MIND YOUR BUSINESS: Teach financial literacy in our schools

In short, the government has at last awakened to a fact that has long been recognized and addressed by fast-growing countries: creating more entrepreneurs can get a country out of poverty.

Also, it’s time for the government to see that its formal education program has been one of the major causes of unemployment in the country.

How? The existing curriculums from elementary to high school, to college and vocational and technical programs, have been teaching and goading the youth to become employees. Small wonder why most of the college and vocational graduates every year add to the already long line of unemployed people.

All of us have been given this advice countless times by our parents and teachers: “Go to school, get good grades, and find a safe, secure job; better yet, get a ‘permanent’ job with the government and work till you retire, until you become ‘pensionado’.”

Unfortunately, this long-given and widely-followed formula for financial success has been proven obsolete and ineffective by what has been happening in the last 20 years.

A “safe, secure job” just does not anymore exist. Becoming “pensionado” now means living for the rest of your life on an income that can never cope with your medical and (extended) family expenses as you grow older. Just ask any retired pensioner around you.

I have my share of a few friends who spent 15 to 20 years working with utmost loyalty to a “stable” company, only to be “offered” a severance package after their company closed down or was bought by or merged with another.

Proof? If you remember, a few years ago, Far East Bank was considered a stable bank and among the longest surviving in the country. Until BPI bought it. I’m sure not all loyal Far East Bank employees got absorbed in BPI. There were once an Equitable Bank and a PCIBank. Now there’s Equitable PCIBank, with fewer employees than both had before the merger. And, haven’t you read that Henry Sy has already bought Equitable PCIBank and is merging it with Banco de Oro?

Some people also got laid off when the owners of Smart Communications bought PLDT and Piltel, and merged the three. People lost their jobs when Grand Airways and Mindanao Air closed down. At present, PAL and Air Philippines (now both owned by Lucio Tan) have leaner staff. PAL laid off a good number of people when it declared bankruptcy some years back.

What of the smaller and lesser known company that a lot of us work for? The number of small companies that closed down or got bought out is a lot bigger.

Does that mean a “permanent” government job is the only stable one left? Well, for a while, until the government decided to privatize many of its erstwhile functions. Consider these: PNB (now completely owned by Lucio Tan), Transco (now being sold), Petron (now privately-owned), NFA (being proposed for privatization), Philippine Postal Service (also proposed for privatization) and more to come. What more, with the Lateral Attrition Law soon taking effect, once-secure and lucrative jobs at the BIR and Customs will be gone.

If we have been unwittingly giving our kids the “Study well, find a secure job” advice, we are leaving them a poor chance of overcoming poverty and unemployment. For sure, the children of well-connected parents will have a better chance to land a job. But still, their life choices are limited.

So, what do we make our kids aspire for?

The Small and Medium Enterprise Development Council of one city in Mindanao has encapsulated it in beautiful slogan: “Do not look for jobs; Create them.”

Hits the message on the head. It is not, however, as easy as it sounds. How do we teach our kids to start a business and create jobs if we ourselves have been raised to only look for jobs?

It should pay to learn basic financial literacy in our homes and have it taught in our schools. Learn household financial management together with your spouse and kids. Do not just encourage the youth to take up accounting or be a diesel mechanic. Teach them also how to put up an accounting firm or a machine repair shop. Add financial literacy and entrepreneurship in the elementary and high school curriculum.

It’s never too late to read a personal finance book or sit in a financial literacy seminar. Learn the different types of income and the types of assets that produce them. Join or form a financial circle. Play money games with your kids. Then encourage them to be entrepreneurs. Do them a favor.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Alfredo “Bronx” Hebrona is president and chief executive officer of Binex Global Ventures Corporation, which does social marketing consultancy, newspaper dealership/distribution, market and development research and personal finance consultancy. You may write him at P.O. Box 46444, Gen. Santos City 9500 Philippines, or email him at bronxph@gmail.com)