Meet the Smart Way to Start Team
We’ll tell you why financial parenting and financial literacy for kids is so dear to our hearts!
“Money is not just a transmission of value: it’s a transmission of values.”
dr. Mara C. Harvey
I am Dr. Mara Catherine Harvey and am the author, founder and CEO of SmartWayToStart. It is my pleasure to guide you on your Financial Parenting journey to shape your child’s financial future.
You will benefit from my 21 years’ experience and expertise as senior leader in Wealth Management, accompanying many families across the globe in successfully managing their money and transitioning their wealth across generations.
Talking about money can be hard, as it is often fraught with emotions. But with the right tools and the right guidance, it can become enjoyable and empowering for all family members.
I believe all children deserve to learn good money habits as of a young age, because money skills are skills for life.
I am Mariajosé Gajate Molina and I am proud to have brought to life the characters in the Smart Way to Start series, creating new money roles models whom girls and boys to relate to. I believe that artwork can help children to engage and to learn, so I aim to spark curiosity and joy with every illustration in our books!
I studied Illustration at the art school Arte10 in Madrid and Graphic Communication at Bath Spa University, and I have been a freelance illustrator since then, completing projects for a wide range of clients. In 2020 I won the World Illustration Awards and in 2021 I completed my Masters of Arts in Children’s Book Illustration at Anglia Ruskin in Cambridge.
Nothing is more important than loving what you do (“sketcher, traveller and tea drinker”). Mariajo always carries a pencil and a notebook in her bag. Maybe you’ll find me doodling in a café. If you want to know a bit more about me: mariajoilustrajo.com
Marty & Francis
Marty is the main character and money role model of the SMART WAY TO START book series, consisting of 5 paperback books and 1 ebook. Francis, the bluebird, is her best friend and side-kick, who accompanies her on her learning journey.
Through her stories, Marty will introduce your child to money and explain to them how to earn (Book 1), how to save (Book 2), how to spend wisely (Book 3 and it’s secret chapter on digital money, which is an ebook: the same way you cannot touch digital money, you cannot touch this book), how money choices impact our world (Book 4), and what the world needs for us all to thrive (Book 5). Beyond the books, children can explore all of Marty’s world: short online stories about the book characters, which all convey messages of empowerment, equality and sustainability.
With Marty’s stories we put our 3 financial parenting principles into practice:
1. Children have a positive money role model they can identify with.
2. Marty’s stories make money moments visible to your child, setting the scene for all your financial parenting discussions.
3. And Marty’s stories are all in rhymes, which make for enjoyable repetition: your child will want to read them over and over again!
An avid reader from an early age, my studies in French, Latin and ancient Greek languages and literature at the University of Friborg and Yale made me aware of the power of literature and its impact on the collective imagination. Beyond simple stories, it transmits role models and values. Characters and stories thus shape our identity, our relationship to others, our perception of the world.
If literature allows us to open up to the world, it can also hinder us in our aspirations. Unfortunately, many books still convey too much gender inequality. In the shadow of male characters with many and varied characteristics, female characters are generally under-represented and reduced to stereotypical roles. Working to reduce discrimination against women such as wage inequality also means working to change the representation of women that we offer our children.
It is time for literature to offer girls heroines that live up to their ambitions, for today’s adventurers, princesses, pirates and signet rings are the women of tomorrow. Now let’s give them stories in which they can develop freely, with no limits other than their imaginations. It was an great pleasure for me to work with Mara and Mariajo to bring the French editions of the books to life.
I jumped for joy the first time I saw Marty’s stories! I absolutely wanted to read the books to my girls, to encourage them to learn about money, and grow up with good money habits.
I work in the financial industry and I see how important this knowledge is for both adults and for children, too. Understanding how to manage money really is a skill for life, and feeling confident talking about money is a most essential starting point.
Unfortunately there were no German versions of the books yet. To change that, I’ve been working with Mara on the translation of the English rhymes since then – no easy task! Actually, it was way harder than we both thought, when we embarked on this journey! It is all the more fun to hold the translated book in your hands.
The first four books are now available in German and the fifth book is coming soon! Have fun reading!
I am Thalia Malaïka Urbani, a singer, composer, and poet. I was born in Canada. My mother is from Rwanda, and my father is from Italy. Both my parents are scientists by training, and they have exposed me to the global challenges we face today. In high school, I was an executive for the Green Warriors. This allowed me to contribute to fundraising towards caring for injured wildlife in Quebec, the wildfires in Australia, and supporting Indigenous women environmentalists in Ecuador. I have always been passionate about advocating for nature, people and the planet.
The opportunity to collaborate with Mara C. Harvey is also a way for me now as an undergraduate student in Music to continue to advocate for a more respectful and harmonious relationship with our planet. To me, the song needed to be a musical embodiment of Mara’s beautiful poem to educate children on the Sustainable Development Goals. I felt that the music should be bubbly, catchy and straightforward so that learning the lyrics would be fun and easy. The text of “A Smart Way To Start” symbolizes hope, and my creative choices were all based on how this text would sound if it could sing.
