While formal financial literacy education in Aotearoa is lacking, platforms like Girls That Invest are filling the gap. Reweti Kohere attends an event for South Auckland teenagers and learns a few things himself.
What does personal finance mean, asks millennial investor Simran Kaur. About 50 to 60 teenagers, dressed like it’s the 90s again in their finest flannel and corduroy, sit in white garden party seats, pondering the question at an informative, low-key financial literacy event aimed at youth. It may be a blustery, drizzly Thursday evening, but inside the Karaka Pavilion in Papakura, much is on offer: knowledge about “how to get rich”, practical money tips, banking and budgeting advice, goodie bags, food, and – of the utmost importance – two $50 Satay Noodle vouchers.
A karakia opens the event organised by Papakura Youth Council and its chair, Kritika Selach, introduces Kaur and best friend and business partner Sonya Gupthan, the duo behind the investment education platform Girls That Invest. For the next half hour, the pair of podcasters present a personal finance 101 to a crowd of people perhaps just starting their first part-time job or who have left school to financially support their whānau. Some are in year 13, contemplating that vexed question of “what do I want to do for the rest of my life?” Others perhaps know a bit about the sharemarket and are starting to dabble more seriously.
This is a generation still experiencing a lack of formal, mandatory financial literacy education, just like I encountered as a teenager 15 years ago, and which 18-year-old Selach has found too. “Don’t you and I wish that maybe when we were 16 and or 17, we had information like this given to us?” she says, and I can’t help but agree. Upon leaving high school, she was given a guide on adulting, containing information about budgeting and relationships, alcohol and drugs and flatting. It’s clear not much has changed, seeing as I got the same book when I left secondary school. But Selach points out that money matters are being discussed a lot more nowadays via social media, consumer websites like MoneyHub and platforms such as Girls That Invest.
Personal finance really just means “your money”, Kaur says, and it’s important that rangatahi figure out what that means to them. It could mean having choices, the ability to quit a job they dislike and take some time out to decide their next move, or the financial independence to leave an abusive relationship or support themselves after a divorce. “Money is one of the biggest causes of divorce,” Kaur says. “Not that it’s something you guys are probably thinking about right now.” A chuckle fills the venue.
The power of money is in making it work for you, Kaur tells the young crowd. Getting rich is about good habits and practices, including putting more money into assets that become more valuable over time, like a house or business, than spending it on holidays, cars and clothes – liabilities that lose their value over time. Gupthan, a self-described impulsive spender, follows up with some practical tips on savings – one, set up an automatic payment into a savings account belonging to a different bank than the one you usually use (“out of sight, out of mind”); and two, link a debit card to your dedicated spending account, which holds the money you allow yourself to spend. The pair then dispel the sharemarket’s central myth, that it’s actually quite simple to understand, and before we know it, two $50 Satay Noodle vouchers are up for grabs. “You snooze, you lose,” warns Selach. Tension fills the massive venue. A two-question pop quiz will test how much the audience has paid attention over the last half-hour. Unsurprisingly, they have; the vouchers are snapped up quick smart.
From one food to another, it’s time for nibbles and networking. Here’s what four Papakura teenagers had to say:
- Harit Patel, 17, learned about the sharemarket from his dad, who gave him $100 to invest: “‘These $100 are yours, I want these $100 back and any profit you make you can keep,” his dad said, and Patel’s convinced it’s something more parents and kids should explore.
- Juno Parallag, 17, looks up to Girls That Invest: “Young women of colour in a white, male-dominated industry. They are trailblazers and it’s quite inspiring to me,” she says. “Especially as a young woman of colour, that I can aspire to be more and to do more.”
- Maia Tate, 15, from Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa and Waikato, is conscious of the cost-of-living crisis: “To buy a house these days is really hard and my parents just got their first home. To see them struggle to pay a mortgage, pay for four kids, pay the bills, pay everything, it’s heartbreaking not being able to give back to them money-wise. But I try to do a lot in the house as I can.”
- Shreshaa Guhan, 15, wants to know more about money and how it works so she can make decisions for herself, and not have to rely on others: “In the future, your parents aren’t going to be there when you’re older. You can’t just wait for them to make the decisions for you… I really want to know why I shouldn’t choose this bank, choose that account.”
Gupthan, from Girls That Invest, is “blown away” by similar one-on-one conversations with rangatahi. They have ambition and drive, she says, and are eager to start talking about money. “They really are the future – and how good.”
The sentiment rings true when 16-year-old Ilhaam Sheikfreed asks Girls That Invest how teenagers might draw boundaries with their parents around jointly held bank accounts. Kaur responds with a laugh: “You guys ask some seriously hard questions.” The answer will look different depending on your family – culturally, for some whānau, money earned is to be shared by everyone; for others, what one earns, one keeps, she says. “It should be a conversation between you and them, and not them telling you how much you need to contribute – which is a hard conversation to have. But if it’s something you’re comfortable to do, there’s nothing wrong with it.”
Karakia closes the event, and the pavilion starts to empty. Selach, the youth council chair, is gratified seeing teenagers realise money is something that should be talked about. “We’re all going to have to make a financial decision at some point in our lives,” she says. “The fact that young people want to get that learning from the get-go – this [event] is just the first step – I’m excited for all of them.” I leave excited too – I learnt a few things myself.