Learn to be a money sage

Covid-19 has done more than encourage healthy hygiene habits, a balanced lifestyle while working from home and longer hours with families.

With people losing jobs and having their salaries cut more than at any other point in recent history, it is important to reduce spending, conserve savings and assume things will worsen for many months before any kind of recovery can occur.

Never has financial literacy and being savvy about the money we spend been more important, and it is incumbent on the academic community to teach students these skills.

The Education University of Hong Kong will launch the city’s first master of arts in personal finance education program, which aims to enable students to become professional educators in personal finance and financial literacy by learning how to transfer financial knowledge to different sectors of the community.

But the university’s ambition goes further than that. Earlier this month, EdUHK launched the Facts and Figures Generation platform to promote financial literacy among local youngsters.

It has been used in the United States for years to educate consumers to identify sales and marketing tactics and make informed decisions.

“Financial management is part of our daily lives – from managing MPF investment portfolios and calculating credit card interest to repaying mortgage loans,” said EdUHK president Stephen Cheung Yan-leung, whose research interests encompass finance and public policy. “As such, financial literacy should start from a young age.”

Supported by the Po & Helen Chung Foundation, EdUHK has introduced several modules tailored to local teachers. There are also workshops to support the systematic use of the platform to promote financial literacy.

The curriculum covers topics such as introduction to financial management, credit card best practices and common pitfalls, budgeting and saving, and retirement planning.

It was recently recognized with the Investor and Financial Education Council’s Financial Education Champion Award and the Financial Education Champion-Quality Award.

Featuring short videos, teaching plans and discussion exercises that offer users the flexibility to complete each module at their own pace, the modules are also equipped with automatic pretests and post-tests to help teachers monitor individual students’ learning progress with a computer system.

A followup survey of 871 students from eight secondary schools who were invited to test the platform during the production phase revealed that all the students completed at least three modules, and 137 students – over 15 percent of them – completed all five.

The results are encouraging.

A comparison of the pretests and post-tests revealed an increase from 46 to 61 in their overall average score – a 32 percent increase – demonstrating the platform’s effectiveness in improving students’ financial management capability.

“With the rise of consumerism and materialism, young people are susceptible to myriad sales and marketing tactics,” said Christina Yu Wai-mui, a professor with the social sciences department, who is in charge of the FFG platform.

“Without realizing the consequences, they may overconsume and develop unhealthy financial management habits,” she added.

“We are using this platform to teach students how to make responsible financial decisions by having a good grasp of facts and figures.”

(This article was published at The Standard on January 26, 2021: Education: Learn to be a money sage )

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