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Monday, 11 May 2015

What's the purpose of Education? (Give youths a break!)

What's the purpose of education?

I'm not qualified to speak about education beyond the secondary school level. So I'll stick with the purpose of the first 10 years of basic schooling.

Is it not so we can read, write, and count? And hopefully, with the ability to think for ourselves?

This is a time for encouragement of dreams, to explore the world around us, and an internal  journey of self-discovery of who we are, and how we shall fit into the grown-ups world as we approach adulthood. 

It's a time of joy and pain as we waltz into dalliances with the opposite sex. And a time for spiritual awakenings.

Anyone remember the angst of our teenage years?

We forget we were young once

Remember if you had an interest in sports or cooking? Music, or the Arts? As a hobby it's OK; try telling your parents you want to make a future career out of it!

Now "vested parties" want youths to be more interested in "personal finance" - with good intentions of course!

Isn't it synonymous with study hard, get good grades, go to "atas" schools, and work for a MNC and your life will be forever and ever happy - like in fairy tales? 

(As adults and if you had followed that advice from your parents, are you happier now? What's with that hole in your heart?)

Youths are not stupid

The last thing they want is to be like us! 

Can you recall that epiphany you have become just like your parents?

Was that a moment of joy or sad resignation?

Look, youths can tell if you are struggling with your corporate career, and using financial freedom as a means of escape. They don't listen to what we say; they listen to what we do.

It works better if you are already financially free, doing what you love, and genuinely happy. No need to use a loudhailer. 

And youths are intuitively aware being financially free does not have to come from the route of investing or trading only. 

Who is kidding who?


  1. "vested parties" or "Snake Oil men." said so:-)

    My two working adult children don't even have any brokerage account yet. By their definition, they are not interested in personal finance. When you asked them why? They may tell you: "Ah Pa said wait and go and earn your own pot of capital first!"

    1. CW,

      Now that's letting your children take personal responsibility!

      Good one :)

      Some of those who support personal finance are just casual readers.

      I suspect its another way of saying if only someone had taught me this and that, my life would be better today...

      Sama sama like telling ourselves we struggle today is due to our lack of paper qualifications... When we know full well the real reasons...

      Eh! If you want to use snake-oil write your own blog posts ;)

      I use my words carefully - I say what I mean, and I mean what I say :)

  2. Hi SMOL,

    I used to be one of those who believed that having financial education in formal institutions will be good. But these days I won't think so. I look at myself and reflect.. I also don't have such financial education, but I learnt it myself. Can't force it down the throats.

    Education need not be formal.

    I guess the better approach is to provide a reason why personal finance is important. It could be to play a game that explains all the financial matters to them. Gamify it. I think it works.

    I think giving kids a reason to budget helps a lot too. Budgeting is an art where u try to max your enjoyment given a constraint in financial resources. So start giving the kids a chance to learn budgeting themselves!

    1. LP,

      When all the choir boys move to one side of the boat, I guess it not surprising to find the butterfly and the grasshopper chilling out on the other side ;)

      For me, I am all for inspiring kids and youth to explore, experiment, and figure things out for themselves.

      Play is definitely something we can learn from the Scandinavian model of early childhood development!

      We complain we are in a nanny state, yet we always run to big daddy - you never teach me this, never told me to do that....

      There are enlighten parents and there parents with "poor" parenting skills... What's next? Start a course in school on how to be "better" parents!? Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

      Someone grows up expecting to be told what to do, any surprise that person finds it harder to move up the corporate ladder? Never mind investing success...

  3. edu can give u a good headstart esp if u are in the govt sector
    scholars all high flyer and their career paths are casted in concrete

    1. Jimmy L,

      You are definitely not a scholar for you to make such a sweeping statement ;)

      Evidently you have not met "fallen scholars"...

      As one of the mentors and facilitators of management trainees in my corporate past - yes, there are 2 tracks: one for potentials and one for high potentials.

      High potentials are given more opportunities in job rotations and tougher job assignments to test them out. That's all.

