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Teach kids to track expenses

I am glad to know that others are keeping track of their daily expenses and purchases, something which I also do in great detail, at first manually on paper and later using a spreadsheet ("A penny saved is a penny earned"; July 24).

Such a disciplined activity can be regarded as an early form of financial literacy and should be taught to children.

This can start even when they are of pre-school age, with saving money inculcated first as a virtue, then as a habit, along with arithmetic skills and, later, financial literacy appropriate for their age.

In my case, as the years went by - with marriage and parenthood, income growth, and increased and shared financial responsibilities - detailed tracking gave way to a focus on major and longer-term financial commitments.

Regular items like income, and personal and marketing allowances are predictable. But when it comes to determining the insurance premium one can afford, financing a home mortgage with volatile interests, paying for the children's evolving education costs, not to mention supporting a lifestyle or for investment, using a spreadsheet is indispensable for getting a clear view of one's financial standing.

Spreadsheet as a tool should not be incidental in this journey but be introduced in schools to support the teaching of financial literacy and mathematics.

Personal finances are not just about balancing the positive and negative lump-sum figures, but projection as well.

When used competently, the application of spreadsheet skills inevitably leads one to pick up charting skills, which is a handy visual aid to check the soundness of one's financial decisions.

Spreadsheet as a tool should not be incidental in this journey but be introduced in schools to support the teaching of financial literacy and mathematics.

The arsenal of functions that comes with it makes for a great planning tool when applied appropriately and creatively, whether one is financially endowed or financially strapped.

Ooi Mun Kong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 07, 2016, with the headline 'Teach kids to track expenses'. Print Edition | Subscribe