Money expert reveals what children need to know about their finances

Money lessons come in all shapes and sizes – and for Russell Winnard, a particularly bad marble swap as a kid taught him a lot.

As a director of charity Young Money, the 44-year-old former accountant now advises young people about personal finance and helps them make smart decisions with their money.

What was the earliest moment of being interested in money?

My first memory of money is counting the one pound notes in my money box, probably aged five or six-years old. Being interested in money and what money enables was probably a little later on.

You become more aware of what others around you have and what you yourself want – often the things others have at that age.

Were you always very sensible with cash?

Bad memories begin to resurface around a very poor marble swap. Mine was a large silver marble that had a rainbow shimmer across the surface. This was swapped for two bog-standard marbles. Instant regret.

I asked for it back, but to no avail – an important lesson learnt. I was more of a spender than a saver in my younger years but I did always manage to have a small saving contingency – something I’ve maintained to this day.

What was your first job and pay packet?

Because money meant ‘going out’, I got a paper round at the earliest opportunity, aged 13. For the joy of delivering around 40 newspapers across town in all weather. I got the princely sum of £8.

If by the end of week there had not been any complaints, I got a £2 bonus. At the age of 13 it mostly went on trips to the cinema, clothes – if army surplus counts – and music.

What do you regret buying?

I regret that my wife regrets me buying a 1987 long wheelbase Land Rover Defender that mostly sits relatively unused outside my house.

My stock standard line on this is that they are an appreciating asset and therefore an investment.

How did you get into your job?

I was looking for senior leadership roles in teaching when I came across an advert to support schools in London and Kent to develop financial education for their young people.

This played to my teaching and accountancy experience and I’ve not looked back since.

Financial capability is so crucially important for all young people, and I am now in a position that I can inform and influence national programmes of support and am increasing the number of young people that receive it.

Is money a motivating factor for you?

No. It’s really not. I would much rather finish a day knowing I’ve made a small difference to others than made a lot of money for myself. Money is important to me, but not a motivator.

What is your best advice for young people when it comes to managing money?

Debt has become a huge issue among millennials with credit being directly marketed at them.

It might sound unsexy, but before you buy something on a card, consider whether you need it, and if you might be able to save up for it instead.

What should every child leave school knowing when it comes to money?

Incredibly, children start forming spending habits from the age of seven, so it’s essential to start teaching children about money from a really young age.

By the time they leave school every young person should have developed knowledge, skills and attitudes around saving, spending, budgeting, banking and borrowing.

The extent to which each of these are covered will be different for every child, but these are the key areas.

What is the future for cash? How will it change?

While there is good reasoning behind it, it’s a shame that cash has fallen out of favour due to the pandemic as it can be a brilliant way to tangibly track your spending.

Money is now so digitised that it is easier than ever to spend what you really don’t have. But with the rise in financial technology, there is also a rise in online fraud – so we should be equipping kids with the tools to identify the tell-tale signs.

How has Covid changed ideas towards money in a good way?

Saving hit record highs in 2020, mainly due to money magnets like the pub being closed for a significant portion of the year.

I think that it is no bad thing to have a buffer, and the instability of the past year has put savings at the top of the agenda, which is a positive example to set to our children and young people.

Should young people chase the idea of being rich?

We can all be rich in different ways, it does not necessarily have to mean that we have lots of money – I think it is important that young people understand that.

Money is aspirational, and if that motivates a young person to take a leap into starting up their own business or being ambitious in their careers, then that’s no bad thing.

Young people should be careful though – you might feel rich after your first few pay cheques, but circumstances can easily change. Make sure that some of that money is put aside so that you have a buffer.

What is the most extravagant thing you have ever purchased?

That would be the Land Rover Defender I mentioned earlier…

Are you a spender or saver?

Naturally I am a spender, but I have taught myself to put money aside for those unexpected events and nice-to-haves.

One of the very interesting things about saving is that it seems so difficult at first, but once you begin to grow your savings pot you become quite protective and the more you save the more reluctant you are to spend it.

What would you buy if money was no object?

A smallholding in the Welsh mountains is the retirement plan, and I see no reason why it couldn’t be a luxury smallholding if money was no object.

It’s just not true: Russell on five common money misconceptions

Pocket money spoils children

Pocket money is actually a really useful financial developmental tool for children. It teaches young people the value and the cyclical nature of money, especially if this is paid in return for chores.

I don’t need to budget until I start working

While budgeting and effective money management undoubtedly become more important as you begin to earn, knowing how to budget and make the right decisions with your money is an essential skill that should be central to young people’s understanding of money from childhood.

Debt is bad and is to be avoided

Not all debt is bad. A student loan is a good option to access credit to study at university and student credit cards can be a really useful way to build up a good credit score, so long as they are used responsibly.

If I earn a large salary, I don’t need to worry about money

A large salary does not mean a debt-free life as it is very easy to live beyond your means, whether you earn the average UK salary or double this. This is why it’s so crucial that managing money should be embedded in education.

Money management isn’t something you learn at school…

While parents and guardians play an important role in teaching young people about managing money, school is just as important.

Learning about financial education from many sources and having early exposure to understanding budgets, the value of money and how to make good financial decisions needs to be central to children’s education.

For more money-saving advice as well as chat about cash and alerts on deals and discounts, join’s Facebook group, Money Pot.

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