Category Archives for "News"

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.

 

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. 

Together. 

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!

January 24, 2020

Living Consciously Is An Everyday Consumer Decision

smart way to start books

I was interviewed by Anusha Swetha of Vivamost about my advocacy for financial literacy and sustainable development. I got to discuss how I believe that your everyday transactions reflect your values. Sustainable living isn’t just about reducing waste and speaking out; it’s also about the kind of companies you support.

Your Purchase Decision Can Be About Making A Stand

Ordinary people like us might think that, alone, we can’t really have a big impact. We might think that we don't have the power to create laws or the influence to sway policies that would make our world a better place. It also comes to a point where we feel insignificant, that our individual consumer choices just a drop of water in a very capitalist ocean.  

I beg to differ. Every single product or service we choose to buy sends a message about the kind of commercial and corporate practices we support. Sustainable living is about making a conscious effort to know who makes our products and where they come from.

People around the world are more aware than ever of environmental concerns. To send stronger messages to companies that we care about the environment, we have to support companies that do, too.

Conscious living and sustainable consumerism aren’t just about buying "bio" and "eco-friendly" products. It's also about making sure that the companies who make your products are dealing with ethical and sustainable business practices.

Live Consciously

You see, the sustainable lifestyle we choose is reflected in the products and services we support. It’s hard to make every choice 100% sustainable, but every little bit counts. Whenever you can, choose products and services that have more positive impact on our planet.  What's important is that we live each day more consciously and conscientiously.

We have to realise that sustainability and sustainable development are multi-generational efforts. For our children to begin living a more sustainable lifestyle, we have to set good examples and engage them in a dialogue about conscious choices.

What smart choices will you choose to make today?

January 16, 2020

A SMART WAY TO START DOING GOOD (Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs)

smart-way-to-start-doing-good-sustainable-development-goals_3

To celebrate WORLD EARTH DAY (22 April 2020) we are paying tribute to Greta Thunberg, who’s voice, heart and courage are exemplary to us all. 

These rhymes are dedicated to her, and to all the children and adults who are committed to saving our planet and making the world a better place.

A SMART Way TO START DOING GOOD (SDG)

You've heard Greta's message on climate, I'm sure:
our planet has problems we cannot ignore.
Can you save the planet if you’re just a kid?
I’d say: “Yes, indeed! It’s high time we all did!”

At school we learn all about our ABCs
so why don’t we also learn our SDGs?
The same way we need every letter to spell,
we need SDGs for the world to do well. 

Twenty-six letters to write every line:
they’re easy to learn when you read them in rhyme.
So just like the alphabet, let’s learn by heart
our 17 SDGs – come on, let’s start!  

All the world’s Nations United as one,
aiming to finally get the job done:
defining SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS,
rethinking our actions and everyone’s roles. 

So here is rhyme that is easy and fun,
so everyone knows what we need to get done.
You can do your part, now that you know 
our planet needs all of us. Ready? Let’s go! 

The ABC of SDGs

No one ever should be poor
nor be hungry ever more,
nor be ill without good care:
so life is better everywhere!

Children need to go to school.
Equal treatment is the rule.
Everywhere you go you’d see
clean water and clean energy.

With decent jobs life’s more fun, 
so growth is good for everyone.
Infrastructure is the key 
to lower inequality

We must build sustainably
our cities and communities.
Choosing wisely when we buy,
means our planet will not die.

Save the oceans and the seas,
the animals and all the trees.
For the world to live in peace,
let’s all be good partners, please.

SDG 1: no poverty
SDG 2: zero hunger 
SDG 3: good health and well-being


SDG 4: quality education
SDG 5: gender equality
SDG 6: clean water and sanitation
SDG 7: affordable and clean energy

SDG 8: decent work and economic growth
SDG 9: industry, innovation, infrastructure 
SDG 10: reduced inequality


SDG 11: sustainable cities and communities  
SDG 12: responsible consumption and production
SDG 13: climate action 


SDG 14: life below water
SDG 15: life on land
SDG 16: peace and justice and strong institutions
SDG 17: partnerships to achieve the Goals

Copyright 2019, Mara Catherine Harvey

The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
May every child grow up knowing about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and learning that they, too, can START DOING GOOD at a very young age.
Book 4, A SMART CHOICE TO MAKE will be all about SDG 12, and how our choices can make a difference to this world, every day.

