Financial literacy in schools, hurray!

Hurray! It’s been a long time coming, but finally our major political parties are getting on board with the need for financial literacy in schools – as part of the curriculum!

Labour announced on Sunday 20th August, they will make it compulsory for all schools to teach financial literacy from 2025. Saying that all young people will leave school with a core knowledge of saving, budgeting, banking, borrowing, bills, taxes, KiwiSaver, mortgages, and insurance. National agrees with the policy, saying they will also deliver this change if they win at the polls in October.

Amazing, and about time!

I have been involved with Te Ara Ahunga Ora – Retirement Commission for nearly 10 years as a Facilitator. In this time, those of us involved with the Commission have had a constant and sometimes desperate dialogue about the need for financial education in schools. We see the need in our seminar and webinar discussions, with our adult course attendees often exclaiming they wish they learnt this while in school.

We have seen some great initiatives pop up around the country, each with the mandate to improve the financial education of young people:

  • Banqer, a modern gameplay-style programme for schools established 2016;
  • Young Enterprise Trust (YET) and their Hot Topics have been around since 2015; and
  • Te whai hua – kia ora, Sorted in Schools, a nationwide financial capability programme fully aligned with the NZ Curriculum established in 2017, to name a few.

But our schools have not been as quick to adopt the resources as we might have liked.

Banqer reports half of NZ schools are using their online programme.

The Sorted in Schools team reports that more than 70% of NZ schools have signed up to their programme.

My husband and I have two teenagers, and their financial capability is highly important to us. Neither of our teenagers are likely to become chartered accountants or financial advisors (like their mum), they have talents and interests in other areas; but we have always insisted on ensuring they take part in relevant financial discussions from a young age, so they become financially capable young adults.

In the summer of 2022 our year 10 teenager worked their way through the Sorted in Schools Starter Pack, which are four modules focused on the basics around spending, earning, saving and borrowing money. They found the online platform easy to use, interactive, engaging with the gamification of challenges, relevant, and a great starting point. But this is by no means the end of their financial education!  

Being good with money is more than a nice idea, it is an essential life skill. Having financial capability means being “equipped with the knowledge, skills and confidence to make good financial decisions at every life stage, and attain goals with choices” (, 2022).

Research by the Retirement Commission shows that without having this essential life skill, our teenagers are vulnerable to falling into debt, which has long term implications on their future choices.

Furthermore, the research shows that over 80% of school leavers wished they learned more about money in school. (CFFC School Leavers Survey Report, what and where have school leavers learnt about money, 2018).

It is quite clear that there is a risk, there is an identified gap and a desire for that gap to be filled.

What’s more, there are resources ready and waiting to be picked up by our schools. Banqer, YET and Sorted products all align with the NZ curriculum and provide NCEA accreditation levels 1 to 3.

So, what can you do?

  • First, you can talk to your school head of departments, PTA, BOT, school leadership team and encourage your school to take up the curriculum if they haven’t already.
  • Secondly, talk to your young person about money, daily, just like you would the about the weather or dinner, and normalise financial conversations, and
  • Thirdly, introduce your young person to the Sorted in Schools resources already freely available online for them to take control of their own learning.

Unfortunately, as quick as I was excited by this announcement, my optimism is starting to wane... We are already seeing news articles with headings such as “financial literacy policy has principals wary of curriculum overload” (RNZ, 21 August 2023).

Of course, we don’t want to add to the heavy workload of our teachers, we appreciate the hard work they are doing. However, this isn’t a simple maths issue where if we teach them maths, they’ll understand finances. Financial capability is more than maths, and I don’t know if the powers that be understand that.

Keep asking great questions …

P.S. If you are interested in this topic, contact Unicia for more information.