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Hong Kong children can now learn about financial literacy before it’s too late

With all the inducements to buy, buy, buy as the holiday season approaches, there’s no better time to start teaching your children about financial literacy

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 January, 2016, 9:31am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 March, 2016, 5:34pm

Revelations from the University of Hong Kong – that people as young as 18 are spending half of their monthly income on credit card purchases – reveals how easily today’s generation has abandoned the thrift of their grandparents’ era.

Given that children’s money habits are formed by the age of seven, according to researchers at Cambridge University, it’s a reminder that we should impart our own financial wisdom to them from an early age.

Author and parenting expert Dr Michele Borba, whose ideas have been widely adopted by educators in Hong Kong, sees this as a parental responsibility. “The truth is too many children are flunking financial literacy, and one big reason may be that we’ve failed to teach our children a few essential ‘money-smart’ lessons,” she says.

With all the inducements to buy, buy, buy as the holiday season approaches, there’s no better time to start. With children savvy about and interested in all things digital, there are apps and web sites which make learning the value of good financial decisions engaging and fun.

Technology can be a financial building block for infants. My First Numbers Counting Game is a great introduction to numbers, using clear words, bright pictures and audio; while Let’s Count Animals for Baby engages them through interaction with lively animation and sound effects.

Having mastered the basics, youngsters can move on to Money Math: Counting Coins. Althoug this app is US-focused, it’s a game which would entertain children anywhere as they embark on a fun mission to keep coins safe, learning how to add and subtract, and purchase an item using the least coins.

Once they start earning pocket money, Kids Money will teach them about saving and planning for long-term purchases. Children input the price of the item they’d like to buy, along with expected savings. The program then helps them to evaluate – and meet – their goals. Cha-Ching Pocket Money Manager – an app designed for Asian markets – lets them keep track of their spending and savings, and supports regional currencies.

Allowance and Chores Bot does away with the need for a whiteboard on the fridge. It reminds children what chores need to be done, and keeps track of their allowance and spending, all in one place. Parents get input, too: they can dictate how much pocket money is earned each week, according to the chores completed.

Pennybox, a new app being launched on December 1, is an online piggy bank system that allows parents to set a list of chores, and their children to get paid for doing them. Its founder, a former finance analyst, designed it so children could learn how to earn honestly, spend wisely, and understand concepts such as savings and credit. “We know some kids will spend their money on something they’ll regret, but it’s better to make a $100 mistake at 10 than a $10,000 mistake at 20,” Reji Eapen told www.startupsmart.com.au.

Or maybe they won’t. Celebrity Calamity is an app​ which allows children from as young as six to act as financial consultants for spendthrift, out-of-control celebrities. The goal is to manage the budget to keep the person from overrunning on their expenses, while making sure they remain happy.

Timothy Flacke, executive director of the Doorways to Dreams Fund​, a financial literacy-focused non-profit group ​that has sponsored competitions for developing financial mobile apps, told US News the game allows children to see the consequences of others’ saving and spending decisions.

“Instead of just saying, ‘you know, be really thoughtful on what you put on your credit card,’ it’s a lived experience, like, ‘Ugh, when I bought the sixth iPod, that put me over the edge, and I couldn’t make the payments on my card, and that led to all these consequences’,” Flacke said.

Experts agree that home is the best place for parents and carers to teach children about money, and in the connected home, technology helps make learning a pleasant experience for everyone.