By Francis Chan
I am an Average Joe when it comes to matters of personal finance, so says a financial literacy quiz I took recently.
'What nonsense?' I thought aloud to myself.
'Heck, I'm a finance journalist. If anything, I should be a Guru in that field.'
I was, of course, referring to the top category reserved for the highest-scoring folk who take the same online quiz.
People in the 'Guru' category are those who are financially savvy, know what to do with their money and actually walk the talk.
Cool Dudes (No kidding, that's what folk in the next category are called) are slightly better than Average Joes, but have 'some way to go' before reaching Guru status.
Average Joes like me apparently have 'some knowledge, might take action on some financial matters, but can do more to improve their situation'.
And if you score the lowest in the quiz, you are (hang on to your seats now) Boh-chup, yes, Boh-chup or Hokkien for being indifferent.
According to the findings, Boh-chup people 'should start taking an interest in personal financial matters!'
That sentence ends with an exclamation mark to underline the urgency with which Boh-chup people need to buck up.
Now, if you are starting to think: 'What kind of Mickey Mouse-Facebook-generated quiz was that?', think again.
The quiz, called the 'IM$avvy Financial Literacy Quiz', was designed by the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board. It was introduced to help people get an idea of how much they know about personal finance, and whether they have taken appropriate actions concerning their finances.
While I baulked at my own quiz results, I did see value in the exercise.
There are just 15 questions in the quiz, all with multiple-choice answers.
Although some may think they are fairly simplistic, they do cover a wide range of personal finance matters that remain critical for anyone who wants to manage his money better.
The questions range from saving habits to reasons for investing, and from debt and loan management to retirement planning.
And because the CPF Board runs the quiz, it also includes questions to ascertain how much people know about CPF.
Considering how most, if not all, Singaporeans rely on CPF as a form of savings or to service part of their home loans, among other things, such questions on CPF remain highly relevant.
For example, you'll be quizzed on how much interest CPF savings earn and what you can do with your CPF savings when you reach 55 years of age.
It also has questions like how much of your savings in your CPF Ordinary Account can be used to buy a piece of property.
While older Singaporeans may score better in CPF questions, the younger Generation-Y boys and girls may appreciate revelation about the scheme and how it may relate to their future.
Case in point: A twenty-something colleague of mine - whom I goaded to take the quiz - said it made him think about how much he didn't know about CPF, considering the fact that he's a recent graduate and in his first job.
For younger folk like him, the quiz could help them ascertain where they are in terms of the state of their financial health, and perhaps jolt them into being more proactive in learning more about personal finance.
For thirty-somethings like me, the credit-related questions - like how much I save a month and how much of my monthly salary goes into loan commitments - were certainly an eye-opener.
Being a long-time spend-a-holic, I found it helped to be reminded of when to draw the line as far as credit usage and loans are concerned.
People interested in retirement planning may also find questions on Medisave and MediShield - and whether they would be financially prepared in the event of illness or disability - to be a useful gauge of their medical coverage.
For investors, especially those who think they are fairly seasoned and have dabbled in stocks, structured products and unit trusts, there are questions that may test their investment knowledge.
For instance, respondents are quizzed on their reasons for investing and what they would do if they were offered a 'very attractive scheme that offers unusually high returns'.
If investors who lost their savings on complex structured products like Lehman Minibonds had asked themselves those questions, that moment of reflection could have helped them avoid the fiasco.
Ignoring the slightly sexist categorisations of quiz-takers and the fact that the quiz may not be as thorough as a financial-needs analysis, it could still be good as a starting point or mid-life pit stop for anyone who wants to better manage his finances.
So visit www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy and have a go at the quiz. Guru or not, learning never ends.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.