updated 14 May 2011, 22:53
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Tue, Feb 15, 2011
The New Paper
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Instilling dollar sense in kids
by Joanne Soh

HOW well do your children know their numbers?

And we don't mean their 1-2-3.

We're talking about financial literacy.

It is a life skill that they should embrace at a young age, said Ms Ruby Lim-Yang.

"We're living in an affluent society where children confuse their needs and wants," she explained.

And that's a reason why the 54-year-old artistic director of Act 3 International created the Know Your Numbers With Prudential game-cum-exhibition, which introduces financial concepts to the young.

Combining theatre and a board game that spans 400 sq m, Know Your Numbers With Prudential is a hands-on game of choice, where the child is given 20 tokens to "spend" or "learn and earn".

At the end of 45 minutes, the child wins if he completes his set tasks at the various stations with the 20 tokens intact.

"The game aims to teach the child basic financial concepts from budgeting to saving, spending to investing, while making it fun as children learn best through playing," said MsLim-Yang, who has worked with children for more than 30 years.

Targeted at children aged seven to 12 years old, Know Your Numbers With Prudential received a warm reception when it was introduced last November at Plaza Singapura.

This year's exhibition will head to the schools, so that more children can learn about the fundamentals of finance.

Four schools - Pei Tong Primary School, Elias Park Primary School, Qi Fa Primary School and Anchor Green Primary School - will host the game for five days each. Neighbouring schools will also be invited to participate.

Making decisions

"This is not so much about dealing with money, but teaching them how to make decisions and how to set goals," Ms Lim-Yang elaborated.

For instance, children will be asked to think about three items and identify them as a need or a want.

She added: "The game also promotes the idea of thinking of others, where they are taught to save some, spend some and set aside some to give away."

The pupils will be treated to a 15-minute performance, The Ant And The Grasshopper, a week before the exhibition starts at their respective schools.

This Aesop's fable was chosen as it teaches the virtues of saving and being prepared for uncertainty.

Mrs Corrine Tan found the game and exhibition useful when she took her three primary school-going daughters to the event last year.

"The innovative activities made a boring topic fun and they showed the children that life's a journey of choices," said Mrs Tan.

The 41-year-old marketing manager added that the game helped reinforce the principles of saving and spending wisely that she and her husband have taught the girls.

"We have various simple methods to get the girls to save, such a having competitions to see who can save the most," said Mrs Tan.

The Tans also recycle textbooks and for a while, they took advantage of the Government's baby incentive scheme and gave a dollar-for-dollar top-up to the girls' savings.

Said Mrs Tan: "It worked very well, but we have stopped because we couldn't afford to have money tied up in the girls' accounts."

Financial tips for parents

It is never too early to teach kids the importance of saving and informed spending.

For example if a child is given a daily allowance of $4, parents may consider adding an additional dollar and encourage him to save that dollar.

Get children involved in calculating certain expenses and have them experience paying bills.

Setting a goal would be a good way to ensure that savings are on track.

Assuming the child can save up to half of the cost of a toy he wants, parents can reward him by paying the remainder of the cost.

Children will then understand that saving is a way to achieve their goals and it is rewarding as well.

Be open about money.

Many parents may feel that it is taboo to speak about money or their financial problems in the presence of their children to protect them from worries.

Involve the children when planning the family budget as it serves as a form of bonding. Offer incentives that will grow their savings.

For instance, if a child can save $2 a day, which would work out to $50-$60 a month, parents can encourage savings by matching what their child saves and contribute towards funding his education.

Tips from R Kumaran, agency development officer, Prudential Assurance Company Singapore


This article was first published in The New Paper.

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