We all remember having a piggy bank as a kid, tempting us daily to smash it into a hundred pieces and collect what our 10 year old selves were due. Or maybe you had the plastic “cheater” piggy bank where you could just remove the plug and take out your savings whenever you pleased. Perhaps you had a jar filled with coins (many still do) and you’re saving up for that box of spaceship Legos. But isn’t there a better way to teach financial prudence than with our favourite animals or a seemingly bottomless jar of pennies?
Prudential thought so and after the 2009 financial “blame game” where consumers blamed financial institutions, financial institutions blamed uninformed consumers and governments scrambled to put the smashed piggy back together, Prudential looked into how they could not only better serve the communities in which they operate but also teach what they know best, financial literacy. In partnership with Junior Achievement Thailand, Prudential launched the Cha-Ching programme in Thailand in 2018 aimed at teaching children, the only ones left out of the blame game, to be financially responsible. At first look, children’s penny jars should be the least of our concerns when it comes to global financial stability, but in reality, those hammer wielding kids will become uninformed credit card holding, mortgage signing, bank account holding adults and that doesn’t paint a bright picture for a financially stable future.
At the official launch of the programme press conference in August, Marc Fancy, Executive Director of the Prudence Foundation (Prudential’s CSR arm), explained that in the early stages of the development of Cha-Ching. Prudential saw that there was a large gap between how important parents believed financial literacy education to be and how financially literate they believed their children were. In the 6 original Asian countries where ChaChing was launched, 13% of parents believed their children had ‘good financial skills’ while 95% of parents believed it was something important that their children should learn.
Moms and Dads had spoken. Prudential’s bread and butter is to help families manage uncertainty and the way they saw it, if they can educate children on how to be financially responsible, they will make better financial decisions as adults. It’s also important to note that this programme is part of the Corporate Social Responsibility arm of Prudential, so in no way does Cha-Ching promote Prudential or its products. So, what exactly is this programme all about? First off, it targets the 7-12 year old age group as this has proven to be the age at which social behaviour change is most effective. Influenced by the American series, School House Rock, and with the assistance of Dr Alice Wilder, of Blues Clues fame, the Prudence foundation began to build a framework for a programme that is fun and impactful.
Vivian Lau, President of JA Asia Pacific broke the programme aims down very clearly: 1 Cha-Ching aims to give primary school students their first full and comprehensive exposure to financial management. If we aim to have the largest impact, we need to reach young people when they are first exposed to money and then we will only need to do it once. Timing is very important. 2 The delivery of the programme is different. It’s not an academic approach. It’s very interactive and designed to entertain. We all learn best when we are having fun, not just young people. 3 The approach is systematic, very comprehensive – a deep dive into financial literacy that is age appropriate.
4 The programme promotes healthy dialogue between kids and schools and at home. It gets parents and families involved via different at home activities. The implementation of Cha-Ching has been via a series of 18 cartoons on Cartoon Network and Boomerang. The characters are memorable and colourful and the episodes are centred around 4 ideas: Earn, Save, Spend, Donate. Which character are you? Prudence is the lead guitar player of the Cha-Ching band. She’s wise and practical and focuses on saving some of her income every month.
Pepper is the keyboard player and loves shopping. She has little self-control and lives for instant gratification. She learns how to slow down and think about what to buy and why she wants it. Charity is the leader of the group and the lead vocalist. She is a kind and loving person and loves to give time and money to help others. Bobby is the drummer and lacks the street smarts to spend his money wisely. He’s good at earning but not so good at planning his finances. Eventually he learns how to not spend all the money he makes and saves up to buy a new drum set. Zul is another guitarist and he dreams of buying a Ferrari someday so he saves his money and plans wisely.
He knows that he has to work hard to earn and has a good understanding of the value of money. Justin plays guitar in the band and has a lot of great business ideas. He works hard to make these ideas a reality by using initiative, determination and drive. But it doesn’t stop with fun characters and cartoons. JA Thailand joined the programme in 2016 to provide academic support and focused on developing a curriculum for teachers to use in schools. Vivian Lau explained, “Cha-Ching is already distributed around the world.
To deliver robust learning and push the market to get to the tipping point, it needs to get into the schools. Prudence wanted to have a curriculum that can actually go into the schools. That’s when they approached JA to build 6 sessions with video, role play and activities as well as take-home activities and a board game.” The rollout of the programme started with over 600 teachers in four provinces: Chiang Mai, Nakhon Ratchasima, Hat Yai and Khon Kaen. As they equip Thai teachers to teach Cha-Ching, the programme becomes sustainable. In the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, the Ministry of Education selects the teachers who will be trained. Thailand has taken a different approach.
Teachers choose if they would like to receive the training and implement it in their classrooms. The response has been overwhelmingly positive; over 600 teachers have signed up to be trained. Because of the very organic nature of the project, feedback from teachers is critical and the programme needs to respond to the teachers’ needs. Aman Chowla CEO of Prudential Thailand said, “Cha-Ching demonstrates Prudential’s commitment to building a sustainable future for Thailand.” With the launch of the Thai programme, Cha-Ching now reaches over 34 million households in Asia.
One of the collateral benefits of the programme is that since it involves parents and educators, it helps those who perhaps never had a financial education to get their own finances in order. In the words of Vivian Lau, “Let’s invite our young people to learn this life skill. Let’s make sure that we learn forwards so that our young people don’t have to pay backwards.” So, put your piggy smashing hammer away and be on the lookout for the Cha-Ching gang, on a channel or in a classroom near you.