What is the future of Philippine Financial Literacy?


Let’s presume we answer the question by stating the obvious: the future of Philippine Financial Literacy is a transformational financially literate country that transcends to its national development and economy. 

To answer the question then is not a matter of determining which preferred future to aim at; but of questioning how to increase our chance to get into that future the fastest we can. 

The case of Philippine’s financial literacy is a long-standing shadow work that if not for some disruptive phenomenon like the global economic crisis, the recent pandemic or a breakthrough of a financial blockchain technology offshore, will hardly be brought out into the open consciousness of the public. 

To be practical about it, when CoVid-19 hit the Philippines, a surge among Filipino’s penetration to the life insurance market followed. When the Philippines finally embraced the innovation of digital financial products and systems, the investment volumes made a breakthrough from a decade-plateau. Financial education has never been so democratized throughout the country if not for the flexibility of leveraging internet, technology, and social media where a flux of financial advocacies and campaigns are exposed to reach a wider audience.

If there is one thing clear from these scenarios, it is that it explicitly tells us that our increasing collective hunger for financial literacy is an after-effect of experiencing extreme or massive points of highs and lows in our financial landscape as a nation. This means that what mainly drives most Filipinos to shift their financial behavior is heavily dependent on what is presently happening and how it affects them directly. 

Interestingly, we are more adept this time to get our senses back where a huge part of it are the optimistic efforts of our government, private sectors and even academia to effect change. We laud the emerging interest for financial education in the country evident in the programs, training, curriculum and even legislations propagated for the past years. But just like any forms of change, there is always something we could have done better. 

The good thing is that we are certainly making progress from where we were. The challenge is that our current approach towards financial literacy is something that is individualistic and heavily oriented in the present, but not in the future where the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) world awaits. 

Most of the interventions delivered on financial education are matters relating to personal finance on saving, managing, growing and protecting an individual or household’s wealth. But none so far in our current orientation that we consciously embed among Filipinos that a healthy financial well-being is one’s contribution to our national patrimony. 

There is a missed opportunity in the present financial education we have that even so with noble intentions of giving a strong financial foothold of our growing population, we have not elevated yet our perspective from seeing the Filipinos as just mere contributors to the circulation of our economy, to instead treating them as main drivers of change to the future of our national financial landscape. 

We must change the way we perceive financial literacy as just an individual pursuit of wealth accumulation for the satisfaction of one’s hierarchy of needs. But the future of transformational financial literacy in the Philippines is one where at the onset, a Filipino understands that the value of being financially educated has a ripple effect to the development of its nation, and its nation’s progress shall directly reflect to him in return. 

Without being dismissive of our current positive undertakings, we count that our institutions at the forefront of this agenda should lead in anticipation of all plausible futures in our national financial spectrum. The gap however is, there is a certain level of risk complacency among our institutions, both public and private when effecting financial literacy to the nation.

This in a sense that we are teaching financial literacy to the people at the convenience of what is only currently available to us or our neighbors overseas, ones that are basically certain and familiar to our biases; but none or less at the discomforts of anticipating the best- and worst-case scenarios in the future. 

This means that our financial catalysts today are still conservative in confronting dilemmas and risks and uncomfortable throwing it into the roundtable with the public as part of honing the Filipinos’ futures-thinking skill on finances.  It involves openly questioning whether our current financial institutions, systems, practices, and culture could thrive in a more collapsed situation, or whether by then we still lag behind the progressive financial technology disruptions and developments, or perhaps ideally setting the standard in the global arena because we are forward-looking to adapt to the early signs. 

The current financial knowledge, strategies, and policies we download to the masses are undoubtedly a good jump-off point to trigger financial awareness, let alone our social security systems, stock market, participation to foreign exchanges, blockchain technology, and information drive against proliferating fraud. 

However, financial actors and institutions must think ahead, go back to the future, and accept the responsibility of not just equipping the people with what is familiar five years from now in trend, but even building their financial psyche sturdy enough to combat the volatility of the future at least for the next two decades. 

Futures-thinking therefore in financial education is a critical anchoring skill that needs to be reinforced today. 

For if we let statistics speak, we are optimistically moving towards a good momentum little by little. But the future of financial literacy does not rest on numbers and returns of investment alone. In the beginning, it is not a question of the future we want, but a bargain of time, resources and strategy it would take us through it. 

A whole of nation approach whose compass points to a deeper consciousness between the ties of personal finance and nation-building, and a financial education that is not oblivious of the VUCA world make up the next level of pathways to shape the future of Philippine financial literacy. 

Avon Sinajon-Buhay is the current Director of the Development Academy of the Philippines in Mindanao, championing financial literacy and strategic foresight thinking. 


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