They volunteer their skills to teach children as young as six about money management in a fun and simple way
Nur Fatrisha Diana Alias is only nine years old, yet she’s setting aside half her pocket money for the future – proportionately more than many adults.
The Marsiling Primary School pupil saves up to $2 of her daily $4 allowance, a habit her parents are keen for her to cultivate. Alongside two older sisters, the family of five live in a two-room rental flat.
Fatrisha’s strategy goes beyond merely putting coins into a piggy bank. It includes budgeting rules of thumb, such as spending only 60 per cent of income, saving 30 per cent and donating 10 per cent to charity.
This is all thanks to tips picked up at a financial literacy programme for children by DBS Foundation and Community Link (ComLink) last September. ComLink is a Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) initiative to support families with young children living in rental flats.
Piloted last year, the programme involves DBS staff volunteers teaching children aged six to 12 about budgeting, cashless payments and environmental sustainability over two weekend sessions of 3.5 hours each. It uses a curriculum developed by the bank that incorporates games and activities designed to make it enjoyable for kids.
Says DBS volunteer Chia Miao Ting, 30, a data analyst in the consumer banking team: “Many find financial literacy too complicated for the young, but content can be curated to be fun and simple.”
Children are taught about income and expenditure by tying them to familiar concepts, such as pocket money, bus and train tickets, and treats like chocolate and ice cream.
“In the future, when they have more money, they will know how to partition it, and set aside money first, before spending the rest.”
Ms Chia recalls a particularly timid six-year-old warming up to saving through the programme. “She was so quiet, I wasn't sure if she understood what we were teaching,” she says.
With encouragement, the girl became more willing to answer questions in the later half of the second session. By the end, she told Ms Chia how she realised that sustainable practices, such as watering plants with water used to wash vegetables, can help her family save money.
“It warmed my heart to see her overcome her initial shyness to learn something new and apply it to her life,” Ms Chia says. “The children see us as more than just teachers. They tell us about their stories, their days, and we see strength in them.”
Inspired, she has volunteered at about 20 financial literacy programmes over the past four years. These programmes are part of a diverse slate of community initiatives driven by DBS Foundation’s Community Impact Chapter, focusing on empowering underserved segments of the population with key digital and financial literacy skills, as well as tackling Singapore’s food waste challenges.
DBS’s programme differs from other financial literacy initiatives because it is designed to educate children from lower-income families with their circumstances in mind. It aims to help them practise good financial habits early, and also share their learnings with their family.
Some families struggle to pay off expenses such as credit card debt and loans from family and friends, said an MSF spokesperson. “Other than supporting lower-income families who require financial assistance, there is also a need to improve the financial literacy of these families.
“Families making sound financial decisions can improve their situation, and allow them to work towards stability, self-reliance, and ultimately social mobility.”
While DBS has piloted three runs of the programme in Woodlands and Queenstown involving 36 children from ComLink families last year, positive feedback from the children and their families has spurred the bank to expand it to two more towns – Toa Payoh and Jalan Besar – with the eventual goal of reaching all 14,000 families across 21 ComLink towns.
“It's very hard to engage children of this age group, but thanks to the content and quality of our volunteers, we saw positive engagement in the pilot sessions,” says Ms Monica Datta, head of DBS Foundation’s Community Impact Chapter.
The success lies in the bank’s focus on tailoring information to these little “customers”. “It’s not about us going on and on about financial literacy, but actually trying to uncover the needs of this particular segment and what they care about. We also try to make it as real life as possible, so they don’t feel like they’re just in a classroom.”
The strong turnout of 47 volunteers for a pilot programme stems from DBS’s focus on encouraging employee volunteerism. It has an online portal that collates volunteering opportunities across markets, making it easy for staff to sign up for initiatives of interest. Employees also get two days of annual volunteer leave.
“We realised that making it easy and seamless goes a long way in getting more people to volunteer,” Ms Datta says.
To inspire more to volunteer, the bank also profiles some of its staff volunteers on internal platforms. “Everyone who goes out and volunteers takes away more than they give, so we try to capture these stories and then play them back to employees to get others to join the journey.”
Regular volunteers like Ms Chia also influence colleagues. When she moved to her current team two and a half years ago, Ms Chia was the only one in the team of 15 who volunteered. Today, so does everyone else.
“We talk about volunteering quite a lot. It’s a common topic at lunchtime when we ask each other what we’ve registered for next,” she says.
“(Volunteering) builds relationships among colleagues, and we influence each other when we see or hear positive feedback about someone giving back. It’s kind of infectious.”
We influence each other when we see or hear positive feedback about someone giving back. It’s kind of infectious.
MS CHIA MIAO TING, DBS data analyst and staff volunteer
Celebrating Social Service Partners
The Ministry of Social and Family Development has designated 2023 as its Year of Celebrating Social Service Partners to recognise the contributions of corporates, social service agencies, professionals, academics, social enterprises, and volunteers.
To make a significant impact on the lives of those in need, Singaporeans and companies are encouraged to volunteer, donate, or join the social service sector.
Click here to find out more about how you can contribute and make a difference.
This was produced in partnership with the Ministry of Social and Family Development, in support of the Year of Celebrating Social Service Partners.