Mara Harvey

Author Archives: Mara Harvey

Bank Account for Kids — Do They Need It? | Financial Parenting 101

In my previous posts, I  discussed allowances and ways to creatively pay your child. For this article, I want to bring up the importance of opening a bank account for your kids as early as possible.

Here are some arguments why opening a bank account for your kids early on is one of the best things to do:

It's A Great Way To Get Them To Start Saving

It's a great way to start teaching your kids how to save, especially for the long-term.

When you open the bank account with your kids, make sure to let them know why the bank is the best place to keep the money. Ask the bank teller to explain to your child what a bank does and why the child’s money is safest there. Most banks have children account packages of some sort that allows children to engage in a playful yet serious way. And whether they receive a savings booklet or an account card, make sure they know this is theirs and that you are the guardian of it for them.  

Tip: Use the bank visits as money moments for the kids!

As I mentioned in my older post, use every moment you can to teach your kids about good money habits. Taking them to the bank is a good one.

While money on an account might feel a bit abstract, make a point of taking your child regularly (at least twice a year, better if once a quarter) with you to the bank to deposit money from their piggy bank. Help them count the money and then let them hand over the savings book to the teller. This way it makes the banking experience a bit more tangible. And you can show your child how their savings are growing over time. So whenever you can, take your kids with you to the bank. Especially if it's their account you're going to deal with, make sure the kids are with you. 

What About ATM cards?

I know ATM cards are the norm nowadays, but I recommend that for younger kids, you need to use passbooks first.

With a passbook, you can easily see how money goes in and out of the account. Everything is recorded and kids can see how the money adds up every time they make a deposit. Besides, there's no need for an ATM for kids when they're young anyway. They will not need to spend money on big-ticket items, which is very irresponsible.

You can consider giving them an ATM card or a prepaid card when they're older and are more responsible with money. By the time they're old enough to own an ATM card or a prepaid card, they're mature enough to be responsible spenders.

Start Early, Compound Early

Opening an account for your kids is also a good way to to start taking advantage of the compounding interest in banks, if your savings account still has a positive interest rate - which is admittedly becoming a rarity nowadays, as interest rates are negative in many countries. Nonetheless, If you start putting money on their account from a very young age and don't withdraw from it, imagine how much your kids will have accumulated by the time they’re 18! And if you discuss with your bank how best to invest these savings, you can certainly benefit from long term market developments despite the short term ups and downs..

In fact, especially for long terms savings that you do not need to draw upon in the short term, investing is the best way to achieve a positive compounding effect over the years. Make sure you explain to your child that this is how their money is “working for them” by circulating in the economy, and this is how it generates a return. That will encourages them to continue saving up over the years. 

Opening A Bank Account Is Signing Your Kids Up For Success!

One of the most important pros that I can point our for this is the positive effects on a child's development. Studies on Oklahoma's (United States) Child Development Accounts (CDA) program "shows that creating lifelong savings accounts for children at birth promotes their long-term well-being"

The hypothesis was that CDA and other similar asset holding or building accounts would positively affect a child's well-being and development. The study showed that kids who had money deposited in a special education savings account had better social and emotional scores compared to those who didn't.

You see, this becomes a domino effect for the kids and the expectations we have for them. Opening a savings account increases your confidence and support towards the kids. If you open an education fund for the kids, then it already creates a sense of expectation towards education. With that, parents will tend to encourage their kids to excel or do well in their studies. 

The Sooner The Better

I don't see any reason not to start very early with opening a bank account for your kids. It's one of the most important things to tackle, in order to nurture good money habits.

If we want our kids to grow up forward-thinking,  financially responsible, and financially literate, then banking is one of the most basic things that we can do for them.

If you want to read more tips and tricks on raising and training kids to be financially responsible, subscribe to our Monthly Money Tips.

March 23, 2020

Marty’s World: Meet Emma

My mum is called Emma,
and she’s such a dear.
I admire her because
she’s a smart engineer.
She keeps on inventing
new things every day,
designing each piece
in peculiar ways.

