Educating low-income women on finance

Graduands at the 11th graduation ceremony.

Eighty-eight women from the learning groups of the Tsao Foundation, Women’s Initiative for Ageing Successfully (WINGS), Fuchun and Zhenghua Community Clubs graduated from the Citi-Tsao Foundation Financial Education Programme for Mature Women. At the graduation ceremony, the graduands pledged their commitment to the financial plans, which they have drafted upon the completion of the 20-week course.

With Singapore’s rapidly ageing population and women being the bulk of the ‘oldest old’ in Singapore and living longer than men. Shared Susana Concordo Harding, director of International Longevity Centre Singapore, an initiative of Tsao Foundation, said: “According to a report by AWARE-Tsao Foundation in 2005, women who were 40 years old and above with below secondary qualifications, were identified as the most vulnerable group that requires closer attention and greater support from the Government.

“They are either not likely to have been in the workforce at all or most likely to be adversely affected by cyclical and structural unemployment. Their lack of recognisable skills and consequent lack of earning power make it difficult for them to save money for their old age. Income security for this group of women will continue to be a major problem since they live longer.”

The Citi-Tsao Foundation Financial Education Progamme for Mature Women was developed as a community-based programme to empower the women to take charge of their finances and be more financially independent and secure as they grow older.

Since its launch in 2008, the programme has grown to have 18 programme partners including Community Clubs & Women’s Executive Committees, religious institutions, voluntary welfare organisations and grassroots organisations on board to organise learning groups for their own members. The People’s Association Women’s Integration Network (PA WIN) is the most recent and largest partner to offer the programme. Added Concordo Harding, “We look for partners who have a good base of women clients or members and with whom we share common goals on women empowerment. The partners should also be willing to organise their own base of women and host the training sessions in their own premises.”

Participants in the workshop.

The Citi-Tsao Foundation Financial Education Programme is focused on equipping low-income women above 40 years old with monthly family income from S$1,500 to S$3,500. The programme consists of a specially-tailored curriculum covering five modules (Self-assessment and looking into the future, Financial safety nets, Common financial instruments, Investments and entrepreneurship, and Empowerment and the future) in 20 weekly sessions of three hours each. Through these sessions, participants are taught about savings and planning for the long-term, budgeting and investing. The programme has a pool of about 50 active volunteer trainers who have expertise in the areas of finance, business, accounting, psychology, social work and education.

Since its launch, around 1,200 women have benefitted from the weekly trainings. Along with allied activities and workshops, it seeks to create awareness on the importance of personal financial management for old age among 6,000 women by the end of 2012. The programme is available in English, Chinese and Malay learning groups.

Said Concordo Harding: “According to a sample survey of 280 participants conducted in 2010 by NUS Department of Sociology, more than a quarter of those who previously had no emergency savings, had either reached their goal or were on their way of building up their savings as a result of increased financial literacy and more than 50 percent of the respondents who did not have a retirement plan before attending the programme, had a clear financial plan for their retirement. More importantly, the programme increased the participant’s level of assertiveness and empowerment when it comes to managing their money.”




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