Citi-Tsao Foundation Financial Education Programme for Women

Background information

The Citi-Tsao Foundation Financial Education Programme for Mature Women, launched in 2008, targets low-income women above 40 years of age whose family income ranges from $1,500 to $3,500 monthly.

The initiative aims to provide practical suggestions for understanding how money works and how women can take charge of their finances to become more financially independent and secure as they grow older.

The programme consists of a specially-tailored curriculum 12 weekly sessions of two hours each. Through these sessions, participants are taught about savings and planning for the long term, budgeting and investing.

Programme Rationale

The programme seeks to address the financial vulnerability of low-income, mature women and highlight to key policy makers the critical need for a public policy to ensure the financial and social security of older women. The programme has evolved to include women of all ages today.

Singapore is an ageing society. Today, 1 out of 12 is above age 65. By 2030, there will be 1 out of 5, making Singapore one of the fastest ageing countries in the world with more than 900,000 residents aged 65 years old and above, of which 55% of the older adults are women, according to the "Report on the Ageing Population" by the Ministry of Community of Development, Youth and Sports conducted in 2006. The life expectancy of women is also generally higher at 85 years of age old compared to men at 80.

National statistics have also shown that 44.5% of women in Singapore are economically inactive or having unremunerated work at home to nurture and care for their families, which means that close to half of the women population in Singapore is not able to rely on savings in their Central Provident Fund - Singapore's national social security compulsory savings plan which is tied to employment income. The current cohort of women aged above 40 years has mostly below secondary education which also marginalises them in a skilled-oriented labour market.

Vulnerability of the older women in Singapore is heightened by their longevity, lower education levels, lack of formal employment and higher morbidity and disability in their frail ages. There is a high risk that they will not be able to take care of their own needs in their old age through dependence on their children and families given the current stresses on the family support system. Further, Singapore does not have a social security system that provides for retirement pensions but focuses heavily on responsibility of individual citizens to save for their own retirement.

Hence, there is an urgency not only to equip low income, women with financial skills and capability, but also to build their assets and accumulate their savings to prepare for their retirement in old age.

Programme Development

To aid in the development of the programme and curriculum, a needs-assessment study was held with some 250 women in the form of focus group discussions. One of the key findings of the study was that women in the target group had well-developed saving habits but their savings were mainly set aside for their family’s needs. They tended to do little beyond saving for their children’s education emergency savings and basic insurance.

The Curriculum

The weekly sessions are interactive workshops filled with activities and discussions led by two programme trainers for 20-25 participants.

The curriculum focuses on two major areas – 1) Personal finance and 2) Social empowerment. Personal finance will cover topics such as savings, debt, investments and insurance among others.

Social empowerment aims to build the women’s capability to understand their roles and the relationship dynamics within their families; to negotiate for support among their family members; to be equipped with the appropriate knowledge in having transactions with financial institutions, and to be adequately prepared for old age.

Programme Outline

Session 1
  1. To explain what is meant by the term ‘wealth’, how its value is determined, and why it is important to manage money well.
  2. To consider the fact that our financial needs change as we grow older.
  3. To carry out a personal assessment of the level of one’s financial knowledge, capabilities and skills; and to begin organising one’s finance.
Session 2
  1. To review the key lessons concerning financial management taught to us when we were young.
  2. To present a comprehensive way of understanding how to conduct a financial review exercise.
  3. To consider some practical steps that can be taken to improve a person’s ability to take charge of their finances by knowing how to budget.
Session 3
  1. To explain the nature of financial safety nets and why we need them.
  2. To examine the function and role of the Central Provident Fund (CPF).
  3. To emphasize the point that the CPF fund is only one safety net. People also need some form of emergency savings.
Session 4
  1. To explain what is meant by insurance and to ascertain what the group knows about it
  2. The show how to assess the amount of life insurance cover needed.
  3. To explore the process entailed in calculating one’s own life insurance needs.
Session 5
  1. To consider the meaning of financial negotiation and to see what different styles of negotiation there are.
  2. To highlight how communication can breakdown, especially when there is pressure on the family and one partner refuses to communicate.
  3. To examine the ways in which we can negotiate money matters with our spouse or partner.
Session 6
  1. To explain what banks offer in terms of products and services.
  2. To become aware of the need to prepare for the future by using saving schemes.
  3. To examine the influence of personality upon the way we handle money, especially our capacity to be ‘savers’.
Session 7
  1. To explore what is meant by a ‘loan’, i.e., borrowed money and the obligations it entails on the borrower;
  2. To review the different types of borrowing; i.e., bank overdraft, personal loans, credit cards, etc.
  3. To understand how credit cards work and how to ascertain how much credit a person can successfully carry.
Session 8
  1. To explain what is meant by: stocks, mutual funds, bonds and annuities.
  2. To consider the ‘psychology of investing’ and its importance when deciding whether or not, to become an investor.
  3. To emphasize the importance of shopping around for the best deal, when it comes to investments, and knowing some of the qualities to look for when choosing a financial advisor.
Session 9
  1. To explain the importance of making a will and to review some general information about wills.
  2. To list the components of a will and to see what is entailed in writing a will.
  3. To explore some of the different types of wills and present a series of practical dilemmas.
Session 10
  1. To ascertain feelings about money and to see why it is important to evaluate our beliefs regarding its importance in our lives.
  2. To examine ways to assess one’s ability to manage money, especially when a crisis occurs.
  3. To examine the actions that can be taken to reduce the impact of ‘tough times’.
Session 11
  1. To examine a sample of a financial plan and to explain the different components.
  2. To explore ways to start preparing themselves to improve their financial status right away.
  3. To practice drawing up a personal financial plan.
Session 12
  1. To assess the ways in which the group has changed its thinking and behaviour concerning financial matters.
  2. To focus on the important issue of how ‘empowered’ the group feel, in general, and its relevance to making the financial education programme work for them.
  3. To make personal resolutions about changing some of the ways they handle their finances.