Sky-high household debt in Thailand drains opportunities for individuals and impedes development for the country more broadly. To address this challenge, Kenan Foundation Asia empowers individuals with the financial knowledge necessary to achieve financial freedom.
Kenan understands that when people have strong financial literacy skills, they will be able to avoid unnecessary debt, support their families and pursue their professional and life goals. The absence of financial skills, however, leads people to make short-sighted decisions that can put them into dangerous debt cycles. To put the issue into context, a study by the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center found that only 27% of Thai adults are financially literate, below the global average of 33%. The lack of financial knowledge is a driving factor in Thailand’s household debt problem, which stood at US $360 million, nearly 80% of GDP, as of 2016.
As a means to raise awareness for the importance of financial literacy and improve the provision of financial services, Kenan regularly brings in experts and best practices from around the world and adapts them for Thailand. To this end, Kenan convened a seminar comprised of officials from Thai government institutions, such as the Bank of Thailand, the Ministry of Finance and the National Savings Fund, as well as private sector stakeholders to explore best practices in financial literacy education in the United States and consider what can be adapted in Thailand.
During the seminar, Mr. Philip Schuman, Director of Financial Literacy at Indiana University (USA), shared best practices from IU’s financial literacy program, which is recognized as one of the most innovative and successful programs among higher education institutions in the United States. To be sure, the contexts of Thailand and the United States have differences; however, the two nations share a clear similarity: personal debt is a serious problem that is having far reaching effects on the lives of individuals.
Mr. Schuman highlighted vital aspects that should be embedded into all financial wellness programs. For example, he emphasized the importance of providing “just in time information,” i.e. giving students relevant knowledge in small doses at the specific time when that knowledge is applicable. The overall idea is to nudge individuals towards sound behaviors rather than overloading them with information in a single interaction or course.
The seminar was part of Kenan’s larger effort to promote financial literacy and wellness for people in Thailand. Over the past decade, Kenan has helped thousands of individuals support their families, save for retirement and attain financial goals. Read the story of Ms. Rojana Boonpetch, a sugarcane from Phetchabun province, to find out how our work helped her on the path to achieving financial freedom.