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Under$tanding Money

Paul Clitheroe is the Chairman of the Australian Government's Financial Literacy Foundation. Paul has also published severall personal finance and investing books, as well as writing money advice columns for popular newspapers and magazines in Australia.

Financial literacy - or being good with money - has significant benefits for all Australians. Having money management skills allows us to save, make good spending choices and sound investment decisions, and includes buying a home.

It is important that we are all better informed about how good financial decision - making can affect us now and in the future - whether we are children, teenagers, young adults, older adults or retirees.

Although most Australians see the value in managing their money better, they often don't know where to begin.

Most of us know we should do something about improving our finances but we put it off because we think that we don't have enough money to make a difference, or it's easier not to think about it. And when we decide to get our finances in order, we sometimes don't know where to start.

A diverse range of financial literacy programmes exist in Australia, but may of us may not be ware of them. Also there is no national reference point to hep people connect to information and resources in a logical and organised way.

Similarly, programmes that have developed over time responding to consumer needs have not been coordinated nationally.

The Financial Literacy Foundation

In February 2004, the Australian Government established the Consumer and Financial Literacy Taskforce to consider these and related issues and develop an overarching national strategy to enhance literacy in Australia.

In recognition of the importance of financial literacy and significant benefits it can bring to the lives of ordinary Australians, the Government adopted the recommendations of the Taskforce and established the Financial Literacy Foundation under it's 2004 Election Policy, Super for All and Understanding Money.

Launched by the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, the Hon. Mal Brough MP, on 6 June 20o5, the foundation aims to raise community awareness of the benefits of improved financial literacy and assist all Australians to make more informed financial decisions and better manage their money.

The Foundation is working to deliver a national strategy with which new and existing financial literacy initiatives can function more effectively and consistently to raise community financial literacy levels. The key elements of the national strategy are:

  • An Australia-wide information and awareness-raising campaign to be launched in early 2006-11-13
  • A website for financial literacy information and education resources
  • Financial literacy programmes in schools and workplaces, as well as vocational and higher education.
  • Research and benchmarking of financial literacy levels

Financial Literacy In Schools

It is important for young Australians to learn the skills they need to manage their current and future finances. Many students have a part-time job and earn enough money to support their lifestyle. However, research shows that young adults are more likely to have low levels of financial literacy, and with easy access to credit they are vulnerable to getting into debt.

The Foundation worked with the Ministerial Council of Education, Employment and Youth Affairs (MCEEYA) to incorporate financial literacy into the school curriculum. An important step in meeting this goal was achieved in November 2005 with the release of National Consumer and Financial Literacy Framework for Schools.

Through this framework, all Australian school children will have access to financial education in their compulsory years at school. The framework is a descriptive document that sets out educational goals in financial literacy for the school years 3, 5, 7 and 9.

It will build levels of knowledge and understanding, competence, enterprise and responsibility to provide a sound basis for financial decisions faced by students in adult life.

It is important that we recognise that it is never to early, or for that matter too late, to start thinking about budgeting, saving and investing.

CASE STUDY: Pilot For Apprentices And Cadets To Learn Financial Literacy Skills

The Foundation and the Master Builders Association (MBA) are working together in an ACT pilot that will see 200 apprentices and cadets receive training in financial literacy skills.

These skills include developing and using budgets and savings plans, the use of debt and credit cards and understating superannuation. The foundation is also working with the MBA to develop a financial literacy seminar package for the 900 ACT members.

This pilot is the first collaboration by the Foundation with an industry association to integrate financial literacy into vocational education.

This article is reprinted from our quarterly published "FINANCIAL MATTERS" Newsletter, Autumn 2006 issue.

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