By Angela Catterns

As a born proof-reader, I can spot a spelling mistake at 10 paces; in a caption at the bottom of a TV screen, on the page of a book that’s been printed thousands of times and on menus and signs all over town. At school, I consistently scored 100% in spelling tests (until I decided that 99 and a half % sounded better … so I deliberately started leaving the odd capital letter off the front of proper nouns). I’m a competent reader and writer, so it’s embarrassing to have to admit that I am financially illiterate.

At least I’m not alone. Over the past few weeks, I’ve conducted my own informal survey. I’ve spoken to women of all ages – some of them public figures. They’re intelligent, creative, high achievers - and they’ve admitted the same thing. They haven’t got the faintest idea about the business of finance. When it comes to financial concepts like balance sheets, the difference between debt and equity investments or how to calculate compound interest, our eyes glaze over and we change the subject. And then there’s the language. Amortisation. Hedge funds. Basis points. Leveraged buyouts. Bonds. Debentures. Dividend imputation. Franked dividends. Scrip. Scrip! WTF?

ANZ’s latest survey of Australian’s financial attitudes and behaviour found 35% of females say dealing with money is stressful and overwhelming. Their personal income and level of education had no effect on this result.

More than one in three of us is stressed by dealing with money and could reasonably be described as financially illiterate. How did this happen?

When I was at school, the only focus on finance came in the shape of a Commonwealth Bank moneybox and a passbook. We were encouraged to save our pennies and when the moneybox was full, we’d take it to the bank, and they’d put a stamp in your passbook and give you a new moneybox. It was the beginning and end of our financial education. The world of money had nothing to do with us and there was no talk of it at all over the family dinner table.

How to light a fire, the art of square-lashing and the right way to make a bed were invaluable lessons I learnt as a Girl Guide. But the difference between equities, shares and global bonds? Nobody taught me these things and I didn’t really think to ask.

Today, there’s an admission that something much more needs to be done to avoid yet another generation of kids growing up financially illiterate. The Australian Securities and Investment Commission is in the early stages of implementing its National Financial Literacy Strategy 2014-17 which includes educating the next generation, particularly through the formal education system.

Teaching young people about the financial landscape so they can make good decisions about money is one of those core life skills.

Like bed-making and fire-building.

We know that women in general have lower average incomes, interrupted work patterns – usually for family reasons – lower participation rates when it comes to superannuation and in the end, less superannuation. Not only that, our savings will need to go further because we live longer than men. So it’s vital that younger women – all women – learn to overcome our blind spot. These days, anyone can learn anything, but it has to be a conscious decision. We have to decide to become financially literate.

I grew into a rebellious teenager and a free-thinking adult, yet surprisingly became a financial conservative. I make few impulse purchases, and I strive to pay off bills on time. I’ve tried to save a chunk of what I’ve earned and put what I can into superannuation. The truth may be that my behaviour matters more than my illiteracy, but I wish I could at least join the conversation.