      Nothing is cast in stone. The failure rates are quite high for those that look promising at the start but crack under pressure. The opportunity is then pass to the potentials ;)

      And then, there are also what would be akin to "promotions in the field" for outstanding performance by co-workers not in the management trainee programme.

      You think why big daddy has now changed tack and go for true meritocracy in opening promotional opportunities to graduates and non-graduates alike?

      Merely following the best practices of the private sector. It's long overdue....

      I am glad for the non-graduates youths that come after me. Although it may stress some out as there goes the "I no paper" excuse!


    2. yea i not a scholar haha
      yes there are fallen angels
      yes they are given tough assignment to 'test' them out
      some of them mentally cannot tahan the 'tekan'
      so 'tahanbility' is also very important :)

      but now seeing my nephews and neices it looks like nowadays the youth cannot make it

      hope i am wrong

    3. 'true meritocracy'? i wouldnt bet on that
      i think still take years for the govt core mgmt to accept it
      right now edu is the key

    4. Jimmy,

      OK, you got me there. There's no such thing as "true" meritocracy; but I prefer to see the glass half-full.

      It's progress.

      Not easy as the existing mindset of paper chase may take decades to change. But change it will.

      I see Singapore moving slowly towards the Swiss apprentice model to complement the traditional academic route.

      It's evolutionary.

      In the 60 to 90s, many non-graduate accountants and lawyers did it through night classes with professional bodies in the UK. Although now I think the route of becoming a lawyer through external degree is now quashed...

      In the hotel industry there's SHATEC.

      Work and study can be a more appealing option for those who are more inclined towards Learn by Doing.

    5. Jimmy L,

      If I'm your siblings I'll knock your head!

      Talk about your own children OK? Leave our children out!


      I'm single. I'm depending on you all married couples!

      If we have horrid parenting, we'll get strawberries. And I'll maybe have to come out of semi-retirement in my 60s :(

      If parents don't always think about money and focus on first things first, we'll get responsible adult citizens :)

    6. my kids are still pri & sec schooling too young
      i hope they grow up well

      lets focus on our time on this place we call Earth
      leave the future to our next gen

  4. Hi SMOL,
    I heard so many teenage daughters say they want to be a Vet because animals are cute! I cannot stop them to think that way, but I can only tell them what is required to be a vet, and all the troubles and effort!
    I think the most difficult about youth is not to ask them to start a brokerage account, not to be a vet, etc.
    I listen to radio one day, and the DJ say learn your kid’s fav Justin Bieber songs and Like it Yourself. Then you can start talking to your kids! As adults, we tend to forget how to behave like a kids again! Hence we often talk to our children like a Father or Mother.
    Think again…. Is the conversation GENUINE or ONE-SIDED? Otherwise u have to start from young where both parents-kids relationships are already v strong and they treat u as best friends!
    I also keep telling myself and my wife! To educate our kids, FIRST EDUCATE OURSELVES!

    1. Rolf,

      I shudder when I read some "financial bloggers" making "assumptions" or "guesses" WHY some youths are not interested in personal finance.

      When all we need is to LISTEN like what you have aptly described - if we are genuinely interested.

      Pinky is right. In cyberspace, we are enthralled with our own voice bouncing around in the echo chamber...

      Are we REALLY interested in the welfare of strangers we've never met? Or are we more into the ego trip of thinking we are Joan of Arc, "If you believe me, follow me!"

      Pride and Prejudice.

  5. You guys when you were in late 20s or 30s not in the stock market?

    1. My late FIL started at 30s.

      Me in late 20s as sotong in the market following colleagues.

      So how different from SG60/SG70 generation to current young generation?

      When they have enough spare money in their late 20s or 30s; they will start following people into the market. No?

    2. CW,

      Great point!

      Things will take their natural course. No need to rush it.

      When doing reservists during my 20s, all we talk about were girls, women, and fast cars.

      Early 30s we talk about shares, MLM lobangs, marriage, etc.

      Late 30s came topics about properties, divorces, children, career changes...

      Those who just got married will pity me and offer their well meaning advice on why I should get married. I don't know what I'm missing!

      Those who were married for some years or recently divorced will envy me and tell me never to get married!


