We need to pay attention to financial education, tooBy Randell Tiongson
Philippine Daily Inquirer
There has been great news about the Philippines with respect to economic gains, increasing remittances, record-breaking stock market performance, strengthening of the peso—all pointing to breakthrough economic growth.
The Philippines is indeed one of the nations on top of the list of many investors and corporations as a destination. If the government continues to play its cards right, we can expect the Philippine economy to register sustainable economic growth that will spur even more investments and ultimately produce more and better employment. As employment ultimately rises, we will see more money coming in to the economy and it is my prayer that the benefits will eventually trickle down to the masses. Kudos to the Philippine government, particularly to the economic managers for all these great news—keep them coming!
With all these great news, we wonder how the benefits will result to improving quality of life. While I agree that improving income opportunity is the first step, we should also focus on empowerment through financial education. I purposely opted not to do the usual Q&A for this week’s column because I’d like to write about my recent experience with regard to financial education.
Last week, I was blessed to be able to attend the Citi-FT Financial Education Summit, now on its ninth year. Organized by the Citi Foundation, the Pearson Foundation and the Financial Times, the Summit has become the leading annual global forum on financial capability.
It was enlightening to see financial education endeavors from a global perspective, hearing speakers from many nations and case studies being conducted all over the world. It was interesting to see how the Philippines fared compared with other benchmark nations. And I am proud to report that there has been much progress in the arena of financial education in the past few years.
Interesting discussions were held on how financial education would be best achieved—be it through formal education (via schools) or point-of-sale (market, products). Many stories were shared that I found inspiring, particularly about how a small microbank in Mindanao named Cantilan Bank has been active in educating many on finance, and getting them to experience formal financial services for the first time.
There were also good programs being conducted in many regions of Africa and Asia where we could learn from and would be suitable for application in the Philippine context.
While there have been many good stories, what we need now is scale, and we need to escalate all our activities if we are to effect real change.
I don’t have the space to share all my take-away learning, let’s just say that it will take several articles to talk about them. One key idea that I etched in both my mind and heart is that financial education is the start, but financial capability should be the end goal.
This year’s summit theme was aptly worded “Financial Capability as a 21st Century Life Skill”—such an audacious task but also an objective we should all work for. I will blog about the summit on my website at www.randelltiongson.com soon. To learn about the summit, you may want to check http://www.financialeducationsummit.org/
About a month ago, I was blessed to be able to conduct two personal finance talks to our dear OFWs in Israel—one in Tel Aviv and another in Tel Mond.
Most of the participants in my talks were caregivers, and unlike many of our OFWs who have unsuitable work environments, it is heart warming to see that our “kababayans” are really appreciated and well taken cared of by their elderly employers.
I had the opportunity to even visit a retirement village, and I witnessed how ideal the working and living situation of our OFWs there as compared with other countries. Our OFWs in Israel are also well paid, their average income will be as much as three to four times more than other nations.
They are also provided with complete benefits as well. Being given the chance to talk to quite a number of them, who also became my good friends after, I was able to confirm what I already knew before—they need financial education.
Many of them were not aware that they can invest and further grow their money into wealth and work on budgets to properly manage their finances. Many of them did not think they can actually be financially capable and be rich until someone told them they can. The eagerness to have a better and sustainable quality of life and to be financially capable was in their eyes when they realized that with some financial education, they could. I have similar experiences in my other talks in Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore as well.
A few days ago, I found myself in the campus of Ateneo de Manila to open a two-day multiuniversity conference for finance related students as organized by the Ateneo Management Economics Organization (MECO).
The conference was around investments and entrepreneurship that featured me and many other speakers from the investments and finance industry. In my talk, I practically begged the conference attendees to incorporate financial education in the many things they do once they are in the workplace. I reminded them that financial education is also their responsibility. I appealed to the students to go beyond achieving professional growth and merely amassing wealth and be a catalyst for real change through what they can do using financial education as an advocacy.
I felt the need to plant these ideas on financial education and financial capability to young students who would eventually decide the fate of our beloved country.
Financial education, if done properly, consistently, unselfishly and with scale, would ultimately result in a nation of financially capable and empowered citizenry. Alea iacta est (the die has been cast), the work has started. But the workers are few and dedication is needed.
(Randell Tiongson is a registered financial planner of RFP Philippines. To learn more about financial planning and how to become an RFP, attend our free personal finance talk on Jan. 10, 2013. To reserve, please e-mail email@example.com or visit www.rfp.ph.)