Beyond all her gadgets,
she really loves trees:
she spends hours gardening,
and saving the bees.
She plants lots of flowers,
so insects can thrive.
At one point she wanted
to have her own hive.

But Dad disagreed,
because if he gets stung
he gets a bad allergy,
and that is not fun!
Instead, we have plants
that attract butterflies,
and cute caterpillars
of all shapes and size!

Favourite Flowers
Japanese cherry blossoms, purple rhododendrons and dark pink peonies.

Favourite Trees
Angel oaks and weeping willows.

Favourite Quote
You must make women count as much as men; you must have an equal standard of morals.

Emma is named after Emmeline Pankhurst (1858–1928), who was a British political activist and founder of the British suffragette movement who helped women win the right to vote.

March 17, 2020

My Experience at the World Economic Forum 2020

mara harvey at the world economic forum 2020

In January, I had the pleasure and privilege of becoming a resource speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos. I participated in the event as an opening keynote speaker for "Primary Futures" in Davos Platz Primary School.  The event gave the children a chance to meet international role models and World Economic Forum delegates. They got to learn more about careers and sustainable development.

In my keynote, I tried to explain to children the importance of sustainable development and financial literacy. I shared with the children the rate at which the world is changing and growing.

The Importance of Sustainable Development

By 2050, there will almost be 10 billion people! That growth is roughly equal to 200,000 people every day. To give the numbers more meaning I explained that this growth means:

  • A new city of Zurich every 3 days (600,000 population)
  • A new city of Davos every 75 minutes (11,000 population)
  • An auditorium of 130 students every minute.

This staggering amount of population growth in a planet with finite resources causes alarm. I explained to the kids that by the time they finish school there will be:

  • A lot more people needing food and water but not having enough land to produce or freshwater available.
  • A lot more people needing clothes (which is the second most pollution producing business after oil.)
  • A lot more people needing healthcare. 
  • A lot more elders (needing specialised care)
  • A lot more people living in cities needing infrastructure
  • A lot more people needing and using up energy and resources
  • A lot more people producing waste!

The Repercussions of Overpopulation

It's important to break down the repercussions of the continuous rise in population. Kids don't understand macro-level world issues yet. So the number of people may seem very abstract because it's also hard to imagine that scale. But if you explain to them what the effects are and how the population rise will affect their entire future, then it becomes serious. You have to explain to them that there will be more people eating the same amount of pie.

If you cannot find a way to reduce the amount of people who will be eating the pie, then you have to find a way to make the pie be enough for the growing number of people wanting to eat it.

We have to make our kids aware because it is their future. As parents, we want them to grow equipped and prepared for the challenges ahead. They are inheriting a world that's over-consuming. As they grow up, they will realise that it is a world full of problems and challenges. They are inheriting an aging society. With medical advancement, life expectancy is rising -- people are living longer due to medical advancements.

But, this also means that the next generation is stepping into a world full of opportunities. The continuous rise of the population coupled with the problems of climate change and irresponsible capitalism is a hotbed for innovation. What's important is that we instill the principles of responsible resource management and smart choices from an early age: Sustainability and Financial Literacy.

A Smart Way to Manage Resources

Learning about Sustainability will help our kids learn how to manage finite (natural) resources. Financial literacy will help our kids smartly manage and allocate financial resources over their lifetime. In a world that is growing despite the finite resources, what's important is that kids learn smart resource management. We need kids to learn how to properly allocate their limited resources to maintain or create the best quality of life for them.

It's about mastering longevity and making sure that the resources they have will be enough for their lifetime. 

We need to empower our kids to start being smart about the way they look at resources early on. It's our responsibility to help them cultivate healthy habits that will allow them to lead a financially smart and consciously sustainable life.


Do I Use Technology To Teach Kids About Money?

marty's mum

The past two articles were about giving our kids allowance or how to give our kids allowance. In this article, I intend to close our allowance series by discussing allowance management -- both for kids and parents! One question that this post aims to answer is: Do I use technology to teach my kids about money?

Go Analog or Go Digital?