      P.S. You know why I don't use the word snake-oil? They don't qualify as professional salespersons.

      No true salesperson would risk antagonizing their future potential base by complaining about people who are just not that interested in what they have to offer "right now".

      That's why we say in sales, "Don't buy never mind. We keep the relationship going. When you are ready to make a decision, call me!"

      Like fishing, sometimes we have to release a longer line to catch fish ;)

    3. i started in 20s but didnt do much about it or nothing came out of it hehe
      need money to get married, buy house, tuition

    4. Jimmy,


      How would you feel if some well meaning financial adviser tells it to your face that you are being irresponsible...

      Must save and invest now! Set goals and plans for the you in 35 years' time. Time is running out! The longer you wait, see the amount of "lost" compounding money you are losing out!!! Point to excel file or sexy powerpoint,

      Blah, blah, blah... Preach, sermon, talk down ;)

    5. they want your business mah
      'old man sell watermelon sure say watermelon taste good'

      tell me how you save when you have to spend on those big ticket items first
      singles definately got a better start than married ones in term of financial planning

    6. Hi Jimmy,

      Don't think it's useful to compare the aspirations of singles and married people. Spending money should be treated in an accounting way. When you spend money, you gain something in return, so everything is still balanced. Why look at the spending alone and not look at what the spending gives you back in return?

      Everyone has their own battles to fight - singles or married.

    7. Jimmy,

      Have you noticed a patten?

      Scholars have head start...

      Singles got better start...


    8. very wise say LP
      these discussion can really open up my perspective :)

    9. Jimmy,

      LP is a good communicator ;)

      Call it whatever you prefer - a nudge, a poke, a jab, an elbow...

      It is you that comes to your own reflections; not someone telling you how you should think ;)

      That's why I don't use the "wah kali gong" writing style. I adopt the "invitation to treat" style - which borders on rhetorical and nonsensical.

      I am not interested to give; I am all for taking. (No, I don''t blog for world peace)

      There are brilliant gems in the comments from readers! And I go like you, "Interesting...Never saw it from that angle..."

      One way communication is not the same as two way communication ;)

  6. Hmm SMOL,

    U talk abouy education, why is the comments all about finance education and literacy?

    Kids might not want what they want at a young age. But they know what they dun want.

    They also know they need to do well in studies to do well in the rat race. Most of them do.

    But the pursuit is half-hearted at best, education cannot be all about about flowers and air, neither can it stink of money ...

    Best education is one that makes people believe in their self worth, and realise their potential, whatever it might be.

    1. Sillyinvestor,

      Two reasons:

      1) I'm in the same community; but I don't know them very well so must sugar-coat a bit so when people google, my blog post won't appear in the same search results. I deliberately used a blog title that's different ;)

      You regular readers will know where I come from and where this post is directed at. What I say is consistent with what I've said in the past. You have the context and perspective to judge and verify me.

      2) Whether it's academic or financial education, you as a teacher would know the dilemma - should you help your students think for themselves and make yourself redundant; or do you tell them what to think, how to think, and thus ensuring yourself as indispensable?

      It's also a word play - Education.

      The same person who wishes to "educate" others, how "educated" is he on the art and science of pedagogy?

  7. I was rather surprised to hear that MAS invited the financial bloggers and had a meeting with them about personal finance! I don't quite know what to make of MAS's stance to be honest but I'm sure that when they publish that blog post, it was bound to invite many comments. I agree with Sillyinvestor that the best education is one that makes people believe in their self worth and realize their potential, whatever it might be. I wished I had that education ;)

    1. Joyce,

      It's not surprising since we have gotten so used to it that some looks forward to it voluntarily? A bit like Linus' security blanket...

      You, you, you, go here; you, you, you, go that there. Daddy knows what's best for you. And finish your broccoli.


      No women should need to get her sense of worth from someone else. Least of all from men ;)

      Here's a chant:

      I am Woman.

      I am Liberation!

      I am Power!

      I wonder if there's any feminist groups out there would accept me as their "honourary member"?

      But then, that would be letting the fox into the hen house...



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