Emirati youth the focus for smart money skills

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Financial literacy - in particular the lack of it - has long been an issue that we have made a priority in our coverage of personal finance in the Emirates. There were times, especially in the beginning, when it felt like we were a one-man (sorry, woman!) band. But slowly, we began to see some change - and a validation of what we were trying to achieve: empowering UAE residents to take control of their personal finances with smart money management skills. Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank last year launched a campaign to teach its customers about the fundamentals of financial literacy, such as budgeting and saving, through its SmartMoney booklet. It followed that up this week with the launch of the second part of its campaign with an interactive portal on its website that aims to take SmartMoney further by helping customers to plan for their children's education and retirement, for instance. And, of course, we've worked very closely with Visa Middle East - which has a global financial literacy campaign that aims to teach 20 million people smart money skills by next year. It has also designed a special financial literacy curriculum for schools in the UAE, in both Arabic and English, and is hoping to pilot it in the 2012-2013 school year. The Dubai-based National Bonds Corporation is also promoting an educational plan to get the nation to save more, while Emirates NBD has kicked off its Pay Yourself First Pledge, in which it is asking customers to save first, then spend. So some encouraging inroads have been made since we first kicked off our own campaign two years ago. But it wasn't until this week that we felt the momentum for the issue had moved forward in leaps and bounds, thanks to a worthy initiative by the Emirates Foundation for Youth Development, which is working on a long-term programme to change the way Emirati youth understand and deal with their personal finances. The initiative couldn't come soon enough because there are some worrying figures out there. According to an Arab youth survey conducted by Asda'a Burston-Marsteller in 2010, 70 per cent - yes, 70 - of Emirati youth are in debt. And none of it is good debt. The consequences of not being able to service a debt in the UAE are serious and can land debtors in jail. The sooner we empower all UAE residents with smart money skills, the better off everybody will be. The banks will be happy because their loans will be paid, the jails will be that little bit emptier and our savings accounts and future financial plans will have a rosier outlook. It's a no-brainer. What do you think?

We've launched a new Twitter account that aims to spread the financial literacy message in the UAE. We need your help to spread the message. Show your support by following us @FinancialLiter1