Early Financial Education Key to Successful Adulthood
By Lee Hyo-sik
Teaching children the principles of Economics and basic financial knowledge was the most fulfilling experience for two volunteers of the financial education program for elementary and middle school students.
Through the ``Think Money'' program, jointly launched by Citibank Korea and the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) of Korea in 2006, Kim, Myung-sung, branch manager of Citibank Korea's Apgujeong branch, gave a lecture to students in Daejon in 2006 about saving, spending, investment and other types of financial management.
``After seeing an advertisement seeking financial education program volunteers for students on the bulletin board at the bank two years ago, I decided to become a Think Money lecturer and participated in the training program,'' Kim said.
He said he knows better than anyone else about financial management because he has consulted many clients about saving, spending, and investment over the past decade.
But Kim said financial education is more than simply teaching good investment techniques.
``I think we must teach our children from a young age so that they can understand that money is an essential tool in their lives, and they can acquire and practice basic skills, which are applicable to life. You know old habits die hard. Adults usually hold onto basic understanding and habits on finance established from childhood,'' he stressed.
Kim taught financial education classes as one of the Think Money volunteers at elementary schools and middle schools in Daejeon, Changwon and many other provincial cities, rather than Seoul.
``It is not easy to control students during the lectures in lieu of normal classes due to the time and physical constraints. Additionally, lectures had to be changed from time to time, reflecting the different levels of family income and pocket money of the students,'' Kim said
He said his lectures usually start with the harmful effects of cyber-money and an explanation on pocket money management, investment, and the importance of credit management, adding he tries to help students have a positive mindset toward spending, saving and investing money.
``Teaching made me feel good about myself and I think it is more meaningful to help students in provincial areas that have fewer opportunities to financial education. Also, I learned a lot from giving lectures and interacting with students. I will continue to volunteer in the future,'' Kim said.
Another volunteer Kim Yeon-sook, member of Pyungtaek YWCA, said she learned financial terms and how to teach children through a series of training programs designed for financial education lecturers at YWCA.
``I was worried about my first lecture. I couldn't stop thinking about it because many of the students were in the low-income group or from a single-parent family, and needed more financial education than other children. So, I had to do my best to give the great lecture,'' Kim said. She had her first lecture in October 2007.
``I prepared many things related with the lecture such as pictures of banks and financial material. I obtained data on the Bank of Korea and other monetary facilities, as well as short movies to help students' understandings on financial matters,'' she said.
Kim said she also tried to teach students ethics in earning and investing money through the program.
``I have told my students that they can spend the money better when it is earned honestly. I think other teachers should stress more that honesty is the key for young people to become successful businesspeople,'' she added.
Think Money has been developed based on a 3-year plan to reach out to middle and elementary school students nationwide.
For the first year program, the program narrowed down its target to middle school students aged 14-16 as approaching high school students was practically impossible due to the cram school educational situation in Korea.
In 2007, the program was extended to elementary school children (aged 11-13) and in 2008, it began covering low-level elementary school children aged 8-10. It now reaches students aged 8-16.
To date, Think Money has benefited 64,000 middle and elementary school students, and 200 Citibank Korea employees have delivered the program together with YWCA teachers.
The program uses a variety of channels to teach young people about basic money management concepts and values, including textbooks, teacher manuals, CDs, and online financial games. In addition to school visits, all the educational materials are made available to students, teachers and parents through the Think Money Web site (www.ywca.or.kr/think_money)
Classroom-based sessions over a period of time are the preferred method of delivery to sustain students' interest and reinforce key learning points. YWCA also actively engages teachers and parents so that their financial knowledge and confidence increases, and they are better able to provide support for their children and students in the long term.
The advisory committee of Think Money involves experts from the Ministry of Strategy and Economy, the Korea Consumer Agency, the Consumer Education Department of Sookmyong Womens' University, and several elementary school teachers.
Think Money has been also highlighted as one of the best practices by the Financial Supervisory Service's financial education forum. Citibank Korea has provided grants of 814 million won ($866,000) to fund Think Money during the 2006 to 2007 period and donated an additional 419 million won to the program this year.