interest, and inflation.

“There’s no point trying to teach kids things that they have no concept around,” she said.

“You’ve really got to match the age or the experience with what’s being taught.

“Talk about phones, or formals, or schoolies – all of these things that they do and are interested in spending money on.”

Dr de Zwaan said the report, which she co-authored with Dr Tracey West, found girls were often falling behind because of a lack of confidence.

Financial Basics Foundation chief executive Katrina Samios said it was a powerful skill for young women to understand and feel confident in their personal finances.

“When you start early, girls have a greater sense of how to control their money,” Ms Samios said. “They don’t hand over that control to partners, marketers, or scammers.

“Girls can be confident. They’re checking their own statements, they’re understanding their pay slip, they’re understanding how important superannuation is.

“They’re not diminishing their own control. That’s a very powerful position.”

Ms Samios said financial illiteracy was a broader societal issue that should be addressed early on in life.

“It’s an essential life skill,” she said. “People think it’s dry and boring, and yet we all have a relationship with money.

“If it’s a good relationship and you don’t have that worry, your mind is free to focus on the good things.”

The Financial Literacy of Young Australians Report was commissioned by Financial Basics Foundation in partnership with Suncorp Bank.

The findings will be presented to a roundtable of community and business leaders, education experts, and government representatives in Brisbane on Tuesday.


Tara Cosoleto
(Australian Associated Press)