We all know that money is a big part of adult life but how do we prepare our kids to face a world of easy credit, consumerism and high cost housing?

Jeff Stangl, a Massey University professor who has researched how young New Zealanders learn about personal finance, says it doesn't matter what age you are money is going to be core for the rest of your life.

"It's something you need to get your head around."

Financial literacy is not a compulsory subject in New Zealand schools even though many people believe it should be.

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But gaining financial capability is recognised as a valuable learning outcome as part of the school curriculum and there are goals laid out over eight steps which span the school year levels from year 1 to 13.

Stangl said by age five or six children should know what coins and notes look like and by intermediate school age they should know about debt and putting money aside and not just living in the now.

At a senior level 15 and 16 year olds should be able to talk about investing and the risks associated with buying shares, property and bonds.

Stangl said experience had shown that rather than having economics or finance as a stand-alone topic it was better to integrate it into all subjects.

"This is something that is part of their lives - not something you learn about in isolation."

Vicky Crawford, head of business and social sciences at Albany Junior High School on Auckland's North Shore, has been putting that into practice since undertaking specialist training in financial capability.

Crawford said before the teaching staff got on board with the subject it was taught ad-hoc. "This gave us permission to make it the focus instead of the by-product."

Now when she teaches students about refugees they will also talk about what different people around the world can afford and the challenges that come with that.

Dr Jeffrey Stangl (L) has researched how New Zealanders learn about personal finance.
Dr Jeffrey Stangl (L) has researched how New Zealanders learn about personal finance.

Some of the challenges she has put to students include figuring out how much something costs in full when advertised at $6 a week over 38 months.

It can take a long time to figure out and that is also part of the teaching that some items are priced in a way that makes it hard for consumers to work out the full cost.

Once they work out that a new iPhone could cost $1200 she sets them the task of competing to find it cheaper elsewhere.

We tell them you might know more than your parents and a lot of other people out there don't know this.

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In year 9 the school holds a trade exhibition where the students have to present a display about KiwiSaver or shares or property and attract parents to their stall through marketing and then explain what it's about and what the risks are.

Crawford says kids embrace learning about money.

"They love it - they are hungry for it."

She says early success is the key to making kids feel confident about money and about making decisions around it.

By age 12 she says many kids have already formed an opinion of themselves and money and may say they are bad with money because they spend it all, a view which can be learned from parents.

But teaching it at school gives them a chance to be successful with money.

"We tell them you might know more than your parents and a lot of other people out there don't know this."

The hope is that kids will also take their lessons home and talk about it with parents.

Angela Clemens, education manager at the Commission for Financial Capability, says parents have a role to play as well as schools.

Clemens said the key to teaching kids about money was to talk about it regularly and make it part of your everyday life.

That could be talking about the choices you make when supermarket shopping and why you choose Weet-Bix over Coco Pops.

For some it can be a sensitive subject.

"Some parents may not feel comfortable talking to their child about how much they earn and that's fine.

"But the idea is to personalise it for your family. Talk about what is affordable for you and that will be different for every family."

She suggests turning the idea of income into a pie or pizza to show how it takes half the pizza to pay for a roof over your head.

Let everyone google an activity they want to do. Then vote on how you would spend that money.

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Have a bit of pie that is disposable income and talk about how you could spend that.

That could involve giving your kids an activity budget for the school holidays.

"Let everyone google an activity they want to do. Then vote on how you would spend that money."

Clemens said involving kids in decision-making was vital.

Based on financial capability goals for teachers using the New Zealand Curriculum.