Pay yourself first, and stay ahead of the curve

The Citi Foundation-SMU Financial Literacy Programme has reached out to over 80,000 young adults, trained over 1,500 trainers and forged over 50 partnerships with polytechnics, ITEs and schools
By the SMU Corporate Communications team

Keep up with the developments in the use of generative Artificial Intelligence (AI), and ‘always pay yourself first’ to protect your finances – these were the key messages of the Citi Foundation-SMU (CFS) Symposium themed ‘Financial Sustainability in the age of AI’, held recently at the Singapore Management University (SMU) on 22 September.

Into its 10th edition this year, the Symposium, which tackled issues of building financial literacy in an age of change and disruption,  attracted some 300 attendees comprising students, academics and corporates. It is the annual flagship event of the CFS Financial Literacy Programme, hosted by the Sim Kee Boon Institute for Financial Economics of SMU, supported by Citi Singapore and funded by Citi Foundation.

Professor Shantanu Bhattacharya, the Lee Kong Chian Professor of Operations Management and Deputy Dean (Programmes) at SMU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Business (LKCSB), highlighted in his opening speech that while generative AI innovations like ChatGPT or Bard aim to enhance the productivity of human workers, there is a risk that the less privileged members of the community may suffer due to a lack of access or opportunities to upgrade their skills. He identified young adults who work in the gig economy as a particularly vulnerable group, as their jobs may not be secure, they may be at risk of disruption, or they may need to supplement their income.

Navigating the disruption

Two panel discussions offered thought-provoking insights into how one could safeguard finances and careers sustainably with AI.



The panellists pointed out that generative AI still experiences hallucinations and biases due to the data it is trained on. However, as AI technology advances, these flaws will gradually decrease. It is crucial to stay informed about the latest developments in AI to ensure its effective use. In the meantime, individuals should continue to practise basic financial literacy.

As an example, Ms Cheryl Chen, an SMU alumna and Director of Global ESG Strategy and Engagement at S&P Global, gave attendees some valuable advice. She suggested that it is important to save 10 to 20 per cent of one's earnings before spending to ‘pay yourself first’. Ms Chen also emphasised the need to insure against critical illness and to invest a fixed dollar amount regularly. Additionally, Mr Freddy Lim, the Co-Founder of investment platform StashAway, warned attendees to be cautious of recurring digital subscriptions that can be difficult to cancel.

In addition, the top three teams of the FinHack 2023 Showcase presented innovative digital solutions to encourage users to save and invest sustainably. First up was SimpliFi, which uses quizzes to provide personalised insights to allow financial advisors to better understand the financial needs of young clients. The second app, Econquest, takes a gamification approach to budgeting and financial planning for future goals. Lastly, Silver Nest is an app dedicated to helping Gen-Zs and millennials build up retirement savings by introducing them to government-curated financial products at an early stage.

A decade of financial literacy education

Ms Chan San-San, Head of High Net Worth Asia at Citi Private Bank and keynote speaker for the evening, praised the CFS programme for promoting financial literacy among young adults for over a decade.

“Its unique peer-to-peer training model and creative engagement approach have supported many young adults to start their financial journey on the right footing,” she observed. “It has reached out to over 80,000 young adults, trained over 1,500 trainers, harnessed over 50 partnerships with polytechnics, ITEs and schools among others.”

She shared that the CFS Financial Literacy Programme for Young Adults was launched in 2012 with funding support from the Citi Foundation. Citi Foundation’s substantial funding for the 12th year of CFS in 2023 is at S$446,000, which brings Citi’s total community investment for CFS to almost S$4.7 million, and this is in addition to Citi’s community investments elsewhere in Singapore.

“The programme has addressed the call for a more current and contextual digital and financial literacy content, helping to equip young Singaporeans with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the complexities of personal finance, lead financially secure lives, and contribute to the nation's economic prosperity,” she added.

Assistant Professor of Finance Aurobindo Ghosh, who is also Director of the CFS FinLIT Programme, said, “At the CFS, we aim to empower young people with the knowledge and skills they need to plan for their financial future and protect their finances. Life can be unpredictable, but financial literacy is a valuable life skill that can help build resilience for both individuals and their families. We were encouraged and motivated by the panellists who shared personal experiences and advice on navigating the job market and financial world.”

This is one of the many events held as part of the SMU Sustainability Series 2023 that runs from July to October 2023. Through this platform, SMU hopes to engage with its stakeholders and partners to further the discourse on sustainability, as well as showcase some of the key milestones that SMU has achieved as charted out in its Sustainability Blueprint