The road to wealth is not just through hard work, multiple degrees, or by bumping into opportunities.
It is through financial literacy.
The first step in solving financial issues is in admitting that one does have issues.
Where in some cases it may be a little too late for adults due to lifestyle choices or habits or lack of any educational value in financial security, it is never too late for children. In fact, teenagers are the best age group to teach financial literacy to - it is at this age that they can really grasp the importance of saving and investing.
Let’s face the facts first, unlike other countries, about two-thirds of the Indian population lack the basics of financial planning. That’s roughly about 73% of Indians who are financially illiterate.
This figure is based on a worldwide survey which tested the individual's knowledge of four fundamental financial concepts for financial decision-making — basic numeracy, interest compounding, inflation, and risk diversification.
To be classified as financially literate, all anyone had to do was to answer three out of the four concepts correctly. Which India failed miserably as a whole.
RESULTS OF THE TEST FOR INDIA
- Only 14% could answer the risk diversification question correctly.
- Only 51% understood compound interest correctly.
- Only 56% correctly answered questions on inflation.
Most countries such as Brazil, South Africa, and India have advanced emerging economies and yet, their combined financial literacy rate is 28% on average. This is a cause for concern as more often than not, these are the countries who are facing the worst financial problems.
Lack of financial literacy from a young age means that individuals fail to understand simple monetary principles - they tend to borrow more and save less, they incur higher borrowing costs and run up bigger debts, they spend more on transaction fees and rake up larger fees than they're supposed to.
This not only affects a household, but the whole country’s economy suffers too.
How Can This Be Fixed?
The best time to introduce Indians to financial literacy is when they are young, preferably during their teenage years. The issue comes when a majority of educational institutions are willing to take up financial literacy course only if it a viable option career-wise.
Although there are typical life skills being taught, they only go up to fifth or sixth standard, and even then financial literacy is not part of these 'life skills' classes.
Financial literacy is, in fact, more than just a bonus skill. It is crucial in surviving today's world, whether in India or abroad, regardless of whether individuals are still living-in with their parents or have a nuclear family of their own.
Today's youth are in no position to handle themselves financially once they get begin working. This is also the reason why in India, household debt grows at a much faster pace than household savings. A large bulk of the Indian working class population finds almost impossible to save even more than 15% of their net income.
This stems from the fact that most young Indian adults simply haven't been exposed to financial control, and let's not forget that the Indian financial system itself is not very easy to understand. Additionally, you'll find that it is very rare for Indian parents to openly talk about money matters to their children and family members. In some households, it's still seen as normal for parents to support working children even at the cost of their own retirement.
Financial literacy ought to be integrated with school and college curriculums by education boards. For example:
- Introduce Indian kids to financial literacy as early as class 3, and gradually upgrade to have graded courses for older students.
- Train teachers themselves on personal finance as they too need financial literacy in order to be able to train their students.
- The National Centre for Financial Education - NCFE (which is promoted by the Reserve Bank of India, Securities and Exchange Board of India, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India, Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority) conducts a yearly financial literacy test called the National Financial Literacy Aptitude Test (NFLAT). This test should be made compulsory for all students.
Some good news on financial literacy in India so far is that last year, in 2018, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) observed Financial Literacy Week during June 4-8, 2018 under the theme “Customer Protection”. While this observation has started almost a decade ago in other countries, is now only being taken seriously in India, starting from 2017.
Additionally, earlier this year, CBSE introduced a compulsory National Financial Literacy Assessment Test for students from Class 6 to 9.
In conclusion, while savings, investments, debt reduction and wealth creation are integral to a good financial plan, keeping track of the progress from time to time is also important. Keep yourself informed with the latest in savings or investment opportunities.
The younger you start on this journey, the better it gets since you get to learn faster, and can prioritize better than the older folks.
Alex, Power To Me's founder and creator, comes with years of experience from the world's best and covers a wide range of fields. He specialises in business development and investment education coaching, financial literacy, investments, facilitating, personal growth mentor, and strategic thinking.
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Some Thoughts To Ponder Over
- Do you foresee an increase in financial awareness with the rise in wealth soon?
- Do you think the need for financial planning in India is different compared to other countries?
- Do you feel that having financial literacy will help strengthen your financial security in the long run?