KFI founder on financial literacy: ‘I wanted to teach teenagers something that is very relevant to their lives…’

Marilyn Pinto is on a mission to financially educate the teenagers of today. She tells IET why this is needed and how she’s doing it.

According to the Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services Global Financial Literacy Survey, only 33% of adults worldwide, 3.5 billion people, are financially literate. This fact, that most of the global population can’t make informed financial choices about saving, investing, or borrowing, is something that, says financial education specialist Marilyn in her book, “we must do everything we can to stop”.

Vital money habits and skills start to form in children between the ages of three and seven, yet only 38% of children and young people in the United Kingdom have some form of financial education in school.

8% of adults of adults believe their lack of financial education as a child has caused problems with debt in later life

A poll of 4,000 people by the Center for Social Justice (CSJ) in January this year found that 68% of adults of adults believe their lack of financial education as a child has caused problems with debt in later life. Additionally, research shows that the people who consult financial advisors are already financially literate. Understandably, young people are somewhat worried about money.

It’s for these reasons that Marilyn founded Dubai-based education company Kids Finance Initiative (KFI) KFI Global, which last month won Best Financial Literacy Project for schools at the Money Awareness and Inclusion Awards. It specialises in teaching teenagers how to make smarter money decisions, by equipping them with the right knowledge and skills.

Her book Smarter Richer Braver, published this year, is a ‘manual’ for parents who want to help their teenagers manage money effectively and improve their financial literacy. One chapter is dedicated to Marilyn’s self-identification as a ‘rebel educator’ who breaks down existing stereotypes about what teachers should be and how classes should be taught, and not only delivers valuable teaching, but also wants students to enjoy the process.

Lessons on finance aren’t usually the most popular in schools, probably because they don’t feel immediately relevant. Marilyn says this is down to educators and parents focusing too much on what’s being taught rather that the way it’s being taught. 

“Most teenagers are extremely disengaged and disinterested in what is happening in school, mainly because they feel what’s being taught isn’t relevant to their everyday lives. And that’s what I wanted to change; I wanted to teach them something that was very relevant to their lives, something that they felt was interesting, because they found use for it.”

Financial literacy – a means to avoiding bad habits

Marilyn, with KFI, tries to catch kids early in their financial journeys in order to eliminate the possibility of bad habits forming in later life, by making sure they are ‘intrinsically motivated’ because they understand the reason behind the learning, not because they are told to. There are no exams or test-taking involved in KFI’s programmes, and though the teachers don’t take attendance, they’ve never had walk-outs. 

“I don’t want the kids to come because I’m going to give them a certificate at the end of it, or because there’s an exam that they’re going to have to pass and that score is going to mean everything. The kids are there because they realise ‘I need to know this, and if I don’t know this, I’m going to get into trouble’. And that’s what I wanted – for them to be intrinsically motivated to learn.”

She explains how a typical class can go: “Today I just finished teaching a class of 16-year-olds, and none of them was happy to be there. Their school just told them that they had to attend this programme. But that changed in the first 15 minutes after they understood that this is someone different, who’s not just telling them what to do.”

My way or the highway?

Marilyn’s teaching style is to explain the consequences of certain actions and give a variety of optional solutions. “They’re used to grown-ups coming and telling them it’s ‘my way or the highway’. And they, I guess, unsurprisingly, they don’t like that.” She doesn’t shy away from calling it a ‘life-changing programme’.

One of the main KFI pillars is helping students see their unconscious incompetence – that they don’t know what they don’t know.

Another element is reasoning with students by explaining why each topic in the course is important and relevant, and illustrating points with personal anecdotes. “I speak personally about the mistakes that I have made,” Marilyn says. “Like really stupid money mistakes. Then they actually relate to you.”

The teaching rounds off with students having to reflect on what they have learnt, how it will change them and how their life will be different as a result.

KFI treats young people like adults in these lessons, and rather than testing them, prepares them for real life in which they will be ‘tested’ every day as they make financial decisions.

“Money is so intricately entwined into every aspect of our life. From the career we choose, college we go to, kind of car we buy, credit cards, marriage, kids, retirement – everything is so entwined with money and the way you manage it. Yet, we have zero training for our kids.”

She adds: “Hopefully it’s going to change and younger generations aren’t ever going to feel clueless about money. They’re never going to be described as having no value for money. We can so easily blame kids, but just shift the spotlight a little – who is supposed to educate them? How are they supposed to get this knowledge?”

Thanks to organisations like KFI, a financially literate world might soon become a reality.

Marilyn Pinto is founder of award-winning education company KFI Global and author of Smarter Richer Braver.

You might also be interested in: Ensuring pupils are real-world ready


Leave a Reply

Send an Invite...

Would you like to share this event with your friends and colleagues?

Would you like to share this report with your friends and colleagues?

You may enter up to three email addresses below to share this report