Guide financial planning helpers to account for differences among needy

As a volunteer with the Ministry of Social and Family Development and a Family Service Centre, I was immediately drawn to the report "Training social workers to help needy families manage finances" (Feb 22).

Since there is no formal training in this area for social workers currently, I have turned to online sources such as MoneySense for materials and tools to help my clients.

Although the basic principles of financial planning in setting goals, assessing financial situations and managing resources are applicable, I could not share the contents or get my clients to use the tools directly.

While most of my clients are street-smart, they are unable to interpret graphs and statistics on a utilities bill, for instance.

They also do not care about the difference between absolute cost and per unit cost, as they do not purchase enough for economies of scale to kick in.

Some of them are people who live according to the clock and do not have a concept of time beyond daily routines.

The bigger roadblock towards better decisions on financial matters for my clients lies in what they value in life and where they draw self-worth from.

To a hedonist, it is logical to spend on what makes him feel good, while letting debts pile if there is no immediate consequence to himself.

Those whose own education did not result in social mobility have little belief in planning for their children's education. When parenthood itself was not planned, there could be little emotional attachment to begin with.

Now, the appropriate agencies are being roped in to develop the new Financial Capability and Asset Building curriculum.

I look forward to some effective guidelines soon that will be able to help shape the values of a target group with different learning styles and operating environments.

Vivian Lim Tsui Shan (Madam)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2017, with the headline 'Guide financial planning helpers to account for differences among needy'. Print Edition | Subscribe