South African economy has been growing slower than expected, but the good thing is, it has been growing. We all need to play our part towards growing this economy – to achieve economic freedom. One way of doing it is to be financially literate to make informed decisions. It is never too late to learn to be financially literate. Let’s start from where we are.
Students should be taught the skill of handling money. This skill will last them throughout different stages of their lives. Mandell (2008) defines financial literacy as an ability of people to make financial decisions that would satisfy their short term or long terms objectives. Financial literacy will help students handle money better in different platforms which include amongst others, tertiary, work, business, right through to retirement.
Betrand and Morse (2009) show that financial literacy helps in timely decision support, for instance, financial literate people understand the effects of payday versus loans, and the financial costs associated with the loans, and are therefore likely to take up fewer loans. In South Africa, we often focus on computer literacy, numeracy and other types of literacy which have nothing to do with how to handle money better.
It is not surprising why our professionals, entrepreneurs, executives and workers in general fail to handle financial affairs, and sometimes end up with bad credit records. We acknowledge different challenges into consideration, such as having to support extended families, paying back that study loan, etc., however, financial literacy helps to build the skill to “live within your means”. Living within your means translates to budgeting and controlling your expenditure.
In the study conducted by Carlin and Mitchell (2010) on financial literacy training, the researchers found that students who had undergone financial literacy training were better at weighting the cost versus benefit trade-offs decision. These students were found able to make the decisions between spending more today versus spending less today.
I therefore challenge all tertiary institutions to include financial literacy education and training as part of university routine, either by conducting financial literacy workshops for new students during orientations, or have regular workshops every term just on financial literacy. I also urge all student sponsors to conduct financial literacy talks with their beneficiaries. This will have a positive effect in the economy of the country.