EDUCATION is about equipping a growing generation with the necessary skills to take on life's challenges - through the sciences, the arts, mathematics; even staying fit and healthy comes to mind.
Education about money and how it works does not seem to be an obvious addition to the list, but it should and must be, says Diana Crossan, retirement commissioner of New Zealand's Commission for Financial Literacy & Retirement Income.
"If we go back a little while, we didn't have health education. And we struggled with health issues. But now we have health education, we look after children's health and the parents learn that way as well," she said at the launch of Singapore's first financial literacy programme for young adults at the Singapore Management University (SMU) last Monday.
Her concern that the current generation is already paying the price for low financial literacy is echoed by Arnoud De Meyer, president of the Singapore Management University, as he referred to the US subprime crisis at the event's opening speech.
"It is heart wrenching to read about individuals losing their financial independence due to the lack of understanding of basic financial products and money management," he said.
In Singapore, young adults between the ages of 18 to 29 scored the third lowest in financial literacy out of eight population segments, according to the most recent National Financial Literacy Survey prepared for the MoneySENSE Financial Education Steering Committee. The two segments that fared worst were unemployed persons and retirees.
Ms Crossan says that the reason as to why the lack of financial literacy is so widespread among young adults is that the rate of education and curriculum development has not been able to keep up with the breakneck speed of economic and financial progress.
"The world has changed so fast and (progressed) so far that we've left people behind. (Financial literacy) hasn't been taught in schools, the teachers in New Zealand and America and other places didn't have their own training, so in a way it leaves a generation quite exposed," Ms Crossan said.
The Citi-SMU Financial Literacy Programme for Young Adults will seek to reach out, through peer-to-peer sharing, to the group most in need of financial knowledge - young adults between 17 and 30.
"These are the years when you're starting to earn money. These are the years that perhaps the demands on your financial resources are greater than your income," said Michael Zink, head of Asean, Citi country officer, Singapore.
While those in the target age group are among the most vulnerable, they are also perhaps the toughest to appeal to, said Jeremy Goh, associate professor of finance at SMU's Lee Kong Chian School of Business.
"When a grey-haired person tells a dark-haired person, they're not going to listen. So maybe we'll try something else. Let the young talk to the young," he said.
Other financial literacy experts on the panel discussing how to leverage on partnerships to achieve financial literacy for Singaporeans also stressed that the onus of becoming financially literate is on the individual. The individual should not "outsource" this by depending on a financial adviser.
"At the end of the day, I am talking to the adviser. It is my money. I understand my circumstances best. I understand my risk profile best ... I would know if I understand how a product works," said Christina Tan, head, MoneySENSE secretariat.
While becoming financially literate may appear daunting, it is not necessary to understand "the rocket science of products". Maintaining a healthy scepticism and being willing to ask probing questions to increase understanding is what is important, Ms Tan added.
To break it down to its basics, financial literacy is simply about understanding choice and opportunity costs, said Koh Noi Keng, chair, Citi-NIE financial literacy hub for teachers. Seen that way, financial education can start as early as the age of three.
"If we can start (the youth) with certain financial habits from young, we'd be able to see them asking more questions and once we've developed that attitude towards asking questions, they will carry that habit into their working lives," Dr Koh added.
While financial education is being ramped up across all ages, young adults are showing signs of interest in becoming financially savvy.
Securities Investors Association (Singapore) investment education trainer Sam Goh, 24, said that of the young adults that he has given talks to about wealth management and financial literacy, about half are proactively seeking to learn more.
However, he also said that the other half has little to no interest in financial matters and do not acknowledge the need to save or create wealth.
Undoubtedly, the road ahead is long for those in the business of raising public financial literacy but Ms Crossan is optimistic about progress.
She hopes that in several years' time, there will not be a need for this catch-up. It will be a part of the everyday curriculum of most of the developed and developing world.