Social enterprise successfully helping schoolkids learn financial skills - but still a big job to do

Primary school children are more disposed to learning about financial management than secondary school pupils – a perspective which is fuelling Kendall Flutey's drive to increase financial literacy in New Zealand's young people.

Flutey is founder and CEO of Banqer, a social enterprise using online tools to successfully teach kids about money and which, in the five years it has been operating, has reached over 100,000 students in New Zealand and Australia.

But as Banqer's software has helped teachers to spread the financial gospel in classrooms, Flutey has seen proof that not only is the focus on younger people succeeding (Banqer first went into primary and intermediate schools) but there is still a big job to be done on older children.

"I think with younger kids, they have that infallible curiosity which doesn't restrict them," she says. "If you go into a class of 10-year-olds and ask them about money, they will chatter away and give you all sorts of answers – some right, some wrong – but they are happy to give an opinion or offer and idea and interested enough to listen and engage.

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"In high schools, they often seem to be more concerned about getting it wrong than in pursuing knowledge. Where the 10-year-olds are all up for it and talking away, you often get silence in high schools – they're shy about being wrong."

The importance of financial literacy in this country is perhaps most easily illustrated by KiwiSaver. Over 400,000 people are still in default funds without having made a definite choice to go there. Even by a highly conservative measure, an 18-year-old earning $50,000 with an account in a default fund, putting in three per cent while the employer also contributes three per cent, could earn about $162,000 by age 65. That rises to $210,000 if they instead opt for a balanced fund.

That and understanding basic financial principles means people can negotiate financial landscapes, manage financial risks effectively and avoid financial pitfalls. A financially literate population can also benefit as such literacy encourages financial lubrication of the wheels of the economy.

The work to be done with older kids is again fuelling the fire which stimulated Flutey to start Banqer in the first place. That fire, what psychologist Sara Chatwin calls "drive", is one of the three Ds that Chatwin says encapsulates success in business: Desire, Drive and Due Diligence.

This New Zealand Herald content series, run in partnership with business platform MYOB, explores the commonalities that set up business people for success.

Chatwin says drive is one of the key ingredients for success: "Drive is the energy and enthusiasm from identifying that desire; it turns the focus from dreaming big to creating a plan of practical steps to make it happen. It's when people take that first step towards their goals – and then they find that they have this real energy; they are positive and fully engaged and they are just going for it. They need to harness and channel that energy to achieve what they want to achieve."

Flutey says, while she didn't have one, distinct "light bulb moment", things gathered pace as she moved from one career path to another. Originally an accountant, she dropped out of the profession after a few months to go into the technology field. While there she got the idea for Banqer after returning home to Christchurch to see her family and having an illuminating conversation with her then 12-year-old brother Jordy.

"He was talking, asking, about money. I was really surprised because he'd never talked about it or shown any interest in it before. In talking to him, I began to understand how he was learning about money at school and I guess I started to form an idea of the potential of that conversation and how that learning could be spread throughout his peers and other school age kids."

New Zealand's financial literacy – or lack of it – would be positively affected if children understood basic financial management when they left school. It would also help allay the effects of an entire generation, many of whom had been financially coddled by their parents.

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Banqer Primary is available to use in primary and intermediate schools at no cost while Banqer High is in secondary schools at a reduced cost, thanks to Banqer's Champion Partner, Kiwibank.

In an opinion piece published recently, Flutey said: "I can understand it would be tough to see your child, even in their 20s, struggling in an increasingly complex financial world. It would be tempting to take the path of least resistance. To top up their phone, their pantry, or their bank account. To help them into their first flat, first home, or first investment property.

"It's a slippery slope, where a reasonable safety net ends up becoming a capability restraint. In reality, what we think is financial protection and support is instead stripping our kids of so much – the opportunity to gain the skills they need to navigate our society. The chance to make small, manageable mistakes that will translate into rich financial experience for them to draw on later... The simple satisfaction of knowing they achieved a financial goal on their own.

"Without these, the real consequences could be drastic in the future. Kids grow up, and the handouts need to keep up. Families get bigger, the potential mistakes get bigger."

Flutey says her drive to succeed with the financial literacy quest can "wax and wane at times. Sometimes it gets hidden under the tasks you have to do – and you have to relocate it."

But she has an ideal "filling station" where she can refuel: "I am lucky enough to know a teacher and I am allowed to sit in on class and listen to the kids. That always works."
*Sara Chatwin's Three Ds:

  • Desire – "Success is all about desire and commitment. It is people saying, 'I really want to do this' and identifying a high level of commitment that will get them to be exactly what they want to be and do what they want to do."

  • Drive – "The energy and enthusiasm from identifying that desire; it turns the focus from dreaming big to creating a plan of practical steps to make it happen. It's when people take that first step towards their goals – and then they find that they have this real energy; they are positive and fully engaged and they are just going for it. They need to harness and channel that energy to achieve what they want to achieve."

  • Due diligence – "All successful business people say that, when they are asked about their success, they adhered to a plan. This is all about finessing that plan. It's when you really research, validate and refine the plan so you know exactly what you want to do and how to do it. Due diligence done well will uncover any show stoppers early to avoid nasty surprises down the track. You will find your confidence is at a spiking high – because you know, having done your due diligence, that you can achieve your goal."

To view article 1 - Cracking the success code click here

To view article 2 - 'Shocking' truth about Kiwi workers click here