The ever-growing digital space surrounds us every day, including banking and shopping. And as such, it is also extending to day-to-day financial parenting! In-app stores, we already see parenting-related apps that support maintaining a household and managing kids’ chores.

With this in mind, I'm sure a lot of you are wondering how you can incorporate apps and other digital tools into your parenting routine. Here's my take on it, especially when it comes to dealing with money.

For younger kids, go analog

Digital is very abstract. 

And what we're seeing is that growing number of monies are transacted over digital channels or online banking. So by definition, they never actually pass through your hands. This means that it is difficult to engage the children in these money moments nor use them as learning opportunities. For kids who still do not have a good grasp of abstract concepts, it may be difficult to appreciate the relevance of a digital money transaction. Kids will not be able to grasp the value of money if they do not experience it.

They need to go through the actual motions of receiving money and giving away money. You can use apps and technology to help kids with their chore assignments and progress. But, while your kids are still young, you have to make money decisions practical and concrete for them.

For older kids, go digital

Online banking and digital currencies are becoming more and more common. With that in mind, you also need to make sure that your kids become more and more aware of money in its different forms

Once you've already established good money habits with paper money and coins, you can begin to teach kids about digital money. With this understanding, you can make careful use of apps that automatically debit money to your/their account.

Maybe the most simple but important rule is that a child should learn to always ask for permission to spend money in an app -- without exceptions. Spending digital money freely should not be a mistake children are allowed to make. While we must trust our kids and let them commit mistakes, it’s better to learn that money is wasted if you buy something of poor quality that you end up throwing - rather than enrage their parents with a huge online spend. 

The Pros and Cons of Digital

I wanted to dedicate a section to discussing the pros and cons of digital because of two things:

One is because we can no longer shield our children from a reality that is already an integral part of our everyday lives.

Second (in relation to my first point above) is that managing a child’s exposure to digital devices has become a big challenge of parenting. With that, good digital financial parenting becomes imperative. Children need a healthy balance of digital and physical interactions to develop social skills. Which means that they also need a healthy balance of digital and analogue money interactions to develop healthy money attitudes later on in adult life. Parting with money, physically giving it away, is a very different experience than swiping it away. Realizing it is gone for good is an important lesson. And just parting with something digital which you never really held in your hand in the first place, does not impart quite the same sense of accountability. 

Sometimes, good old fashioned sayings such as “take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves” really resonate with me in this digital age. There’s something to be said about physically counting coins.

I understand that taking things digital makes it more convenient for us to look after finances and other matters. But we have to be mindful of the limited cognitive capacity of younger kids' brains. 

Match Your Practice With Your Children's Cognitive Development Stage

As parents, it's our responsibility to make sure that the education and training we are giving is age-appropriate. There is no point in educating kids if they cannot understand what we want to teach. We can use technology to teach kids about money but we have to make it appropriate for their age and cognition.

Developmental psychologists have long studied how children's brain works and how it's moulded. Jean Piaget theorised that children's brains aren't simply that of a small adult’s. Human beings go through phases and levels of cognitive development. It's a sequence that a child goes through -- from developing sensory perceptions to motor activities to abstract reasoning and thinking.

At the end of the day, we want to make sure that our kids get the most learning out of everything. However, let's let our children be children. We want them to enjoy their childhood despite the important lessons we try to teach them.

Happy International Day of The Woman

international women's day_Smart_Way_to_start
I want to celebrate this International Day of The Woman by acknowledging what we have achieved and what we can still achieve as women. 

This International Day of The Woman, I am celebrating the strength, willpower, and resilience of women all around the world and all the women who came before us: all the advancements we have seen in gender equality in the workplace as well as all the progress we have seen in labour market participation, political participation, in STEM education, in health and in women’s rights across the globe. At the same time, I invite all women to continue to make bold moves and choices that will further empower themselves, their families, their children and their communities - and take more control and ownership over their financial futures.

We are strong, we are worthy and we are capable. We are more than capable of shaping the brighter, diverse, creative and rewarding future that we strive for. 


And together with all the men who are encouraging us, supporting us and teaming up with us along our way. Keep going strong! For ourselves, for all our families, for our daughters and for their daughters and for all the generations to come. 

