Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster
ACCORDING to the Money Advice Service, financial behaviours are set by the age of seven, so encouraging children to start taking responsibility for their own pocket money and getting them into the saving habit pays dividends in later life.
Although I didn’t start supplementing my pocket money until I was 11, I guess you could call me an early years capitalist.
I was on Radio Cumbria the other day talking about, among other things, how I got started in what we used to call the “inky trade” — journalism — and how I became a regular earner while still at school.
Two local reporters lived a few doors away down the street and as a nipper I often went round there with my mother, becoming ever more fascinated as they rushed in and out between jobs and battered their stories out on an old typewriter stuffed with carbon paper.
They weren’t keen on sport — and I was. They asked me to write little reports from local football and cricket matches and, during the holidays, I would go round with them as their copy runner, legging it from sports events and shows to the nearest phone box to send over their stories.
From there I became Mid Wicket of the local paper, writing weekly cricket reports, while in the winter months it was back to the touchline for football and rugby. Ironically I had just started at the grammar school and, while my copy was appearing every week in the newspapers, I never did manage to make the school magazine.
However, it was lucrative work back then for an 11-year-old in the 1950s. I got half a crown a week from the journalists, a similar sum from the foreman printer at the paper and 2s 6d from the captain of the cricket club for doing the reports and his correspondence. None of them knew the others were paying me, and it suited me to keep it my little secret hoard.
Doubtless there are still lots of youngsters who have weekend jobs, but I suspect the concept of learning how to earn and manage money isn’t what it once was, and nowadays they’d probably frown at the idea of an 11-year-old cashing in on his sporting knowledge.
Halfords, the motor parts firm, recently produced a report in which a third of parents said their children had never washed the family car. Shades of Kevin the Teenager.
More important, a major study confirmed what many of us already suspected — that our basic financial skills are in tatters. One in three adults in this country can’t work out the correct change from a shopping trip and four in 10 are unable to apply a simple discount on products they’ll consider buying.
When it comes to financial literacy, we’re near the foot of the international table. Professor John Jerrim, who co-authored the working paper, said this new research highlighted how England was facing a crisis in terms of adults’ financial skills.
Financial education is now compulsory in schools, but changes in the way we deal with money — contactless cards, online banking and smartphone payments — have impacted on how children understand money.
The study highlights demand for more practical, real world experience of financial education and making it a separate lesson within the national curriculum, complete with relevant teaching courses. I’ve often wondered what would be more useful, Latin verbs or the ability to work out a four-horse Yankee.
My parents had to be good financial managers. After all they didn’t have a lot of money and what they did have had to be carefully budgeted. Right into her 90s, my mother kept a selection of envelopes into which she put weekly contributions towards the gas, electricity and other household bills. I’ve heard about lots of older people doing the same: people brought up in a time when being short of money made today’s claims of poverty seem ludicrous.
For younger children, rewarding chores with pocket money helps them to understand the benefits of earning their own money, while for older kids setting monthly allowances can help them budget for the things they want the most.
I didn’t do terribly well at school. Always dreaming of weekends and my next reporting task. I may have failed my Latin and French, but it set me up for a life in journalism that’s lasted 60 years. It’s just that, in “real terms” as the politicians say about money, I reckon I was probably better off, shilling for shilling, at 11 than I am now.
THE TIMES ARE A’CHANGING
WAY back when, I used to spend some of my earnings on an essential weekly review of the pop music scene as provided by the New Musical Express.
Me and my pals listened religiously to Radio Luxembourg and followed the charts, particularly the American scene, thanks to NME. It was the beginning of the golden age of pop and, thanks to the magazine, some of us were considered rather smart because we knew the top 50 in the British charts and in the US of A and could forecast, with the NME’s help of course, the next big development, the next big name, in popular music.
The NME has just printed its final edition. No longer financially viable, the last issue appeared 66 years after the first. The publication has moved to an online-only model. I haven’t read it since the 1970s when my interest in pop weakened.
It limped on latterly. “It’s hard to imagine current readers weeping,” wrote the Guardian’s music correspondent. “It was superfluous and disposable, something you picked up, passed the time with and dropped again — the antithesis of its former status as a cherished artefact.”
And cherished it was. It was the swinging 60s, although for some of us reading about it in NME was about as close as we got to swinging ourselves.
SAD NEWS FOR GEORGE
LIKE Michael Parkinson, though on a much more modest scale, I’ve met many interesting people during my reporting career.
People often ask who made the biggest impression, who did I most like and admire or dislike. The good, the bad and the occasional ugly of the human race.
Forget the bad. I think the most warming person I’ve ever interviewed has to be newsreader George Alagiah. He has natural charm and time for people and you get a sense of his decency and dignity. In the end I had to remind him I was interviewing him, not the other way round, such was his interest in my job.
I was sorry to see that he has been diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer, meaning his chance of surviving at least five years is 10 per cent. He was first diagnosed in 2004 and underwent chemotherapy and five operations before getting the all-clear three years ago.
How devastating to discover the cancer had returned recently and that he believes it could have been picked up sooner initially if he lived in Scotland where earlier screenings are offered. How extraordinary, and wrong, that we all live in Britain and yet, in some medical matters, it’s a virtual postcode lottery.
For the 62-year-old, who is one of the genuine nice guys, to have received such bad news doesn’t seem fair.
MAKING MAY LOOK GOOD
IF a week is a long time in politics, just think what a few months can do.
Last November Theresa May was, said all the experts, a dead Prime Minister walking. Would she even last as party leader until Christmas? Go before you are pushed, fellow MPs were telling her. The coughing fit at the conference was just about the last straw. It seemed to sum up a disaster-prone PM.
Six months further on, those supreme diplomats in her own party, Boris Johnson and Gavin “tell the Russians to shut up and go away” Williamson, not to mention an indecisive Jeremy Corbyn, have actually succeeded in achieving the impossible. They are making Theresa May look good.
FORMER Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom warned potential burglars that if he encountered an intruder in his home at dead of night he would run them through with his military sword. It’s a wonder that gaffe-prone Godfrey hasn’t had a visit from the boys in blue who these days, in such circumstances, are more likely to feel the victim’s collar than turn up and nick the intruder.