2009: An Education – Scherfig
I’m feeling somewhat older at the moment. I took my daughter for her first day at University on Monday. Home is quieter and it will take some getting used to. As a father, I wonder if I have prepared her well enough for the new adult responsibilities which include paying bills, too much assistance and learning is very much impaired, too little and feelings of being overwhelmed can quickly stir. Finding the right balance of parental input gets a little harder each year as the process of “letting go” is of as much value to the parent as it is to the child – or at least, that’s my take on it.
Harking back to my own student days, I know is many years ago, but it doesn’t seem that long ago in some senses. At that point, a credit record was not a topic of conversation. The prospect of running out of money meant not eating (or drinking) so careful balancing of accounts needed to happen. Today, the standard student bank account comes with an overdraft and one that increases each term. This is of course is the age of credit, but if ever there was a word more misappropriate, then I have yet to learn of it. Many students starting their first year this term will be playing the game of catch-up, it is one that they may not ever “win”. Contrary to initial statements, pretty much all Universities charge £8,000+ or more per year. Student “digs” are comfortably £3,500+ for starters, then its the food and living student life – so how much should a student be able to live on each week? For many University will be an economic decision, not merely an academic one. However in a world where jobs are scarce, having up to date relevant skills is vital and I suspect that University is possibly not really an option, but a necessity.
I have met hundreds of people over the years who had a very poor financial education and the consequences of this can have a long-term impact on their ability to make good financial decisions. A large part of the missing education is relatively straight-forward, but can feel like learning a foreign language. A real problem when it comes to money matters, is frankly one of trust. Rarely is it wise to completely trust someone with whom you have a “business arrangement” – perhaps a high level of trust yes, (even very high) but you should always leave room for some doubt (yes even with me). Motivation has a direct link with trust. So being clear about what it is that you are paying for is important. Financial services is full of the wrong motivations. Better remuneration for bigger returns, paid to sell products and so on. Trust is a theme that we tend to return to regularly throughout life, getting better at trusting requires a gradual letting go – much like being a parent and seeing the child through to adulthood. There is good experience and bad experience, both are useful. There isn’t a perfect University course, politician, doctor, accountant etc any more than there is a perfect financial adviser. However, there is a scale. I would suggest that the transparency of the relationship is a very helpful starting point. 
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