To be honest, I was totally turned off when I first learned that in the bid to transform into a Smart Nation, there are now gadgets (specifically, a watch) for primary school going kids to go cashless. I was strongly against the idea of children not using physical cash because:
- How are the kids going to know how much they have spent / saved? At their age and maturity, can they remember how much money they have to spend, how much they need to put aside, how much they have left? HELLO, even I struggle with that sometimes at 35 years old. (DJ Lim Pei Fen’s sharing on this issue resonates with many of us from the same generation. Read her article here.)
- If adults who have issues keeping to their credit card limits are advised to stick to using physical cash, how can we expect primary school going kids with little concept of finance management to go cashless as well? I have struggled many years with messed-up finances. Credit card debt is a real problem in Singapore. (Just google for supporting articles to read.) It’s easy to fall into the trap of overspending when you don’t see exactly how much you have. Many adults struggle with this, let alone young children?
- If worldly matured adults are susceptible to scams, why put children out there as easier targets? Yes, we can set limits but an extra gadget means extra risk of a bad person having access to our accounts.
- How are they going to learn to count with cash? How much of change should they get back when they pay for a $2.50 bread with $4? If you are trying to gather more $1 coins for your trolley use at NTUC, how should you be paying vendors so that you get more $1 coins back? If your wallet is too heavy for any more coins, how much you need to pay the vendor so that you get only notes without coins back? You can’t enjoy using your brains in such ways if you just tap and pay the exact amount.
- Even if Singapore goes completely cashless, there will be some countries we travel to that will require us to use physical money. You don’t start learning / revising how to calculate money when you want to visit another country, right?
I was mad at how the government is trying to push everyone towards a cashless Smart Nation with seemingly little consideration given to how the young (the old and the underprivileged too) in our society are going to adapt.
THEN! During our last visit to Kidzania, it dawned on me that I was the one who kept encouraging the kids to use their Kidzania bank cards instead of the kidzos because it’s more convenient. For the uninitiated, kidzos is kidzania cash.
I gave deeper thoughts to the matter and decided to let the cub try out the POSB Smart Buddy watch.
Please remember to set your allowance limit as it is far too easy for the kids to pay with this. The cub’s actually not making such a big deal (as compared to me) out of the fact that he can use his watch to make payment. In fact, he’s more interested in the fitness functions on the watch such as the tracking of his steps and calories burnt. The other functions would come into play more when he starts primary school.
So what do I think?
I’m part of a generation now labeled as Xennials. I grew up in the world before technology rule our world. I guess we Xennials are pretty lucky we mostly got to learn and adapt to the new world at our own pace. My parents struggled but managed to hop onto the bandwagon. My grandparents? Don’t even think about it. It is considered a feat to have them use a basic mobile phone.
Our kids? They are born into this new world. They see technology as part of the world they live in. They have no idea what it is like to grow up like how we did with walkmans, floppy disks and all. Just like how we wondered how kampungs were like for our parents. Norm to them is swiping your fingerprints to open the door to home. Norm to them is tapping your credit card to pay for your groceries and whatnots. Norm to them is almost every damn thing can be done with a mobile phone.
In life, the only constant is change. I feel comfortable doing things the way I’m familiar with and would prefer that any day! But to avoid becoming the parent my kids roll their eyes at and say “Mommy, 你不懂的啦!”, I need to learn to move along with the times to keep up with them. Kids have little resistance to learning new things. Am I going to be their stumbling block?
If this is how things are going to be done in the world they are growing up in, I will do my best to ensure they learn how to do it. If this is the education system they have to step into, I will do my utmost to prepare them. (Whether they can do it well or not, it’s entirely up to them.) Unless we can find another home in this world with alternatives to our liking, I suppose we will have to adapt accordingly.
I can’t say I’m totally against children going cashless now. But I think it’s critical all stakeholders need to be adequately educated on this process and be prepared for the possible tricky situations they may get themselves into. Education is important because many initiatives that started with good intents turn awry because people don’t use them right. (Think DSA.) I agree with what this writer mentioned here: “It is very good that they experience this type of transaction at a young age, than to mismanage it at an older age.” I believe I would have been more prudent with money had I been educated on how to better manage my finances from young.
Some kids also need to up their sense of responsibility and stop losing their stuff! Personally, I would prefer children with a certain level of maturity (probably the upper primary kids?) to only start on this after they are familiar with how to use physical money. It is going to be a breeze for the kids to get onto the cashless bandwagon after they grasp the basics with notes and coins anyway.