The coordinator of Social Responsibility and Education Projects of the Ibercaja Foundation, Carmen Campos, reviews in an interview with GoAragón the importance of knowing well the financial world in sectors such as youth or the elderly. The head of the entity also discusses the history of Ibercaja’s Financial Education program, which will celebrate its first decade next year.
The financial education program has been running since 2013, what conclusions have you drawn since its launch?
That it is more necessary every day. That, despite the fact that we have been running the program for almost 10 years now, we detect that it is becoming more and more necessary. Of course, in young people, who also have a lack of interest in everything related to finance, at least at the beginning, and then in the adult population. More and more resources, platforms and news are coming out and we have to be updated to manage our finances. It is true that it seems that, after 10 years of sowing, maybe the interest could decline a little. Not at all, we believe it is increasingly necessary.
One of these new resources could be cryptocurrencies, which have captured the interest of many young people?
They arouse a lot of interest. In fact, this year we have already started to program activities related to cryptocurrencies. They are very interested, but they have a brutal lack of knowledge. We try to bring people who know the terms very well, but who also know how to explain it to them in a language they can understand. And we ask them to show them the lights and shadows of cryptocurrencies; the advantages, but also the risks. As in any investment product, there is the obligation to inform about the risk; the higher the risk, the higher the profitability, but in cryptocurrencies it seems that there are only advantages. It is necessary to explain it well.
For younger people it is a way of getting out of banking, but they also have to know what interests are behind it. Like the whole program, it is white label, without selling products and without setting trends. We try to inform them in the best possible way, in a very practical way in which they can create a token, buy a cryptocurrency… in a gamified way so that they can experience the whole world, which is very broad.
I understand that, in this field, they face various risks….
We insist that all financial products must be regulated and supervised, in the case of Spain, by the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV) and the Bank of Spain. This world of cryptocurrencies, which is perhaps not so regulated at the moment, they have to be the ones who have a critical spirit and look for who they give reliability to and who they do not give reliability to. It is true that there are people with a certain prestige among the youngest who are doing a disservice because they only tell about the advantages, which are many, but they should also inform in a compensated way about the risks and the low profitability, in some cases.
What do the people who participate in this program have to say about their experience?
This year we have revised and updated all the contents we used to direct to schoolchildren and the truth is that we have had a very good reception, because reality changes and the examples also have to change. Before we used to use the example of an entrepreneur and now we use the example of an influencer, because they believe that influencers immediately monetize everything they do. We see how they can start to monetize, what they do with that money… we try to adapt to their language and their needs, and the truth is that the experience is very positive. I believe that their disinterest is not a form of rebellion, but that they simply don’t find it an attractive world.
Could the interest in the financial world be encouraged by the economic situation of the last few years, marked by various crises and uncertainty?
I think interests are changing. It is true that, after the 2008 crisis, savings were boosted quite a lot, but now there is a brutal consumption at all ages and we are trying to link it to the issue of sustainability. We have talked about responsible finance and sustainable finance, which is not only the investment and product part, but also the balance between reducing consumption and avoiding production; not only the consumption of money, but also of goods, especially natural goods. In the younger generations it is more accepted when we talk about the natural, but as soon as we talk about what is already produced, there is less interest.
There is a topic we are talking about again, which is online shopping, which has many advantages but also has many disadvantages, beyond the risks of the platforms. We have talked a lot about security, about keeping a close eye on the website where we buy, about using secure payment gateways… but we are also introducing the message of stopping to think about whether this purchase is necessary, especially because online shopping does not satisfy immediately, it does not give that rush that comes from buying physically and satisfying that craving of ‘I want something, I buy it and I’ll take it with me’. We insist on reducing consumption a little and buying in local stores, trying to mitigate the footprint of all purchases… we not only talk about finances, but we tell them that sustainability is not only environmental, but also has a very important economic part.
What kind of activities do you develop for schoolchildren?
We have set up a program for schoolchildren called ‘How to survive on an island’ with the basics of economics. Surviving would be easier if it were about surviving as an individual; the strongest would survive. But it’s about surviving as a group, and then they have to start managing a lot of things. Exchanges, production… that’s when it starts to get complicated and the fundamentals of economics are useful to be able to survive as a group.
And, in the case of the elderly?
We have a specific program for people over 65 years of age, especially in rural areas. We also talk to them about these concepts. For example, for them, online shopping or banking has multiple applications for problems they have when they live in rural areas and perhaps do not have the possibility to travel. Of course, online shopping is a positive thing, it provides a backbone to the territory because you can stay in your town without having to go and live somewhere else. But we are training them, first, to access all these platforms, because technology is advancing faster than they are able to learn. And, on the other side, to learn how to manage that online banking and online shopping.
What specific threats do seniors face?
I think there are two worlds that escape us; one, the obligation for everything to be online, which makes it difficult for them to request appointments, procedures… this referral of everything to the web is creating a gap that, in the end, if they don’t have a support person, they will be left out. That is why we insist that they continue training as much as possible. On the one hand, there is this obligation and, on the other hand, there are people who live outside digitalization. We have to explain it to them, but among the senior population there is a lot of interest in being updated.
In terms of financial culture and education, where are they doing well? Which countries or cultures are benchmarks?
There are different models. We look a lot at the Nordic countries. In Spain it is being done well because there are many entities that are working to do it well. But, for example, in countries like Norway they talk about money with children much earlier. Here I think there is still some hesitation in talking about money, but in contrast, there are other societies, such as the Norwegian one, that talk openly with children; they know how much things cost, they involve them in the family economy, which is fundamental.
I often tell the children that talking about savings is talking about dreams, because that is what allows you to make that dream come true. In Spain it is true that we have not done it, I feel part of a generation that is not doing it right with children because we give them too much and, if it breaks, we replace it.
Should financial education be encouraged in school curricula?
Economics is a subject that has come and gone according to the different education laws and it seemed that in this LOMLOE they were going to leave it out. And, although it is true that it is not compulsory, it is a beautiful elective. The content is very nice and interesting for schoolchildren. It talks about sustainability, entrepreneurship, fundamentals of the economy, linking values with the economy… in fact, it is called Social Economy. It is a very nice content and I think you can get a lot out of it. And I think that the entities that do financial education for those schoolchildren who are taking this subject can provide a lot of complementary content and activities. I think it has a beautiful content and I hope that more and more students will choose it.
This year, October 22, Financial Education Day, was dedicated to security, what are the main risks a user faces?
The bad guys (laughs). There are very clever bad guys who develop incredible software and use it to do harm. Every day there are attacks against payment platforms, every day there are attacks against the security of financial institutions, every day there is ‘phishing’, every day we receive scams… against that we can shield the platforms more and more, but what does not fail is to educate ourselves.