Literacy levels in Kerala are very high. Among the highest in India at 93.91 per cent according to the latest census. Kerala also has nine universities and 300-plus colleges. So it would be safe to say that a good number of people in Kerala have college degrees.
Yet, people in the State seem to fall for all sorts of financial scams; from money chains to fly-by-night chit funds. The latest being an alleged real estate scam.
Why does this happen? Why is it that people who are among India’s most literate, educated and aware, don’t seem to be able to figure out what’s a con and what’s not.
One reason for the Malayalee’s susceptibility to financial scams, I guess, is a basic human instinct — the desire to get rich quick. So something that promises to double or treble money in a jiffy breaks through all notions of caution.
More important though, I believe, is our lack of Financial Literacy. Most of us just don’t get even the basics of finance; so the more complex stuff goes right over our heads. As the recent global economic crisis illustrated, we’re not alone in not being able to come to grips with the nuances of finance. But that’s no consolation at all.
What Kerala, and indeed India, needs is a new movement — for total financial literacy. A movement that gives us tools to understand and manage our finances and the skills to see through scams.
Financial literacy even needs to be a part of the ‘life skills’ courses that are increasingly being taught in our schools and colleges. For I really can’t think of a greater ‘life skill’ than the ability to understand money and how to manage it. Perhaps it’s time we established a Financial Literacy Mission.