18 years old. A reason to celebrate! You’re finally an adult, which means you have more rights. But also more responsibilities. Because starting from their 18th birthday, young people are financially responsible and can arrange their own banking affairs. Many students, especially those in vocational education and special education, lack the necessary information and skills to manage their finances, so they end up in debt. According to credit registration bureau BKR, an estimated 34.000 young people fall into debt each year. That is an alarming trend.
“A lot of 18-year-olds don’t realize how much will change when it comes to their finances”
By and for young people
“A lot of 18-year-olds don’t realize how much will change when it comes to their finances”, says Loes van Geffen, Director of Money Start. “They don’t cancel their student travel product or grants, don’t apply for a health insurance supplement, or spend it before it can be transferred to the health insurance bank account. They also don’t take deductibles into consideration, forget to pay traffic fines, and don’t realize that dental care isn’t covered in their basic insurance policy. So they end up in debt.”
Money Start’s interactive program ‘Hoe word je rijk?’ (How do you get rich?) teaches students aged 14 to 18 how to manage their money. “When you ask young people what they want to be when they grow up, they say: ‘rich’”, Loes explains. “So we teach them that the first step to riches is to avoid debts.” The program was developed together with educators, debt relief counsellors and the target group. Loes: “That’s why it’s so closely tied to their world and the language they use. Each week, we discuss developments with the debt relief counsellors, and we adjust the program as necessary.”
"The lessons are given by professionals who work with young people with problematic debts every day. In the last lesson, a young person tells his or her own story about being in debt", explains co-Director Alan Bredenhorst. “That makes the students pay attention. It makes them understand: this could happen to me too.”
A study involving more than 1.100 participating students has shown that the approach is effective. The students’ level of knowledge increased thanks to ‘Hoe word je rijk?’ from a score of 5.7 to 7.7. And more than 90 percent of the students say that they’ll manage their finances better after the lessons, that they know how they should do it, and where they can find help if they need it. Loes: “The figures show that the approach works. In Amsterdam, where we teach at 35 schools each year, the number of young people with debts has decreased, even though it’s doubled in the rest of the country.”
“The figures show that the approach works”
Money Start currently teaches in 15 municipalities, but it aims to introduce ‘Hoe word je rijk?’ throughout the Netherlands. The plan is to roll it out gradually, in collaboration with local debt relief counsellors to teach the lessons. Alan: “We want to keep the benefits of the local teacher and the specialist in the field. Local debt relief counsellors, police officers, youth workers and social workers know the young people in their areas and speak their language. We’re adding 3 to 5 new municipalities each year.”
Rabo Foundation supports that growth with impact financing and access to the network. Alan: “With the money, we can put things in order like the internal processes for the nation-wide expansion. And with Rabo Foundation’s network we came into contact with Moedige Dialoog, which works to make people financially and socially self-reliant. They’re active in a lot of municipalities, and they recommend us there. That helps us get in contact with municipal governments.” Loes concludes: “We’re going to do our absolute best to reach young people in vocational education and special education.”
Tips for other social entrepreneurs who want to grow
We asked Loes and Alan about their experiences and lessons for growth. This was their advice.
- It’s tempting to try to grow quickly. But do it gradually, and make sure you have your internal processes in order first. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
- Become a member of respected branch organizations. It can help a lot if they stand behind your product or service. They can also promote you among their supporters.
- Always keep your eye on your goal. Everything you do has to contribute to reaching that goal.
Why Rabo Foundation supports Money Start, and how
Many children and young people don’t get much financial education at home. But it’s essential to learn how to make wise financial choices when you’re young. So we support Money Start with a financial contribution, and we bring them into contact with other initiatives to expand their concept in the Netherlands.
One of their unique aspects is the use of ‘peer educators’: young people who’ve experienced what it means to have financial problems. That enables them to actually reach young people at schools, and to help them avoid making the same mistakes and suffering the same financial worries. That practical approach helps Money Start contribute to building a financially healthy generation.
Would you like to contribute to the good work done by Money Start? Then share their story, and inspire the people around you!