MANILA, Philippines -- Lacking confidence that his savings can cover emergency needs or support a comfortable retirement, the average Filipino has a "financial intelligence" of only 47.8, less than half the maximum score of 100, according to Citibank.
The score was derived from the American banking giant's Fin-Q survey, a study across the Asia-Pacific designed to measure the financial quotient or financial intelligence of consumers aged 18 to 40, who have at least a bank account or a credit card.
The survey, whose main findings were released at a press briefing on Thursday, showed that 62 percent of Filipino respondents belonging to the middle-income working class had a score of less than 50.
The survey, administered online and conducted in the last quarter of 2007, polled 400 Filipino respondents across the country earning an average of P30,000 per month.
About 30 percent of the respondents were earning under P100,000 a year, while 34 percent belonged to the P100,000-P300,000 income bracket.
About 28 percent were earning more than P300,000 while 8 percent refused to reveal their income bracket.
"Based on the Fin-Q results, only oner out of 10 Filipino respondents is consciously saving up for this retirement. The rest have some savings but don't know if it will be enough. Others have no idea at all how much they need or have not started planning," said Agustin Davalos, Citibank Philippines' retail bank director.
"If they lost their jobs tomorrow, or suddenly fall ill and cannot work, their savings would last only for nine weeks (about two months) before they run out of money," Davalos said.
The benchmark for a comfortable buffer in case of a sudden sickness or loss of job is to maintain liquid savings equal to three to six months worth of current earnings.
The survey also showed that almost seven out of 10 Filipino respondents own insurance but only half of this number felt that the coverage was enough to protect them and their families.
Conducted by Australia-based CxC Consulting, the survey rated respondents on 11 different questions closely related to financial well-being, with a maximum possible score of 100 each -- much like grading a student based on performance on individual subjects like Math, Science or English.
The questions ranged from their optimism about their financial future to approaches to budgeting and saving to whether they have a formal financial plan and an up-to-date will.
The study also incorporated separate attitudinal and lifestyle questions. The better the financial position was in one particular area, the higher the points garnered.
In credit card payment patterns, for instance, a respondent who wipes out the entire credit card monthly debt (and thus avoids costly financial charges) gets the full 10 points while one who pays only a slightly higher amount than the required minimum payment gets 5 points. If he pays only the bare minimum, he doesn't get any point.
"If you look at the areas where we need to improve on, that would be the state of our financial savings, having a formal financial plan and having an up-to-date will, which in turn should also ultimately improve our satisfaction with our quality of life and our confidence in financial future," said Citibank research specialist Abby Chan.
"While the Fin-Q score may be disappointing, the good news is that more than half of the surveyed population believes in the importance of saving.
The problem lies in having the discipline to do so, which could be due to lack of resources or financial know-how," Davalos said.
The survey also reflected Filipino's sunny outlook, as 64 percent said they were satisfied with their current quality of life and 77 percent were optimistic about their future.
"But it's telling to see that you have 36 percent who said that they are not satisfied (with quality of life) and these are probably the people who sort of dragged down the Philippine score in this area," Chan said.
"When we grilled down the people who are not satisfied, the saying that `money can buy happiness? seems to work because those not satisfied are those who are significantly lower in terms of income, those who have not yet prepared for their retirement savings, and those who are not that secure about their current jobs," Chan said.