The first step for educating people about money matters starts at school, says Marlborough Family Budgeting Service co-ordinator Fiona Patrick.
In Australia a number of secondary schools are trialling a financial literacy programme to teach students how to manage their money.
But New Zealand has yet to make headway in this area.
Teaching children to be financially literate at either intermediate or high school helped set them up to manage their money sensibly for the rest of their lives, Fiona said.
It was particularly important for children to learn how to handle their money at school as there were many parents who didn't know how to manage money, she said.
Marlborough Family Budgeting Service had "quite a few" clients aged in their mid to late 20s who were struggling with their finances as a result of poor financial decisions.
Many of them had incurred a substantial amount of debt and were still trying to make repayments years later.
"People can get a credit card or take out a loan at 18," Fiona said.
She suggested that banks and lenders conduct more in-depth background checks on their clients to ensure they could repay their loan before authorising it.
Modules for helping people become financially literate were introduced to budget service branches nationwide last year.
The topics were wide-ranging, from budgeting basics to tips for first-time flatters.
This year's focus for the regional branch was promoting the resource in schools through a workshop by Marlborough Family Budgeting Service educators, Fiona said.
She encouraged schools around Marlborough to take the opportunity to teach their students how to manage their money.
Bohally Intermediate principal Andrew Read saw the merits of teaching children financial literacy at school.
However, at this stage, integrating it into the school's curriculum was an "opportunity cost" for students, meaning they would miss out on another area of learning, Mr Read said.
"We have such a crowded curriculum . . . so it's literally a time issue. You just can't do everything. Something has to give somewhere else."
SBS Bank Blenheim branch manager Greg Stretch said that parents, caregivers and education providers had a joint responsibility to teach children about financial literacy.
Much of the current generation of 20-somethings who accumulated debt were consumers who wanted "everything now" rather than taking the time to save up.
"If they can start putting money away for their retirement or a new house, then that will definitely be a good start for them," he said.
But people generally had a better understanding of how to manage their finances thanks to the internet, which offered a huge amount of information about budgeting, saving money and making good financial decisions.
"Children have access to so much more information these days . . . so they are far more equipped to make better financial decisions than previous generations were."
An Australian credit rating repairs company backed the move to teach financial literacy in schools. MyCRA Credit Rating Repair chief executive officer Graham Doessel said many young people got caught in the "credit trap".
"Before they know it, they're 20 years old and facing bankruptcy or court action and years of being locked out of the finance market coming into the crucial years when they need it most," he said.
Teaching children the importance of responsible borrowing and buying would be invaluable in helping reshape a whole generation's attitude to credit, especially when it concerned home ownership and investments, things that seem to have eluded many Australians in their 20s, he said.
- The Marlborough Express