Monday 21 October 2013

Teenagers to learn how to manage finances

Teachers will be equipped to teach financial literacy, social workers to be trained too
By Mok Fei Fei, The Sunday Times, 20 Oct 2013

Teachers and social workers are being roped in to help raise financial literacy among Singaporeans.

The move, which is being rolled out as part of the national financial education programme MoneySense, is aimed at addressing various financial issues faced at different points in a person's life, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday.

Mr Tharman was speaking at the MoneySense 10th anniversary roadshow, held at HDB Hub Mall in Toa Payoh.

He said Secondary 1 and 2 students can learn how to manage their finances with the Food and Consumer Education programme, which will be launched by the Ministry of Education (MOE) next year. The ministry will also equip teachers with the necessary skills and knowledge to make learning interesting and relevant.

But no, students will not have to take exams for it, assured Mr Tharman, though the aim is to give teenagers skills that they will find useful later in life.

"We must start earlier, with teenagers. Forming the right attitudes towards spending and saving early in life goes a long way," he said.

More avenues to seek help will also be made available via social service networks to those who are in financial distress, said Mr Tharman, who is also Finance Minister. He said a pilot programme is under way to train social workers and counsellors on financial literacy.

This will enable social workers to provide advice to people from low-income households or to those who see them for help.

For example, social workers could advise people in need on ways to cut their utility or grocery bills, without compromising on their well-being.

The Institute for Financial Literacy, which is conducting the training, held its first workshop for 80 social workers last month. Another session will begin in December.

There are plans to run these workshops on a quarterly basis, according to the director at the Institute for Financial Literacy, Dr Alex Lum. "The feedback has been very good, and the social workers found the tips to be practical," he added.

To ensure that MoneySense remains relevant, the programme will have specific initiatives to assist people at different life stages.

These could range from helping them plan for their wedding expenses, ensuring they buy affordable flats and advising parents on how they can save for their children.

Mr Tharman also shared the results of a financial literacy survey of 1,800 people.

The survey found that more than half of the respondents do not have enough insurance to protect their dependants if something were to happen to them, while one in three did not know they were covered by MediShield.

Eight out of 10 respondents save monthly, while 86 per cent do not like taking on debt.

The level of financial awareness, however, is not very high, said Mr Tharman. "We can do more to help Singaporeans plan ahead, by expanding financial education for all age and income groups all over Singapore," he said.

Homemaker Chen Sheit Mei, 48, whose son is in Sec 1 this year, approves of the plan for students. "It's good to have youngsters hear about doing budgeting, planning for the future, and be more prudent because they face a lot of temptations," she said.

The roadshow ends today but a scaled-down version of the exhibition will be staged at the Bedok, Jurong and Woodlands regional libraries in the months ahead.

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