Test shows Chinese kids' financial maturity

Updated: 2015-12-01 11:29


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HANGZHOU - They are probably still working on mastering basic math or simple English sentences, but primary school children in China's top-tier cities have shown surprising financial maturity.

Children between 6 and 12 in Chinese capital Beijing, financial hub Shanghai and private entrepreneurship cradle Wenzhou saved, invested and auctioned their way through a test conducted by Alibaba's financial arm Ant Financial on Sunday.

Around 100 students in the three cities were each given 200 yuan (around 31 U.S. dollars) and left for an hour in a zone filled with toys and sweets for purchase.

The test was designed to find out how quickly the kids would spend all their money, but some appeared very sophisticated in managing their funds.

They were given options to put their money away for a while to earn "investment returns." One child in Beijing maximized his return by borrowing from others, a reflection of the real world of finance where investors increase leverage to multiply gains.

Another young subject in Shanghai bought the only transformer action figure in the zone and then put it up for auction. He ended up selling the toy for 80 percent more than he paid.

In Wenzhou, known as the birthplace of private entrepreneurship in China, three kids tried to outbid one another for a machine that they could use to make cotton candy and sell to others. Two of them formed a consortium and eventually outbid the other kid.

When their startup didn't go very well, the two founders went through 'a painful destocking process' by eating the excess cotton candy they had produced, according to Ant Financial.

In a separate online survey, about 1,000 kids were asked how they would manage pocket money they receive during Chinese Lunar New Year. Thirty-one percent said they would entrust the money to their parents for investment and 61 percent said they would save it for a rainy day. Very few decided to spend right away.

Parents and teachers often avoid talking to children about money in case it makes them money worshippers at an early age, said Ma Liping, who runs the financial literacy program at Ant Financial.

"But Chinese parents are increasingly aware of the importance of finance as part of their children's day-to-day education. Just like learning to manage your relationship with other people, managing wealth in most cases is an acquired skill that only gets better over time," Ma said.

Southern metropolitan Guangzhou has already made financial literacy part of the curriculum from primary to high school. The proliferation of Internet-based wealth management products has also given this generation easy access to financial information that their predecessors never enjoyed.