Understanding Financial Literacy: A Guide for Students
By Oluebube Nwosu
Financial literacy refers to an individual's grasp of financial concepts. How financially literate you are is often a key determinant of your financial success in future.
As a university student, understanding how finance works is not a choice. Your financial skills can affect your life, so you must take the time to increase your financial literacy.
In this insightful piece, finance educator Olubebe Nwosu explores the meaning and rudiments of financial literacy and explains why everyone — students inclusive — must increase their financial knowledge.
What is Financial Literacy?
According to Investopedia, financial literacy is "the confluence of financial, credit, and debt management knowledge that is necessary to make financially responsible decisions and choices that are integral to our everyday lives."
It continues by saying, "Financial literacy includes understanding how a checking account works, what using a credit card means, and how to avoid debt...financial literacy has a material impact on families as they try to balance their budget, buy a home, fund their children's education, and ensure an income for retirement."
The point of this long-winded definition of finance is that financial literacy is an important life skill that remains useful throughout your life.
Imagine trying to sail without oars — that's what living life without understanding financial literacy is like. Financial literacy helps you reach your destination in life by making sure you make sound financial decisions that move you closer to achieving your dream life.
Understanding the Importance of Financial Literacy
In 2020, over 3 million adults in Nigeria lost 18 billion naira to Ponzi schemes. You would think many would have learned from MMM, but alas, new words and tricks from Ponzi marketers swayed many Nigerians who thought they had now found a "smart investment scheme."
One major challenge we face in Nigeria is the level of financial illiteracy; we know little of how money works. It's one thing to make money and another to manage and grow money. Don't just assume you understand this; Intentionally seek to understand how money works.
About 5-10 years ago, many older Nigerians lost a fortune in the burgeoning Nigerian stock exchange, and now, many swear that stocks are pure scams. Since then, the Nigerian stock market has been largely uninteresting.
Unfortunately, a similar thing is happening in the crypto space now, and many will still swear in the coming years (or worse still, months) that it is all a scam.
Is crypto a scam?
Are stocks fraudulent things?
Neither is. The real problem is the lack of financial literacy.
Financial literacy does several things to individuals — the most important being its ability to fix a "get rich quick mentality."
Before you invest in any asset or instrument, you must understand what it represents, how it gets its value, the possible risks, and returns.
But before you talk about investment, you must first understand how money works. The next step is to understand some basic finance terms.
Afterward, you learn how to plan your income. Then you finally study different investment options (don't forget to be honest about your risk appetite!).
You need — must! — learn how money works. Want to know how? Continue reading!
How Money Works 101
Money is a generally accepted means of exchange. People in a society decide that money should represent the value of their different commodities (goods and services). A standardized money system makes trade faster, facilitates credit trades, and makes it possible to store value (save and invest money) and make accounting possible (profit or loss is easy to determine).
We can make a profit (selling price — cost price) when we trade; hence more input (money) means greater output (more money). So, we ask for loans. The lender knows we can make profits with the money. The lender also knows that we may lose the money due to business risks. So, the lender asks for interests (a representative of both possible risk and returns).
After making a profit and returning the loan, the remaining profit belongs to the business owner(s). They share it according to their ownership of the Business (represented by what we call shares). They also set aside some money to run the business for the following month/year (the business capital).
After working for the year/month, the money you take home is your income. This will either be spent (for your needs and wants), saved (for emergencies or unexpected expenses), or invested (used to buy an asset).
Assets are items that do either or both things — grow in market value and bring in cash flow (extra income). For example — a house (can grow in value and can bring rent), a commercial motorcycle (can bring in daily returns), gold (can grow in value).
Each one has different possible risks and returns. They can either be actively or passively managed (hence, the term "passive income'').
Before you invest, you must ask yourself very important questions: How well can you handle loss? Are you a risk-taker? What's the end goal of this investment? These are excellent indicators of your risk level.
Why Investing in Financial Literacy is Worth It
What do you do when trying to learn something new about money or finance?
Read Investopedia articles?
Check the Oxford Dictionary?
Call your banker friend?
Perhaps, you're like me: the nerd who Googles the term; reads several articles on the topic; before watching several videos for further explanation. I may even read research papers, industry publications, journals — anything capable of broadening my knowledge on that term.
It's easy for me to look beyond the complex financial language or the absurd length of these learning resources, because I love reading and discussing money and finance. I absolutely love learning the meaning of the newest finance buzzwords and increasing my knowledge.
However, I occasionally find these articles hard to read and loaded with too much jargon. This is quite ironic, given that I study Economics and have perfected the art of consuming really boring info.
If I can get tired of reading finance-related content, what happens to the average reader who's not a finance geek? This guy just wants to have some knowledge of financial systems, not earn a degree in Business.
Despite that, many websites and financial experts fail to tailor their financial education towards the average reader. This explains why financial literacy remains low, especially in countries like Nigeria.
To reduce financial illiteracy, we must create beginner-friendly resources for average individuals who wish to learn about finance. This is why I created Swoosh — the most comprehensive Nigerian course on financial literacy.
You would not find a better guide on financial literacy anywhere else in the world. Trust me.
Instead of bugging your banker friend with questions every day, you can get premium, easy-to-understand info from this course. You'll get to learn more about finances — see more examples, learn how to share your income, and know much more about why money and investments exist.
The course has been selling for N10,000 ($20), but for you reading this now, you would get a 50% discount off. Use the special link provided below. You can pay in either Naira or your preferred Cryptocurrencies (yes, I'm a crypto evangelist too).
After investing in this knowledge, you won't be part of those losing 18 billion naira anymore. Like the wise man once said: "investment in knowledge pays the best dividend."
Order the course here
Join me on WhatsApp here for bite-sized lessons on money, cryptocurrencies, investment and anything finance-related.
Oluebube Nwosu is a crypto—finance educator and innovator, and Team Lead at Koinsandkash. He is a final—year student of Economics at the University of Lagos and serves as President of the Social Social Sciences Students Association (SOSSA) , UNILAG.