Financial Education Crucial for Economic Strength
Director of Communications, Citibank Korea
Korean youngsters, known as the ``thumb tribe,'' are smart, trendy, and fast in adapting to new technologies such as mobile phone and digital devices. But when it comes to economy and finance, many of them are ignorant and even unconcerned.
They might not be properly trained and disciplined at home. They might not be adequately educated on the subject at school.
No matter what the real cause is, people without appropriate knowledge and skills on finance tend to depend on someone else for their financial requirements even after becoming adults.
On the other hand, in many advanced countries, it is basic consensus that individuals should be responsible for their finance by themselves. Because of that, there is always a proper level of creative financial education either by their parents at home, teachers at school, and volunteers and advocates in the community.
Korea has achieved legendary success in economic growth and is now regarded as one of the world's 13 large economies. However, according to the IMD World Competitiveness Year Book 2006, Korea ranked at the 46th out of total 60 countries in the areas of ``recruiting financial manpower'' and ranked at 61st in the areas of ``utilizing financial experts,'' respectively.
Unless we improve competitiveness in the financial area by developing financially skilled human resources and by improving financial quotient, Korea's goal of becoming a global financial hub and achieving GNP per capita of $40,000 will not be realized.
Financial education can help people manage their money more effectively. It helps people realize their financial goals and future financial security. It is a positive stimulus of life pattern change that requires not only skills but also extensive efforts, practices and individualized creativity.
As far as financial education is concerned, parents are most effective teachers to their children, simply because they have utmost influential power to their children's childhood. They can help their children open to the importance of personal financial planning and management.
For this important mission, parents should learn first until they feel comfortable to answer to their children's questions about economy and finance, and until they can ingrain a good habit of financial management in their children.
Teachers at school are equally important key role players of financial education. As they are in influencing position to their students, they need to be equipped with innovative teaching skills and contents so as to elevate financial quotient among the students in the classroom.
Finally, financial education is a joint responsibility of the whole community. Financial institutions, government, universities, NGOs, media, and individual volunteers should take part in building consensus, developing appropriate platforms and diversified programs of financial education.
Citi-KAIST Finance Sector Talent Development Program is an excellent example. To the 2007 program launched in October 2007 with $330,000 donation from Citi Foundation, 140 university and graduate school students applied with their financial related reports.
This program stimulated them to open their eyes to the financial area. Sixty university students and 40 graduate school students were selected for the scholarship award from the program.
KAIST Graduate School of Finance (KGSF), the leading school which produced several hundreds of Finance MBA experts so far, took initiative in the nationwide program. The Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) and Citibank Korea took part in the program by affording advices to the operation. Several experienced financial experts from KGSF, FSS and Citibank Korea volunteered to provide mentoring to the students.
Financial education is always the first priority of our community relations for Citibank Korea. We believe financial education is best thing we can do for the community as we have profound knowledge and skill resources at Citi. That's the most appropriate and valuable way for Citi to return what it earned to the community.
For Korea, human resources are the most important asset. For financially strong Korea, financial education is a good fertilizer in producing financially skilled human resources and eventually in enriching people's life in Korea.