Money Moves

Bridging the gap

by Sophie Leung

Charity fund provides educational assistance to underprivileged individuals to plan for a better future

Tobee Chow, vice president
Noble Apex Advisors Ltd
Photo: Wallace Chan

Despite access to information and the growing awareness of financial planning, many young people still find it difficult to manage their own finance. As such, education programmes on money matters can help people take control of this important part of their lives.

"As a mother, I aim to help my son start his financial education as early as possible," says Tobee Chow, vice president, Noble Apex Advisors Ltd. A year ago, Ms Chow helped set up the Noble Apex Charity Fund which aims to promote public understanding of financial planning by engaging the company's volunteers in a number of activities.

The company grows the fund by matching amounts raised by staff members on a monthly basis. Staff volunteers function as Noble Apex "charity ambassadors" to run seminars on personal financial management and organise events aimed at educating young people on financial matters.

Providing a step up

"It is commonly believed that financial planning is the realm of the wealthy, but it is in fact even more important for those with less money to plan ahead," Ms Chow notes. The lack of financial knowledge can stand in the way of overcoming hardship, she stresses.

Financial literacy includes the ability to manage a credit card, knowledge about saving and investing for retirement and an awareness of risk and the importance of insuring against it. People on a lower income tend to have less access to financial education tools, and the gap in financial literacy tends to widen the disparity between the wealthy and the less well off.

The fund cooperates with charity groups such as the Salvation Army and Caritas Hong Kong to reach out to people from underprivileged and lower-income groups through public talks. Nobel Apex charity ambassadors also identify people in need and offer them financial consultations at these events.

The fund not only targets adults, but also aims to raise financial literacy within families as a whole. Ms Chow and the team of charity ambassadors have, for example, designed a board game to help educate the younger generations on saving and spending money wisely. "We work with limited resources, but the strength of the endeavours lies in our financial expertise," says Ms Chow.

Rewarding endeavour

Among the roles taken on by the charity ambassadors is to offer financial coaching for retired people. The aim is to review their financial situations, look at their saving patterns and assist them in working out feasible long-term plans. As one of the ambassadors, Ms Chow finds helping others in this way rewarding and personally enriching.

In an age of low interest rates and high inflation, saving for the future by putting money in the bank no longer guarantees financial security. Even those with few assets can therefore benefit greatly from professional assistance in managing their finances, Ms Chow emphasises.

"It can be difficult to plan adequately with limited financial resources, but our charity ambassadors take on the challenge, and in turn help develop their professional planning skills," she says.

The fund kicked off with 13 charity ambassadors in its first year, but had such a positive response that the company aims to expand its financial education activities further and cover also students from primary and secondary schools.

Ms Chow is grateful for Noble Apex's top management and other staff members' support. She concludes, "The fund became a reality through the help of my colleagues. We are delighted to be able to contribute our skills to Hong Kong."

Social responsibility

  • Promote understanding of financial planning
  • Education aimed at adults as well as youths
  • Public seminars raise financial literacy levels
  • Consultations offered to people from lower-income groups

Taken from Career Times 27 June 2008, p. A2
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