Any Singaporean reading this, I’m sure you can relate to what I am about to say. Despite being raised in a city that has a booming economy and globally recognized universities, financial education is not part of our curriculum when growing up. At some point we were just expected to know how to save, earn or even invest. Some of us might have had a bank account where all of our angpao money (Chinese new year money) went, but have you ever seen or understood your bank balance? Most of us were given a weekly allowance and a roof over our head, we never really had to work for money. At least that was my experience. Others might think that Singaporeans are spoilt, but I would like to think that our parents were doing their duty as parents; providing for us and loving us.
Going to school, I got $50 every week. I know…that sounds like a lot for a 13-year-old, but at the same time it’s not that big a value. When you want to buy something for yourself, you only have that much left after spending half of it on McDonald’s after school and the other half on transportation back home. Well sometimes I do ask for some extra cash for the weekends but really, when do we actually have cash in hand? Hardly ever! I’m always spending my last few dollar on cute items that I spot in the the bookshop even though I never end up utilizing my purchases.
However, looking back at the toys I played with and the weekly allowance I was given, I have actually subconsciously learned how to save. The cashier/supermarket toy I had when I was a kid taught me how to differentiate coins and that buying things costs money. Growing older, I switched to Monopoly, and that game taught me that I have to pay rent/tax. It didn’t hit me until today, but this game scenario is a lot like real life. And fast forward to the present, we spend our angpao money on $2 blackjack during Chinese New Year or earning $600 from our compulsory internships.
For many millennials, money education is not part and parcel of life, it takes years to learn through practice. What took me 20 years to learn — about how to earn, save, and invest money — could have been taught in far less time with today’s technology.
Rather than letting your kids use your phone to stream videos on Youtube, why not get them engaged in apps that give them real-world knowledge. I am currently working for Pennybox, a company that teaches kids about money. I didn’t have this tool when I was a kid, but I wish I did. Money education can be fun and engaging. Even when angpao is only earned once a year, money education lasts a lifetime.