As an artist, I know how essential the empowerment of all people is to create a better global society. Composing this song with Mara C. Harvey means so much to me because it will teach children how to become conscious decision-makers and leaders of peace. In the turbulent times, we live in it is very important to keep hope alive and to ensure the children of today will be ambassadors of a Future Earth where all can live in harmony.
I hope the arrangement I made of Mara’s poem will inspire children all over the world to be climate and peace activists that are rooted in the needed literacy to engage with both passion and expertise to help the world become a better place for everyone in ways that leave no one behind.
OUR MISSION is to empower parents to help children develop good money habits that will shape their financial future. We want both girls and boys to become financially confident and literate so the next generation can enter the workforce on equal terms, equipped with the money skills for life and empowered to create a sustainable future.
Make it easy and enjoyable for parents to introduce money to their child – with clear guidance, practical toolkits and expert tips – becoming their child’s best money role models!
Empower every child to become financially literate, with enjoyable rhymes and relatable book characters, so they are eager to learn more and want to read the books again and again!
With our stories and our main character, we want to contribute to advancing gender equality, by encouraging girls in particular to become confident in talking about money, so the enter the workforce on par to the boys.
When introducing money to children, we also need them to understand how money choices impact our world and our environment. Together, we can build a more equal and sustainable future for all!
Equality, Sustainability… and FUN!
“Money is not just a transmission of value: it’s a transmission of values.” This is our motto. Every child should grow up with financial literacy skills that enable them to make the most of their money, throughout the course of their life. Money is above all a source of empowerment, which allows us to achieve our life goals. And when money is combined with strong ethics and responsible choices, it can do great things – for us, for others and for our planet. This is why we see money as an instrument to advance equality and sustainability. We strongly believe that our daily money choices can help make this world more fair for all, and that we can steer businesses to become more sustainable through our consumption and investment choices. If every one of us applies a gender lens and a sustainability lens to our daily decisions with our money, we can move mountains! Together we can shape a better financial future and a more sustainable future for our children.
When it comes to learning life skills, it’s best when it is hands on and fun! So we strive to make learning about money as enjoyable as we possibly can, for both parents and children. The passion, dedication, rhymes, watercolours and attention to detail we put into our work serves one purpose only: to make learning more fun and repetition enjoyable. We hope you will love reading our books over and over again!
Last but not least, sharing is caring! So we would be thrilled to get your feedback: your input, your ideas and your suggestions for improvement are extremely valuable to us, so please continue to share your views with us over email or social media. And if you would like to share our story with any other parents, grandparents, godparents, aunties or uncles you know, please do not hesitate! It’s for a good cause!
Mara never planed to write children’s books. She was busy writing a book for adults on “WOMEN AND RISK: Rewriting the Rules” to raise awareness for how low female financial participation and biased money semantics are huge barriers to economic gender equality. While analysing pay gaps, wealth gaps and pension gaps, she realised that no one seemed to be tackling one of the root causes of economic gender inequality: the biased money messages girls grow up with.
It was a comment by Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient, during a live stream from the Equality Lounge in Davos at the World Economic Forum 2018, that sparked the beginning of Mara’s writing for children. Shelley said “Oh the places you’ll go…with financial confidence!”, taking reference to the famous book by Dr. Seuss. Mara suddenly knew what she had to do: she needed fun rhymes for little girls to become financially confident.
So armed with passion, sudden inspiration and years of joyful experiences reading rhymed stories to her children (she thinks she enjoyed those books even more than they did!), Mara set out to put pen to paper – or rather thumbs to iPhone Notes. The stories came gushing out, as if they were just waiting to be unleashed. All of the stories are in rhyme, brought to life with high quality watercolour illustrations by the wonderfully talented Mariajo Ilustrajo.
Mara’s daughter Tyler gave precious feedback along the way reminding her again and again that “she does not speak Bank”, and that any financial jargon had to be eliminated radically, so money messages would be understandable for children! Tyler was a constant reminder of how the financial industry has alienated so many women and girls with its jargon, and how important it is to change this – for everyone’s sake! Mara’s son Timothy reminded her constantly how important it is to create a learning journey that appeals to all the boys too, who play a key role in shaping a more equal future for all.
From the very early days of draft rhymes, notes and sketches, the SMART WAY TO START journey has taken Mara and Mariajo all the way to the United Nations! Indeed, in 2021 the United Nations have endorsed book 5 of the series, on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, explained to children in simple rhymes. It has been published under the title START DOING GOOD (in French: Offrons un devenir durable à tou.te.s) in the United Nations’ Library as part of the Perception Change Program, to raise awareness globally for the Agenda 2030.
We are both very proud of this achievement and we are committed more than ever to bring financial literacy, equality and sustainability to children worldwide!