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Correspondence: Young people risk being slaves to debt
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Correspondence: Young people risk being slaves to debt

Schoolchildren need a solid foundation in financial literacy to equip them with life’s challenges, writes Undwye Jean-Baptiste, a 25-year-old from Bridgetown, Barbados.

An article I read in my local newspaper a few days ago sparked my interest. It stated that a UNESCO official had criticsed the educational system in the Caribbean as being prehistoric and in need of serious revision.

This was an all too familiar statement. I have shared in this opinion in countless forums over the past few years.

I believe that until we revamp our current education system we will see our island states suffer even longer. We are lacking in various ‘life skills’ that are essential to everyday living.

Our system needs to teach basic levels of financial education to our young adults leaving secondary school. I refer to school leavers as ‘young adults’ simply because upon leaving school they can go right out into the workforce before seeking any tertiary level education.

They can buy cars, rent houses and produce families before they reach the age of 21. These youngsters need to be taught the way a credit score functions, what affects their score negatively or positively, how to balance their cheque book, read a bank statement, and design a budget. They need to know the importance of health and life insurance, accident insurance on the job, retirement savings and other basic investment vehicles.

We are training our youth to be slaves to debt. More than 40% of young people leaving school find themselves in debt by 19, and more than 70% by 21. They buy cars, get loans for education, repair their parents’ house or purchase gadgets and gizmos without really knowing what they are getting themselves into. Often when they settle down to buy a house their credit score is almost at the point of no return. Then they are forced to learn all these life skills they should have been taught in school.

On the other side of the coin though, we cannot only blame the government as we always seem to do. We as parents, and you as an individual, have our part to play. We must seek out seminars, short courses and certificate courses in areas we can improve our self development.

I implore you; because we owe it to ourselves. Time management, budget planning, basic accounting, insurance, investing, banking and taxation are just some of the areas in which we can gain knowledge.

We need a solid foundation in financial literacy. It forms the basis for responsible citizenship. Any human being with knowledge of these matters will have the tools to set himself apart from the rat race.

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