Could maths education unlock greater financial confidence?

As the cost of living crisis bites, millions of Britons are seeking to make their money work harder for them. But many people lack confidence when it comes to numbers, which can, in turn, harm their efforts to make ends meet and plan for the future.

If people aren’t confident handling figures, how can they manage their money effectively and make the best financial decisions?

Education is clearly the solution to this problem, but there are differing views over what form this should take.

Many stakeholders and charities, for example, have pushed for greater financial education in schools, with children being taught about basic products and concepts, such as mortgages, pensions and interest rates, early on.

The government, meanwhile, wants to paint with a broader brush, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently setting out his desire to see all schoolchildren in England studying maths until the age of 18.

This, he believes, will give young people the “quantitative and statistical skills that they will need for the jobs of today and the future”, and also equip them with the right skills “to feel confident with finances in later life, including finding the best mortgage deal or savings rate”.

Without any exaggeration, Mr Sunak’s idea has received a mixed reception, with some critics branding it a distraction at a time when people are struggling with the cost of living, the NHS is in crisis and key workers in various sectors are going on strike.

There’s also a concern that this does little to address people’s financial concerns right here and right now, at a time when inflation is at a 40-year high.

Putting the politics of all this to one side for a moment, let’s look at what the statistics show us.

According to official figures, around eight million adults in England have the numeracy skills of primary school pupils – a staggering figure to say the least.

The government also believes that the UK is an outlier when it comes to maths education, as most other major countries, including France, Germany, the US and Japan, require their children to study some form of maths until the age of 18. In the UK, maths is studied by just half of 16 to 19-year-olds, so Mr Sunak believes closing this gap could have widespread benefits.

The move has been broadly welcomed by independent charity National Numeracy, but it has stressed that in order to be effective, it needs to be linked to the skills people need day to day.

According to research by the charity, 18% of all UK adults feel anxious when using maths and numbers. Interestingly, the study found that this sentiment is particularly strong among younger adults, with 30 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds admitting they feel this way.

That suggests many young adults are leaving education without feeling adequately equipped to use numbers in everyday life, which is vital if they’re to do everything from budgeting for their weekly shop to saving up for their retirement.

As financial specialists, we understand that getting to grips with the finer points of money management can be overwhelming, and it can be hard to know where to start.

So if you’re one of those adults who struggles to understand all the details and make decisions with confidence, rest assured that help is out there.

If you have any questions about what you can do to make your money work harder for you, or how to increase your chances of achieving your financial and wider lifestyle goals, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us, and we’ll be happy to speak with you.

Managing money doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you have an expert at your side.