Know your maths for your financial wellbeing

  • Financial education: the Smart About Money home page

    Financial education: the Smart About Money home page


Maths rules the world — maths being a major component of the acronym Stem: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Money is an absolute. It does not lie. Maths is a universal language, needing no translation. People of diverse cultures, races, economic backgrounds, geographical distances, with no ability to communicate in a common language, amazingly can converse in mathematical terms.

Think about it. Every single practical thing we touch, are exposed to, need, want, have, is calculated, or produced through the use of maths. Engineering, industry, communications, satellites, medicine, transportation, household, energy, finance, construction, education, navigation, yes, and even war! The list is unending. The ancients discovered this thousands of years ago; their highly sophisticated processes for that era now elegantly refined and repurposed are still utilised today.

Yet, in an overall trending pattern, the level of financial literacy — competency in maths and day-to-day financial intelligence — continues to decrease among much of what we consider as the first-world population.

The OECD 2015 Survey fascinatingly exposes the lamentable average adult financial literacy scores, of less than 60 per cent, across 30 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe, Australasia, North America and South America.

Additionally, high school seniors fared no better while older retired seniors had even worse failing rates — 80 per cent. Only two populations achieved higher scores. Can you guess? Namely, Hong Kong and China.

It appears that across the board, we humans want to know less about our own financial world than ever.

Locally, individuals, both former and current ruling parties and most recently, the People’s Campaign recognise this serious problem, stressing the need for financial literacy and economic understanding in school curriculum.

Many individuals and businesses have devoted life’s work to promoting financial literacy for all our people, among them: Darren Burchall, his mission in coding to the world; Hub Culture, the KPMG Investment Challenge for school students, Craig Simmons, the economist, Sir John Swan, the late Larry Burchall, teachers and more too numerous to mention who, unnamed and unknown, in their own committed ways are doing their bit to raise the level of financial awareness. I applaud all of you — we should all be grateful.

Why are these scores so low? Does anyone know? Is it because we have become so complacent that we think machines, computer algorithms, engineer coding, bots will do this for us, so why bother?

I refuse to accept any of these premises. Readers, you know me, I will never, ever, stop pushing you to become financially empowered.

And nor should you!

If you do not possess at least a basic understanding of maths, your money (or lack thereof), and your financial situation will always be controlled by someone else. Or, more often now, some computer program.

Putting this in very personal terms, every instance that you rely upon someone else (or some machine) to calculate your paycheque, figure out your pension contributions, tell you how much insurance you need, give you an investment product, compute your medication doses, review your credit card statement, tell you how much you owe on your mortgage, you are not in control of your finances. You are vulnerable.

You have almost accepted financial slavery.

Is that a sufficient motivator?

Know your maths.

Becoming financially literate is an urgent personal and community matter. What will you do when everything in our money world, all the tangible “stuff”, is digitised? Meaning you cannot touch it, you cannot see it, you cannot physically count it out. Your money will be represented by digits on a smart phone or computer, possibly not even on paper. Naysayers are scoffing now, “it will never happen, there will always be real money in circulation!”

Who wants to bet right now against the power, strength, and depth of the global financial industry? Realise that the phenomenal growth of alternate cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, ethereum, zcash, dash, ripple (not the 1970s fortified wine), monero, along with ICOs (initial coin offerings) developed to avoid the control and dominance of the traditional finance industry, government and tax authorities and the like.

Understand that these new initiatives will demand even more personal maths intelligence. Sitting in front of a computer application and pushing a bunch of buttons is not enough to protect your financial security in a distributed network with anonymous participants.

Enough of the lecture.

Now for lighter and hopefully, fun maths information.

In a few weeks, dear readers, I will submit a new reader financial quiz to my editor at The Royal Gazette. This time, I am giving you some resources ahead to prepare for it, that is, if you want to bother to test your financial intelligence.

We know you have the financial capacity, we all have it, or we could not even begin to operate in our world. But can you learn to use it far more to your benefit?

Introducing SAM — Smart About Money at https://www.smartaboutmoney.org/

Completely free, unbiased, customisable, financial education, Smart About Money is one of the many programmes of the National Endowment for Financial Education®.

NEFE® is an independent, non-profit foundation committed to educating Americans on a broad range of financial topics and empowering them to make positive and sound decisions to reach their financial goals.

We explore the entire SAM programme, readers, next week and in future articles.

In the meantime, explore, learn, and start with the SAM LifeValues Quiz ( https://www.smartaboutmoney.org/Tools/LifeValues-Quiz ).

A note of levity: those of you who overspent during the holidays, or cannot resist takeout coffee every day, or just have to splurge on those shoes, might want to go to the Spendster Reality Check YouTube Section.

Various brave individuals volunteered to go on camera to reveal their spending habits, and the ultimate cost. Here are three out of a large selection. By the way, men overspending are there too.

One: I’m a Starbucks Junkie. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpnVs2P-HVA )

This individual has spent how much on takeout coffee over the years? $1,000, $5,000 or more?

Two: Spendster shoes glorious shoes ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFMcO1cU1bY )

Guess how many pairs and total costs? And this person admits she works for NEFE!

Three: I’m addicted to Diet Coke ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZODNXMg5g3c )

Yes, the little things add up.

Sources

OECD/INFE International Survey of Adult Financial Literacy Competencies https://goo.gl/StcDqB

Spendster: https://www.youtube.com/user/NonprofitNEFE

Martha Harris Myron CPA CFP JSM: Masters of Law — international tax and financial services. Pondstraddler Life, financial perspectives for Bermuda islanders with multinational families and international connections on the Great Atlantic Pond. Contact: martha@pondstraddler.com

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Published Jan 13, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 13, 2018 at 12:12 am)

Know your maths for your financial wellbeing

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