And we all know that sometimes it’s hard, and some days we feel like giving up, some days we feel it’s unfair, and some days we don’t want to always have to fight. But most days...well, most days it’s GREAT. It’s fun, it’s empowering, it’s encouraging and it’s joyful. Know that we are in this together and that we are making huge strides forwards. Because we dare. 

We are the change-makers, we are the dreamers, we are the doers. We make equality advance. Every time a woman takes a bold step forward, we all rise. 

In order to empower more women to reach their potential, we have to start young. We have to start with the girls. A Smart Way To Start helps girls prepare to enter the workforce on equal terms by helping them to know their worth, empowering them to talk about their pay, and guiding them to becoming savvy in managing their spending and savings.

As they become more and more independent and confident with their money decisions, they’ll also learn that every money decision in life is an expression of values: an opportunity to impact our world positively. 

So let’s raise our glass to an equal future and to the rise of girls in every nation. They are our hope. They are our future: the next wave of women who will rock this world, and may the whole world dance to their music! 

Happy Women’s Day!

March 2, 2020

Women’s Disadvantages in the Workplace

dr. mara harvey

I had another interview with Vivamost where I talked about another issue close to my heart: the challenges faced by women at work. I know that there are already efforts to reduce gender inequality women’s disadvantages in the workplace. But I believe that we still have a long way to go.

Inequality and imbalance in the workplace often begin with imbalances between unpaid workloads at home. These unpaid workloads create ripple effects on women’s careers. Career and financial advancement in the workplace have traditionally put women in the backseat and much work is still needed to overcome these biases.

Here are several aspects where I feel women are at a disadvantage:

Women’s Disadvantage in the Workplace: Household Work

According to a Q&A conducted by Mary Brinton, a professor at Harvard University, the problem of gender equality in the workplace comes from when young adults try to balance work and family.

Women end up shouldering the lion’s share of care giving responsibilities in the household. This disadvantages them in the workplace. How so? Women are pressured into giving more hours for household activities. At the same time, they are expected to maintain the same working hours and work quality as men are. However, leaving the office early can still be stigmatizing — women are then perceived as either lazy or someone who doesn’t take work as seriously as men.

The Disadvantage On Maternity and Parenthood

Up until a few years ago, childbirth came with a compensation penalty for women and a premium for men. Because men didn’t have to go on months-long maternity leave, they were more valued in the organization. But their paternity and the responsibility of a family was often reason enough for a pay rise.

In fact, one of the biggest issues I find that women run into in their careers is finding advancement opportunities after maternity leave. While maternity leaves are not penalized in compensation anymore, it does still cause a delay in promotions for women. It is very seldom to see a woman who gets promoted during or immediately after maternity leave. Usually, the promotion falls through the cracks and it takes more months or years upon return to re-qualify for the promotion.

Another one of the biggest conflicts that women face in the workplace is feeling disenfranchised after maternity leave. Since they have been gone for a while, they feel like they have been replaced or that they only get the leftover tasks.

Gender Inequality On Promotions

Studies show that men are promoted based on potential while women are promoted based on performance. This means that women will need to work twice as hard to get the position that men will only need to show promise for – and this is particularly penalizing for women working part-time.

Even for the women working full time, career progression is often slower than for men. The number of women in C-level and board-level positions is astoundingly small.

Women’s Disadvantage On Compensation

Women are generally not trained to negotiate and demand higher compensation. My friend, Wies Bratby, the founder of “Women in Negotiation” said that “if the salary you are asking for is a figure that makes you sick to your stomach, then you’re probably close to what you should get.” This made me realise that men are generally bolder and more inclined towards negotiating their pay than women are. Men ask more and they get more because they do. I think it’s time women also learn to ask more and be more confident in how they ask for money.

Women tend to take on more responsibilities in the desire to prove themselves but this only ends up in them taking up more tasks without receiving more pay for it.

What Can We Do About It?

Women need more than just mentorship. They need sponsorship in organizations and more workplace support.

