Earn and learn

John Kang

An animated band is helping children understand money

John Kang |

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Summer is nearly over and so are your summer jobs. If your pockets and piggy banks are a little heavier with money, what will you do with it?

Cha-Ching Money Smart Kids is an award-winning animation and music-based financial literacy programme for children. It's run by Prudence Foundation, the charitable arm of Prudential, an insurance firm. Through its own cartoon band, animated musical episodes on Cartoon Network, games and apps, Cha-Ching teaches kids how to manage their money.

Sean Rach is one of the brains behind Cha-Ching. He says that even though Hong Kong is a financial centre, its children need to be more financially literate.

"The first response we've had with a lot of children with money is 'spend it'. We'd like their response to be 'save it', and then spend wisely," he says.

So what does Cha-Ching advise children to do? Ask your parents! Even if mum and dad look busy with work, they'll always have time to teach you about money.

"When we did our initial research with parents, they said that they wanted to be part of the process," says Rach, a father of two. "Money value is a family value."

From asking about bills and how to lower them, to reading the business section together and asking what the numbers mean, there's so much you can ask and learn about money and managing it.

As with any other skill, it's important to practise. This is especially important in Hong Kong because the Octopus system means we don't need to think about cash.

"The issue with Hong Kong children is that they don't get enough practice," says Rach. "The findings show that they already have a decent habit of saving. For example, they save some of their lai see when they get them. But the opportunity to actually practise earning and budgeting is very limited. They rely heavily on their parents for their financial needs."

Making your own decisions with the money you earn is very important.

"It changes the whole dynamic of the decision once you're using money you earned and realise that money is not just this endless supply mum and dad have," Rach explains. "When it comes to how you actually spend it, it may put a little stop sign and make you think a little while."

A great way to start practising is by getting your own savings account. You'll get statements and see your progress, and you could even earn some interest from the bank. When to start? "As early as you can and as long as the bank will let you," Rach jokes.

Making, spending, and worrying about money may seem too far away, or your parents might think you're still too young to think about money management. But a study by Britain's Cambridge University has found that children's financial habits can be formed by the age of seven.

Don't want to ask mum and dad? Fortunately, Cha-Ching has games to help you understand some key money management concepts while having fun.

"We have games such as Cha-Ching Savers, where the gameplay is similar to that of Super Mario Bros," says Rach. "You collect coins, and if you don't save them, you lose them. Kids are learning a money lesson without really knowing it!"

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