Managing money is an important part of every adult life, but are Portuguese young people prepared to get into managing their own money? That’s a question that a survey carried out in March 2022 by DECO tried to answer.
From the first year of school to secondary education, throughout the 27 schools integrated in the DECOjovem network, 1,156 children have been learning financial literacy (ability to understand various financial skills, including personal financial management, budgeting and investment).
More than ever, young people have access to more information. However, what can contribute to being better informed, can also lead to increased spending and make young people more vulnerable to impulse purchases.
"Too much information is not always good and if we do not have the tools and the ability to make use of the information we have, we can become victims of too much information. If young people don't learn from an early age how to deal with a budget, they end up not being able to filter the essential from what isn't and they continue to follow paths that are not so good for their financial choices in life," Carla Dourado, legal advisor at DECO, told The Portugal News.
As an example, the study asked these children a specific question, "If you find the trainers of your dreams and they cost €99.99, would you buy them straight away?"
In this question, 27% of respondents said they would not think twice, while 39% said they might buy, but only after talking to their parents. The remaining 34% of young people said they would think first. With this question, DECO believes that more aggressive marketing techniques have a great effect on younger consumers. In addition, price can also have manipulative effects. Prices ending at 99 cents are intended to create the illusion that the product is cheaper, influencing young people, who end up buying them more easily, says the study.
"They actually make choices and money management. Therefore, we have to teach them what is basic, what is secondary and how they can do it. Of course it is difficult to explain these technical concepts to the little ones, but we can adapt the way we teach them according to their age," said Carla Dourado, who is part of DECO's financial protection office.
In this sense, DECO warns that even the youngest are still consumers, so children and young people should have a real sense of the value of money from an early age. "Financial resources are limited, but our needs and desires are always growing. Therefore, it is essential to learn to make choices and manage money, knowing and understanding the tools that allow us to do so in an informed and responsible way," DECO said.
However, DECO believes that young people are becoming more aware of these situations and that the pandemic may have contributed to a better awareness around children.
"In 2020, the pandemic forced us to stop and many of the children we spoke to said that their families had to go through more difficult economic situations. Children, especially older teenagers, have become a bit more aware," she said.
How to educate kids?
Giving older children more responsibility for their own money helps them learning lifelong money management skills.
“Also, when you go shopping and your child goes with you, make a shopping list together and ask them to look at the products on the list and make the best possible choice in terms of quantity and quality”, Carla Dourado suggested.
This is like playing a game. "If they can bring the same products home for less money, offer them the difference. That's a way to motivate them to help and make better management choices."
With teenagers, parents can share the family budget to make them aware of what they spend on essentials and the need to make those choices. As for younger kids, we can start by teaching them to "turn off the lights when they leave their rooms or turn off the tap when they brush their teeth. All this helps us to save money and to involve children in these decision-making processes."
DECO also suggests parents give children a pocket money so they can learn to manage it from an early age, "weekly for the little ones and monthly for older children," she said.
We cannot separate one from the other. After teaching them these concepts, now it is time to incentivise your children to save money. "Cool is not synonymous with spending a lot of money. Every time a child receives a certain amount of money, they should save 10% of the money they received, whether it is 5 or 50 euros." DECO also stresses the importance of explaining the difference between what is essential and what is not.
Should we tell children when things get complicated?
"There are issues that whether we like it or not, you can't pretend nothing is going on. We should talk to the children and explain that things are not right, but without passing the blame on to them or putting too much weight on the subject. We don't want to create anxiety in children”, she said.
“What can happen sometimes is that these difficulties are not talked about and then when the child asks for something, the parents get really angry, which is not good at all”, Carla added.
“We have to explain to children that we have an income, that this income is limited and, therefore, we have to make choices. We should get children involved as early as possible in these choices. I would say that children should never be left on the sidelines of these problems”, she concluded.
Paula Martins is a fully qualified journalist, who finds writing a means of self-expression. She studied Journalism and Communication at University of Coimbra and recently Law in the Algarve. Press card: 8252