Navin Sregantan recently covered efforts by Prudential Financial in Singapore to teach kids about money in The Business Times. Prudential found in a 2011 survey that "while 95 per cent of parents knew the importance of having their children learn money management skills, only 13 per cent believed their children possessed them."
Honestly, that number sounds about right, and it's no wonder that financial professionals throughout Prudential Singapore have volunteered to go out and serve their community by educating the local children. Their motive is, as head of community investment Yeoh El Lynn puts it, "to give back and to strengthen the fabric of our society."
It's tempting, at this point, to step back and question the good intentions of these financial experts. They just want to capture the next generation of spenders, right? This is all just a scheme cooked up to ensnare the most vulnerable and tender of us all. How dare they brainwash out little ones in the name of public service?! Won't somebody please think of the children?
Calm down. I get it.
Let's put this in perspective. All companies are looking for a way to make a buck. That's what makes them what they are. I honestly don't want to work for a company that isn't capable of making the said buck. A matter of fact, I like a company that basically prints money—figuratively, alright?
Fortunately, we live in an age in which companies are feeling an increasing pressure to act responsibly. And educating your customer base is a responsible thing to do. Yes, there may be an underlying motive to prepare the next generation of consumers, but companies will never be able to guarantee the loyalty of the people they're teaching. Take all the education you can get and run.
That's not to say that you or your children will not be fed any incorrect information. Every financial institution is built on a different—sometimes radically so—philosophy of how money should be made, saved, and invested. Most companies are bound to say something that will benefit themselves at the consumer's expense. But that's life. Be smart. Receive every bit of information you obtain with an eye of skepticism. (And if you really want to become an expert, expose yourself to multiple points of view.)
I guess I know too many financial professionals who are eager to educate the public that I'm less suspicious of their intentions. I see their goodness and the passion they have for this cause. The cheese in this trap is just fine, and I'm sure you'll be able to get out if you want to.
But I'm a financial professional myself, so the jokes on you for having read my thoughts. Gotcha!