How Turkey’s youth are taking control of their finances - and their future
Halil Ünsal is a college graduate with a background in finance.
During college, although he was taking intensive math and business courses, he was not confident that he was learning how to manage his own personal finances, let alone understand the broader concepts behind financial management.
He was not alone. According to research conducted in 2009, among the 15–30 year-old demographic, four out of five admitted they did not save money.
In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, Visa Europe Turkey, Turkish Ministry of Development, UNDP, and Habitat Center for Development and Governance teamed up to help youth take control of their financial future.
In 2009, they kicked off a peer-to-peer mentoring programme called ‘I can manage my money’.
Halil Ünsal volunteered to be a part of the programme as soon as it was announced. He knew he could learn the concepts and then help others. He is now one of 900 volunteer trainers delivering the curriculum in 78 cities throughout the country.
- 'I can manage my money’ has offered face-to-face training to over 75,000 young people in financial literacy concepts and trained an additional 40,000 online.
- There are 900 volunteer trainers delivering the curriculum in 78 cities throughout the country.
- The project has affected national policy dialogues. Turkish Ministry of Development officially recognized the importance of financial education in its 10th national development plan for 2014-2018.
Through the project, young people learn a range of topics including savings and investment, balancing a budget, borrowing with a plan, debt repayment, pension contributions, and consumer rights.
There are still challenges though as economically disadvantaged young people can be particularly hard to reach. Research reveals socio-economically disadvantaged students possess lower levels of financial literacy.
But this programme has led to a real change in the national policy dialogues in Turkey. The Ministry of Development has now officially recognized the importance of financial education in its latest National Development Plan for 2014-2018. The national strategy and action plan on financial inclusion, education and consumer protection, also included financial education as a key component and a call for financial literacy to be added to the national curriculum.
“This project is unique with its message to prioritize savings over consumption. What we aim for here is to promote spending logically according to your needs and wants,” says Sezai Hazır of the Habitat Center for Development and Governance.
UNDP in Turkey’s Hansın Doğan is convinced that the programme can help Turkey resist future financial shocks but he says, “The government should take responsibility for training at national scale.”