It’s The Economy, Stupid

A slightly unexpected highlight this morning was this session on global finance and our economy. Rosie Boycott chaired a panel that included Emma Duncan (Deputy Editor of The Economist), Polly Toynbee (political journalist at The Guardian) and TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady.

It was an unusual relief to hear four women speak knowledgeably about detailed economic history and theory, as well as propose suggestions for the future.

Many interesting points were made about the current goverment’s policies and whether they were likely to help our economy recover, in comparison to the tactics taken in a country like the United States. Inevitably there was also much discussion on the government’s cuts and how they are affecting women in particular.

One section of the session really interested me however. Emma Duncan noted that there are very worrying statistics on women’s financial literacy, or lack thereof. She wondered if this was partially because in households men traditionally were the holders of the money and the power to control what was done with it. They also, let’s not forget, carried the weighty responsibility for ensuring the financial health of the family and making sure everyone was provided for.

In this day and age though, is that really true? Many people my age and certainly younger grew up with women who worked and often also ensured bills were paid and groceries and clothes bought, at the best price. Is it as simple as a lack of role models?

Frances O’Grady commented that very often poor people and poor women are actually brilliant at managing to get by on the money they have. They simply don’t have enough of it. It’s certainly true that, as Polly Toynbee said, if you are low paid you are less likely to educate yourself on pensions, savings rates and which is the best ISA right now. As Emma Duncan went on to comment, it is vitally important that young people – not just young women – are educated on financial matters.

I did Business Studies at school for the Irish Junior Certificate (the first year that the Junior Cert was taken). It incorporated incredibly useful sections on household budgeting, balancing chequebooks (times have obviously moved on) and understanding banking and different types of accounts. However, it wasn’t enough and as I discontinued Business Studies after the Junior Cert. that was the end of my education on the subject.

Education in financial matters, as in so many other aspects of young girls’ lives, is the biggest factor that will contribute to a healthy relationship with money later on. Control over money will give you power over your own destiny – as anyone who has given up work to look after children and then wants to leave a marriage will tell you. Knowing how to use what you have to get the best out of a little cash, or plan for the future on a larger salary comes from being confident in making decisions and this comes from education.

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