They don’t need more good advice, they need to be given concrete opportunities. They need senior people who will vouch for them and put their names forward for new jobs. They need seniors who will fight for their well-deserved promotions even if they are going on maternity leave. They need seniors who will re-empower them upon return by assigning and giving them responsibilities aligned with their abilities.

Brains are seldom affected by birth-giving. Flexible work time is only a question of availability and not of ability. We can actually work around this issue by treating maternity and maternity leaves as logistics issues versus compensation and qualification issues. With telecommuting becoming more and more ubiquitous in the workplace, then this is definitely something we can look at.

Another solution that’s a bit more long-term is the proposal that we should start early. By this I mean that we should start talking about things like pay equality and financial literacy to children. I created A Smart Way To Start for this purpose — I broke down difficult financial and banking concepts to make it easier for younger kids to dissect.

By no means is this article a comprehensive list of things that still need working on when it comes to gender equality and the workplace, but I hope it encourages conversations and brings awareness to what still needs to be done.

We have a long way to go until we reach a point where we can truly say there is gender equality. But we have to realise that concrete baby steps are still better than no progress.

February 24, 2020

Should I Let My Kids “Earn” Their Allowance?

Marty looking at allowance list

I already talked about how an allowance can be an important tool for raising a child. An allowance is the best way to get started on financial education and decisions.

First, it provides an avenue for your kids to learn money management in a controlled way. Second, it provides an avenue for you to begin discussing money matters with your kids. And third, it provides an avenue for your kids to learn the value of hard work through "extra allowance".

Fixed Allowance vs. Chore-by-Chore Allowance

One dilemma that parents face is whether to give your kids a fixed allowance or a chore-by-chore allowance. Some parents want to instil the value of working hard for money at an early age. So what they do is that they put a corresponding amount per chore and then kids will only get an allowance depending on the chores they do.

It can be a clever way to make sure kids do their chores, but it can also be a way to create a bad impression for chores for them. How? If kids realise that all chores have a price tag connected to them, then they will begin to see chores as optional. They can begin to cherry-pick doing which chores they want to do and which ones they don't want to do.

Also, putting a value on every chore makes housework a transactional experience for the kids. This should not be the case. Kids should realise that being part of a family means that they also have to contribute to the household. Financial education will complement kids learning proper household responsibility.

Use both as tools for financial education

With this in mind, what you can do is this: you can have a fixed allowance and a chore-by-chore allowance.

The fixed allowance is dependent on the expected chores your kids will need to do. These chores can be as simple as: doing their bed, washing the dishes, taking out the trash.

The chore-by-chore allowance is where you can assign a monetary value for selected chores. These chores are that are a bit tedious or something that requires a bit more effort to do. These chores can be: mowing the lawn, giving the dog a bath, doing the laundry and folding the clothes (not just their own clothes!).

We want our kids to learn the value of hard work while still being able to contribute to the household. They will realise that they have the capacity to earn more if they work more. The ability to earn more (albeit in a controlled environment) will allow them to feel more control over their money. This will allow them to take more responsibility for their finances.

They will also have the chance to negotiate their pay for the chore-by-chore allowance.

Raise smart negotiators

When you bring up the topic of chore-by-chore allowance to your kids, let them know that the money is open to discussion.

"If you mow the lawn very well and properly tidy and park the mower afterwards, I'll give you $7 instead of $5."

"If you also fold all the laundry neatly after washing, I'll give you $15 instead of just $7!"

Letting them know that they can get more if they go above and beyond what is expected of them. This opens up the opportunity for them to start asking and negotiating. Let them ask and let them haggle. They have to realise that their extra effort deserves more compensation.

We have to let our kids (especially our girls) realise that they cannot cheapen themselves - and to know that domestic chores have value, too. Teaching them to negotiate as early as now will prepare them in the future when they are negotiating for their pay. We need to make sure that we are allowing our kids to develop good and savvy habits as they grow up.

February 18, 2020

Marty’s World: Meet Winston

Marty and pets

Winston is Marty’s 

new Labrador pup.

He runs very fast, 

she can barely keep up!

