There has been a recent fascinating, and fairly scary, report from Lucy Kellaway at the Financial Times - about school children trading crypto.
This includes lots to unpack, and from which to learn. I will not reiterate previous thoughts on what retail trading, particularly of crypto assets, means for the wholesale markets (although I shall take the opportunity of mentioning the excellent Skadi Podcast, the latest edition of which we recorded yesterday and on which I will be heard [and seen!] talking about the topic).
Ms Kellaway, now a teacher herself, draws out two strands of thought from her interactions with pupils (around the age of 15) who trade crypto on their phones during lessons.
First, that children she meets have little concept of the 'value' of money - a perennial half-hearted moan of anyone with children about their constant demands for X or Y - but there is nothing vaguely amusing about children getting their concepts of median income or the cost of goods and services from celebrity social media. Funny as it was, Bill Bailey's 'laminated book of dreams' joke (about the Argos catalogue) made a serious point and yet still I cannot help think that the days of that book of dreams are numbered. This is because, instead of the large Hogwarts Lego(R) set or the Sylvanian Families products, children will want, without understanding they must aspire to the stays in five star hotels; cryptoasset holdings, new mobiles, tech or haute couture clothes they see their favourite celebrity and vloggers hawking. I apologise for sounding like the grumpy old man longing for the halcyon and completely fictitious days where children (for which read 'me') were happy with a satsuma in their Christmas stockings, three TV channels and an improving book as presents. My point, however, is that children are being sold a vision of the world which is entirely false - just look at the "behind the scenes" videos where vloggers and TikTokkers show what they look like without the filters or the hired-by-the-hour Bentleys.
Secondly, that children, in fact, are literate in issues such as what crypto assets are 'hot', volatility, portfolio diversification and transaction costs. That is financial literacy of sorts. However, and I hope I am reading Ms Kellaway's article correctly here, this is not literacy in the way that it should be understood - children buying and selling crypto is not "investing" and it is not risk-free. I laugh (very much the Grinch) at the idea that one may pay a fortune for a minted NFT only to have someone else press Ctl-C, Ctl-V (and Ctl-P) and... make it worthless. It is the naivety of the thing, the illiteracy of the myriad ways in which the world can fail to cooperate with ones expectations, which is astonishing. The same is clear with children being scammed in the crypto markets. Naivety in financial matters is illiteracy. Perhaps cynicism as deep as mine is illiteracy, also, but I have the years under my belt, the belly over my belt, and the grey hairs to permit me this one flaw.
There is one thread in the article which introduced me to a concept that, to my discredit, I had not considered. Children are being used by scammers, drug dealers and criminals to launder money through their trading and bank accounts (in return for a fee). Less 'county lines', more 'cloud lines'.
I realise this is not very jolly Friday reading. So here is a link to Bill Bailey's set https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggOa9aSG-Ow
“Nah Miss,” he says. “It’s investing.”