Khalid’s song “Young, Dumb and Broke” speaks way too many truths about this generation, what with the odd relationship we tend to have with our finances. We want to love it; but that we have any control over it is perhaps still open to debate. Try as we might to manage our budget and save, sometimes we can’t help giving in to the guilty pleasures of spending. Because, after all, YOLO (You Only Live Once), right?
Whilst the road to becoming financially savvy doesn’t happen overnight, this essential life skill is actually within reach. The rules to personal finance are quite simple and, for the most part, never change. If you’re in dire need of a Money 101, SkilledSmart’s newest class covers the fundamentals for you. We recently checked in with Paridhi of SkilledSmart to learn more about her take on financial literacy, how her class can help young and not-so-young adults face real-world financial challenges and decisions, and the first step to take to get hiking on the road to financial freedom.
Hi Paridhi! Can you tell us more about yourself and your background?
At university, I completed a double degree in Commerce and Law. I’d always had an interest in business and commerce and so, after graduating, I spent a few years as a management consultant, where I worked with quite a diverse range of clients, mostly in the public sector and financial services.
Earlier in my career, I worked at a not-for-profit with financially distressed Australians; and so I’ve seen two very different sides of the spectrum: both the financially disadvantaged and the big corporate end of town. Having that kind of exposure really opened my eyes to just how many Australians struggle with the complexities of finance.
Tell us about SkilledSmart… what is it?
We are a “Money School for Adults”. We run money, wealth and personal finance courses for adults. I like to think of it as a “group fitness class” for your personal finances because for a lot of people one-on-one time with a financial planner may be too expensive. The group setting still allows that interaction with an experienced financial professional whilst making the cost more affordable.
What are some of the most interesting discoveries students make in class?
We see some pretty dramatic changes in students who go through the program. There is obviously the financial aspect: Students often discover hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of dollars worth of savings, and many of them start investing for the first time, which can add tens of thousands of dollars in additional income over a lifetime.
But there is also a big emotional change, which I think most people don’t foresee. We see a lot of students walking in feeling overwhelmed, embarrassed, scared, or lacking in confidence when it comes to money. By the end of the six-week program, we see students have developed a completely different relationship with money: They’re often more confident, empowered, and actually excited about their finances. They’re talking about it with their family and friends (where, previously, they might have avoided the conversation!) and are really engaging with the topic in a much more open and confident way.
Why are you passionate about teaching financial literacy? Why do you think it’s important?
As a society, we don’t like to talk about it, but money is very important. It gives us the ability and freedom to live a certain lifestyle. It can make a massive difference to the quality of someone’s life. And we spend a lot of time in our lives thinking about money-related things: our jobs, getting promotions, which schools we can afford for our kids, which holidays we can afford, etc. We spend years in college or training for professions that will hopefully get us a certain income.
And yet the vast majority of our society are never taught anything about it. How crazy is that??? For something that has such a huge impact on the way we live our lives, we’re taught shockingly little about it.
This has major consequences. People mismanage money because they have no idea what they’re supposed to be doing with it. So you see lots of people struggle with financial stress (as many as 64% of Australians), they may have huge amounts of debt, they may be underprepared for life crisis, and so on.
And it really doesn’t need to be that way. You don’t need a ridiculously high income to live a financially healthy life. Getting good with money doesn’t have to be hard, scary, or boring. It definitely shouldn’t be something only available to an elite class. A little bit of money education can really go a long way, and we’ve seen that hold true for the students who go through the SkilledSmart program.
Why don’t we teach life/finance skills in our schools?
There is more of a push to teach personal finance in schools now, which is great.
There are some challenges though, one of which is that educators themselves often don’t have the confidence, experience, or understanding to teach personal finance beyond the basics. They haven’t received a finance education or worked in the industry. The finance industry is pretty complex, full of jargon, and can be hard to understand, let alone teach.
We try to overcome that at SkilledSmart by engaging experienced finance professionals as teachers. This means the instructors really know their stuff and are able to share their wealth of first-hand experience.
How is ‘Get Money Smart’ different from other personal finance courses?
The course is unique in a few different ways:
Focus on practical application: It was very important to us to design the course to be practical and focused on application, not theory. People want to know what to do; they don’t want definitions and jargon. So we’ve embedded practical activities into the program to make sure students get to practice what they learn, and finish the program with a basic toolkit of skills to help them DIY their finances.
Experienced instructors: We make sure all our instructors are experienced financial professionals who’ve worked in the industry
Structured course content: We’ve worked alongside financial professionals to develop the curriculum, to make sure the core foundational skills were all included in a way that really reflected the educational gap professionals see in their clients everyday
What are some of the most common frustrations/questions/concerns that people have in regards to money and finances?
A lot of people feel overwhelmed. There is this nagging feeling that they should be doing “better” with their money, but they don’t know how or where to start. And since the industry is pretty complicated, with a lot of products and services and technical jargon, it all feels “too hard” for a lot of people. This is especially true when it comes to investing.
How can we adults get excited about personal finance/learning life skills?
Well, most of us get pretty excited about the idea of having more money or saving money or winning money! It’s just about going to that next step and realising that actually if you get a bit educated about money, you can really use that to make the most of your money, earn more, save more, and just have a better relationship with money all round. You don’t need to win the lotto!
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned over the years about money?
Getting good with money is more about your psychology - how you think and feel about money - than it is about dollars and cents.
Do you have some favourite resources, apps, or books to help with financial/general life management?
I think the new budgeting apps available are really great for keeping on top of your expenses and seeing where all your money is going. There are a few different ones available in Australia. Knowing where your money is going is really the first step of getting financially healthy!
What can we expect next from SkilledSmart?
We have some pretty exciting new money courses in the pipeline for 2018, so keep an eye out!