His light golden fur 

is as soft as can be,

and Marty likes stroking 

his ears endlessly.

He likes to play catch 

and run after a ball,

but he doesn’t come back, 

despite being called.

He’s still just a puppy and has lots to learn,

like sitting and lying and waiting his turn,

not begging for food, and going outdoors

instead of just peeing all over the floors!

Favourite Games

Playing fetch and chasing George, the cat.   

Favourite Quote

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. 

Winston is named after Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (1874-1965),  who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. 

February 10, 2020

Why An Allowance Is The Best Tool For Financial Education

Marty receiving allowance

As parents, we often wrestle with the idea of giving money to our children. Two opposing thoughts often come to play when we are dealing with giving children an allowance.

  • First is that: I want to make sure that my child will never feel lacking and that everything he/she needs is taken care of.
  • The second is that: I don’t want my child to grow up spoiled and not knowing the value of money.

These are both very valid ideas.

We want our children to have their needs met and some of their wants given. But at the same time, we want them to know that money is something that we work hard for and is something that is not given.

In A Smart Way To Start, I always advocate for financial literacy and responsibility, and I believe that one of the best ways to do that is to give your kids an allowance. It might sound counter intuitive, but an allowance will teach your kids a lot about money management.

What are the benefits of giving your kids an allowance?

It's our responsibility to provide our kids with proper financial education -- 91% of parents think so according to a Credit Suisse Pocket Money Study. Giving your kids an allowance will teach them to be responsible with their money. If you give them a reasonable (and age appropriate) amount of money, they will learn more about money and its value through practical experience.

How so?

An allowance is a fixed amount of money that we give to children on a regular basis. What they do with it is up to them. They can use it to buy toys or treats or save it for the future.

What's important to remember is this: The more we let kids have the freedom to spend their money, the more ownership they will take and learn to have for their financial actions. They will learn that once they spend their money it is gone forever. It makes them realise that either need to: save up for things that matter or spend only on things they need.

Guidelines to remember:

We want them to make sure our kids are properly provided for. But, we also want to make sure that our kids will learn valuable life lessons from what we give. We also want to make sure that they do not develop the thinking that “mommy or daddy will always give me money whenever I need it!”

With that in mind, I have tips that you can use as a guide for this practice:

Have a strict budget and stick to it. 

When your child comes up to you and says that he/she spent all the allowance you gave, do not give them more. You have to let them learn the consequences of their spending decisions. If you continue to give them money even though they did not budget, they will see money as an endless resource.

Help your child to manage time and money. 

Let your kids know that how much time will go by until the receive their next allowance. Break that down into bit-size chunks. For example for smaller children it is easier to give them a weekly allowance than a monthly one. Understanding how long a week is and how long you have to wait to get more money after you spent it all, is a very important part of the learning process.

Let your kids have the autonomy to manage their own money. 

I know it might be hard to give your kids free rein over their money. But you have to understand that they can't learn if their hands are being held the whole time. We have to learn how to trust our kids and let them make mistakes in their own money decisions. Practical experience is one of the best ways they can learn to be mindful and conscientious about their money.

As parents, we want our children to develop positive money behaviours and a responsible mindset as they grow up. What we can do to help is to instill good habits from a young age.

Dear parents, be mindful that an allowance is not just a privilege you give to your kids that empowers them with choices. It is also an important tool to teach them about the responsibility that comes with choice.

If you think these tips are helpful, subscribe to our Monthly Money Tips newsletter to get more tips from me!
February 3, 2020

Marty’s World: Meet George

marty's world, george the cat

George, Marty’s kitten,
is all black and white.
He sleeps during day 
and goes crazy at night!
He races around 
at a neck-breaking pace,
and when Marty holds him, 
he scratches her face.
He can be quite vicious 
and hates being hugged.
He’ll bite you and claw you, 
then walk off quite smug.
But when he is hungry, 
he’ll sneak up and purr,
then there’s a chance 
you might stroke his soft fur. 
Once he is fed, he will curl up all day,
until it is dusk, when he wakes up to play.

marty's world, george the cat