Retirement saving a fine lesson for kids
At a bookstore last weekend, I sat down to skim through a volume, and a woman and her two children were sitting at the next table. The older one was probably in fifth or sixth grade and the younger one in first or second. Their conversation was in Korean and English, alternating between the two languages freely.
Nowadays, many children are fluent in English. I have heard children in the playground talking in English with friends or having a conversation with their parents. Their skills are certainly different from the proficiency of my generation, who began to learn English in middle school. These days, many children learn the Korean and English alphabets together, and community preschools have children sing nursery rhymes in English. Parents prefer taekwondo schools with English-speaking masters.
Bilingual education is effective when applied at an early age. You can master two languages when exposed to both before linguistic identity is formed. Research shows that bilingual education also stimulates brain development. It would be great if parents could speak two languages to their children from birth, but not many have bilingual skills. So they often rely on private classes and tutoring because only students who are proficient in English can get into specialized high schools and prestigious universities.
About 820,000 households across the country are classified as “edu poor,” families that are in the poorhouse because of education expenses. One in nine families with school-age children are in this category, according to a survey by the Hyundai Research Institute. Last year, the edu poor class spent 28.5 percent of their discretionary expenditures on education, an average of 810,000 won ($705) per month, compared to the national household average of 580,000 won. The average monthly income of edu poor households was 3.31 million won, 1.2 million less than the national average. They earn less and spend more on education; naturally, they’re becoming poorer.
But their expenditures do not end with education. Parents often give allowances to children until they get a job, and support them until they marry, too often neglecting to save for their retirement. According to the LG Economic Research Institute, Korean parents have 8.7 years to prepare for their retirement after their children become financially independent. The poverty rate among senior citizens is 45 percent, the highest among the 34 members of the OECD.
Parents could teach their children a valuable lesson in personal responsibility and discipline by taking care of themselves.
* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Bae Myung-bok