Diana Mariska, Jakarta – Most middle-class Indonesians still have a low level of financial literacy, security and inclusion compared with their peers in the Asia-Pacific region, a new study found.
GoBear, a Singapore-based financial service aggregator, published its financial health index on Wednesday, based on surveys in the city-state, Thailand, Hong Kong and Indonesia early this year. The Indonesian survey involved 1,028 middle-income respondents between the ages of 18 and 65, with an equal number of each gender and in each age group.
In terms of financial literacy, there is a wide gap between the Indonesian respondents' perceptions and the actual condition, despite all enjoying daily access to the internet – both at home and at work.
"The study shows that Indonesians' perception of their financial literacy is high, while in fact, their actual knowledge is low," Tris Rasika, country director of GoBear Indonesia, said on Wednesday.
"We tend to only comprehend the concept of more common financial products, such as savings and credit cards, and we are less informed on more 'foreign' products, such as investment or obligation," she added.
On financial security, the study found that at the age of 35, most Indonesians have not yet started their financial planning and many only start pension planning at the age of 41.
Another alarming finding is that even though the average respondent felt financially secure, only 37 percent admitted to being able to meet their basic needs for the next six months if they suddenly lost their main source of income. It is the lowest percentage among the countries in the survey.
Tris said this related to Indonesian people's culture of gotong-royong, or helping each other in time of need.
"Further findings in our survey found that up to 35 percent of respondents said they would receive support from families if they lost their main source of income, even for medium or large needs," she said.
"This is interesting, compared with findings in Singapore and Hong Kong, where people are more individualistic. Indonesian people are famous for their kinship and friendliness and that is one of the reasons [for the finding]," she said.
Another finding relates to financial inclusion, in which 43 percent of respondents considered it easy to access financial products while in fact, the average Indonesian only uses eight of 18 available financial products, ranging from simple current-account saving to more sophisticated investment instruments.
Savings accounts and health insurance are the most common products Indonesians own, while less than 30 percent have annuities and bonds. "Again, we tend to buy familiar products we feel comfortable with," Tris explained.
However, she expressed appreciation for steps the government has taken to improve financial inclusion.
"Government infrastructure, in the form of the Palapa Ring project, also encourages more financial inclusion because, with more internet access, more people in Indonesia can access information regarding financial products," Tris said, referring to the national fiber optic network that will connect 34 provinces and 440 cities and districts throughout the archipelago.
GoBear Indonesia is a "financial supermarket" that compares financial products based on the needs of its users. It currently operates in Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia.
The company, which has been commercially operating since March this year, is licensed with the Financial Services Authority (OJK) as a digital financial innovation operator.
It has so far partnered with six banks, including Standard Chartered and Citibank, two insurance companies, and an insurance brokerage.