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Teach Our Children Home Economics Now and They Might Be Able to Avoid the Bankruptcy Process Later

In the old days, people talked about the 3 Rs in school; reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic (they obviously weren’t concerned with spelling). In today’s fast-paced and changing world, a critical element needs to be added to our children’s education. It’s not, as my title suggests, education about the bankruptcy process and consumer proposals; it’s teaching students to avoid financial problems.

I strongly believe that mandatory home economics education needs to be re-introduced into the school curriculum.  When I was in school, home ec meant a classroom with some ovens for baking and sewing machines for making clothing. Cooking and sewing are both valuable skills, but that is not what I’m referring to.

As a Trustee in Bankruptcy, one of the biggest challenges I see people facing is simply making ends meet. Part of the problem is people inadvertently get caught up in spending flurries, using credit cards to buy what they want whether they can afford it or not. When they come to our office seeking help with their debt problems, we find that they do not understand the cost of credit and they do not understand what they can afford.

How can home ec education fix this problem? It’s important that children learn basic financial literacy skills at a young age so they can make informed decisions about their personal finances as adults. Understanding how to create and stick to a budget and knowing what is affordable based on your income are important lessons to learn. In fact, I would say that it is critical to know how to budget.  There are excellent tips on putting a budget together at the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s website.  Many banks have also realized the importance of financial literacy and they have created their own programs to help students.

It is also very important that children understand the cost of credit as early on as possible.  Let’s face it, you can’t do much today without a credit card; but it’s important to remember that credit cards are tools that give you a 30-day interest-free period to make your payment. If the balance on a credit card isn’t paid in full every month, you will pay exorbitant sums of interest.  For example, if you wanted to go out for lunch, you should pay for lunch with your credit card only if you can afford it based on your budget.  If lunch is not affordable today, it will certainly not be affordable 30 days from now when it’s time to pay your credit card bill. According to a recent study by Visa, the cost of eating out, even once a week, is hundreds of dollars a year.  Home ec classes can teach children that there are many ways to eat healthily on a budget so you can lessen your financial burden and stress.

Unfortunately, many Canadians did not have the opportunity to take home economics in school. Even today, many students are leaving high school with weak financial skills and little knowledge of the financial realities they will face. We should not want our youth to grow up only to experience financial difficulties, and have to visit a Trustee to learn about the bankruptcy process. We should teach them early in their lives how to be fiscally responsible.  Not everyone is capable of doing that at home, so we need to do it in school through mandatory home economics education.

Do you think your children would benefit from mandatory home ec classes in school? Tell us about it. #BDOdebtrelief

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