• IndiaLily

Things I wish they'd taught me at school

Disclaimer - I am NOT an expert, but I have done some research.


Now that disclaimer is out of the way I'll crack on. In school we had random lessons like citizenship and free periods that I feel should be incorporated into the ciriculum because there is so much I'm still working out now - five years out of school.


Life lessons on subjects from money to sex education can teach kids how things actually work and would have been much more helpful I think. So many things are swept under the carpet and avoided, when I think kids would be so much better off being taught about them from a young age.


Mental health is something I think also needs to be pushed more in school and I wrote about suicide and body confidence, but this article focuses on sex education and the topic of money.


So here's a look over some of the things I wish I'd been taught in school:


(Again I'll stress that I'm not an expert, here is an expert on all things money)


Tax


The UK tax system is pretty complex, but schools should just touch on it to allow kids to have a bit of an idea of where their money will go when they start earning.


If you earn more than `£12,500 per year then you'll be taxed - this is income tax. This money is automatically taken out of your wages and goes to the government to pay for things like the NHS, education and the welfare system, roads, and housing.


There are loads of different types of tax, but I think just looking at a few of the main ones would be really useful:


VAT - tax on goods

Stamp duty - tax on buying a house

National insurance contributions - essentially another form of income tax


Mortgages


I'm now starting to think about this one more and more. When watching house shows I'd hear the price and wonder how people had saved up that much money. Well, it's all starting to make sense to me now.


You save for a mortgage deposit. A mortgage is a loan for the house, so eventually you will pay it all off and own your house without a mortage. This is why people often say they'll pay off their mortgage if they win a competition like the lottery.


A deposit for this is at least five per cent of the price of the property you want to buy. So if you want to buy a house worth £200,000 with a 95 per cent mortgage you put down £10,000 of your own money and borrow the remaining £190,000, paying it back over the years with interest.

A bigger deposit means you can apply for mortgae deals with lower interest rates.


You apply to a mortgage provider and they'll look at your deposit and income (plus other factors) to work out how much they want to lend you.


I set up a help-to-buy ISA when I was in uni. This means I put a set amount of money into it every month and then whenever I take it out the government will give me 25 per cent of what I've saved (maximum of £3,000). This scheme has stopped now, but there is now a lifetime ISA which is worth looking into because it's the same concept - you save and the government help you out when you're ready to buy.


As well as saving for a deposit you need to remember there are additional costs of buying a property, the boring admin costs.


Pensions


I only really started to think about pensions when I got a letter with my payslip in my part-time waitressing job. This was to tell me that my workplace had enrolled me into a workplace pension, and this meant that every month some of my wage went to the pension and my employer paid into it too.


I've had two pensions set up for me through work because different employers use different pension companies. One was with the well known Scottish Widows, and the other was a company called Nest. I'm currently getting my Nest one transfered over so everything is in one place because I just thought that would be easiest.


The government will pay you a regular income when you reach the state pension age. The amount you receive will depend on certain things like the number of years in which you've made National Insurance contributions and the date you reach the state pension age. At the time of writing this, the full state pension you could get would be £175.20 a week, but of course this changes over time and depends on individual factors.


Most pension schemes go off a retirement age of 65.


There is much more about pensions, but that's as much as I wish I had been taught at school.


Credit cards


I grew up associating credit cards with debt - which put me off learning about them because I just thought it was best to avoid them.


If used well though, credit cards can be a good idea.


A credit card lets you spend money on credit – like mini loans you should pay back each month. If you pay off the bill in full each month, you won’t pay interest on what you’ve borrowed. But of course if you don’t pay everything back, then interest will be charged.


How you use a credit card can also affect your credit rating too. A good credit rating will improve your chances of a successful credit application in the future which involves applying for a mortgage.


You need to be at least 18 to apply for a credit card.


Pros of credit cards include:

  • Easy to carry, easy to use.

  • Safer than cash.

  • Buy now, pay later.

  • You’re protected for most purchases over £100 and up to £30,000.


Cons of credit cards include:

  • High-interest payments if you don't pay back.

  • Beware of the risk of debt.

  • Additional hidden fees.

  • Expensive to use abroad.


Sex education


Sex education at school for me was an old video that was very vague and dated, followed by the task of putting a condom on a banana...and that was about it.


Unfortunately from talking to many others, this level of education wasn't a rare thing - we were all clueless.


I think there should be mixed classes so both boys and girls know the same things. Of course some lessons could be split, but on the whole I think we all need to know the same.


The pill: I feel like girls are just constantly told not to get pregnant and shown how to put a condom on (that boys don't want to wear in the first place let's be honest) so the subject of the pill shouldn't be ignored.


I was so lucky to have a mum I could talk to about the pill, but not all girls have this and if I'd been on my own I would have felt completely out of my depth. Teach girls that the pill is for more than just contraception, it affects your hormones and can have other benefits like skin care.


Periods: Boys feeling uncomfortable about periods is something that really pisses me off, so I'd say this should be a class girls and boys take. Maybe follow with a girls-only class for questions and more detail, but the ignorance of boys - screw that, men - is ridiculous.


So often if girls get their periods around the age of 13 they have no idea what's going on and it can be really traumatic. You're worried you'll bleed through your clothes, you don't have any pads with you, and sometimes girls think something bad is happening because they're that unsure about what is going on.


In most women, the menstrual cycle happens over 28 days, starting with the first day of your period. With each cycle your body prepares the lining of your uterus to create the ideal environment for a possible pregnancy. When you're not pregnant, the egg is absorbed back into the body and the thick lining in the uterus is shed, this is your period. Then the cycle begins all over again.


Hormones are all over the place at this time as your body prepares for a pregnancy, so that's why you can feel emotionally all over the place during your period too (or in many cases, in the days up to when you bleed).


I think girls should be taught what is happening to them, that it can come from as young as 10-years-old, and that everyone's periods are different. By teaching girls about periods, it doesn't become a scary and embarrassing thing, it's just natural. And by teaching boys, they have an understanding of it all rather than just getting uncomfortable.


Sexually transmitted diseases and infections: Contraception should be the responsibility of boys and girls, but at the end of the day a condom isn't always worn and the pill won't protect you from infections and diseases.


I think there's a lot of stigma around this that you're dirty if you get an STD/STI. Instead of this being completely ignored at school, teach kids that it's normal to get yourself checked out just like you would go to your GP for general health checks.


You can get tests ordered to your home to do yourself, and there are sexual health clinics to drop into too. Getting this message out reduces the chance of things being spread or things getting worse for the individual because they know how to deal with it earlier on.