December 18, 2019

The Real Cost Of The Gender Pay Gap

Mara speaking in front of an audience

I had a brief, but a very eye-opening interview with IMEX America about the Women and Risk, where I talked about the real risk that women are facing: the compounding effects of the gender pay gap.

It was one simple question that started this all actually:

How does a pay gap affect a woman over the course of her lifetime and how does it affect her wealth creation?

To be honest, I didn’t realise that asking this question would open up a Pandora’s box that would lead me to as far as creating a children’s storybook that will help facilitate money and gender pay gap discussions.

When I first encountered the question on the pay gap, I asked our Chief Investment Office to simulate the wealth growth of a man and a woman after university, in setting out their professional journey, buying a house, etc. The result was so stunning that our team couldn’t believe the output when they ran it for the first time.

After a couple of days, they finally brought the model to me and told me, “Look, we tried and we calibrated and we checked everything. The model is right, but the figure is shocking.” 

It turns out that just a 10% pay gap (a very benign assumption) and all else equal between man and woman; resulted in a 40% wealth gap over a lifetime. Just to put this into perspective: a Eurostat report last 2017 reported that the highest recorded gender pay gap in the EU is in Estonia at 25.6%, and the lowest is in Romania at 3.5%.

On average (in the EU,) a woman’s gross hourly earnings 16% less than a man.  

In my home country, Switzerland, the gender pay gap is at 17%. At about 20% pay gap, with all else equal, the wealth discrepancy balloons to 85%. 

It’s a shocking, but oftentimes, heartbreaking reality for most of us.

That is why we constantly need to bring financial awareness into the conversation. I keep encountering women who say “I’m not really as involved in financial matters as I’d like to be.” Very often, women think that their partners or spouses are more competent than they are.

You see, we did a survey on several thousands of women internationally and it turns out that 82% of women believe that their partners are more knowledgeable about money. Unless your partner studied finance explicitly, then there should be no reason that your partner will be more financially knowledgeable about money than you are.

We have to work harder not just developing women's financial knowledge but also improving women’s financial confidence. We have to develop and grow financial awareness and trust more than financial expertise. 

How do we make women aware of the fact that abdicating financial decisions is not a good idea, especially when those (wealth discrepancy, pay gap, etc.) are the consequences that you could face?

The answer to that is to start early.

Research shows that confidence is shaped by the age of 5 and adult money habits by the age of 7. So if we’re not having this conversation with little kids, especially with little girls, then we will be guilty of helping perpetuate the shocking pay and wealth discrepancies between man and woman. 

We have to start talking to our little girls (and boys) early on so that they know their worth and that they are encouraged to negotiate their worth. If they are doing a chore, can they ask extra money for it? Negotiation and knowing your worth are two skills that are important, especially when you’re entering your professional careers.

We can’t let our children grow up unaware and thinking that the world is equal and fair because it is not. We have to equip them with the awareness and the truth so that they can continue to make choices that are towards a sustainable and equal future.

Enjoy doing good this Christmas!

Smart_way_to_start_Xmas

Christmas is approaching fast and it is the most wonderful time of the year! Maybe your children will be lucky enough to receive a gift of money from relatives and friends. So this is a perfect opportunity to put into practice the learnings from books 2 - A SMART WAY TO SAVE - and from book 3 - A SMART WAY TO SPEND.

When the excitement of Christmas Day is over, have children appreciate the gift they have received by explaining to them the value of this gift: 

How many a hours of chores (which chores and at what price per hour? ) would they have had to do, to earn the amount gifted to them? This is a great way to practice mental math (super important skill for future financial confidence!) and engage in a values-based discussion. Appreciating that other people had to work hard for the money gifted is an important part of the learning journey. 

How much of this amount will be saved and how much will be spent to fulfill a Christmas wish? Remind your child not to take all their money with them when they go shopping, so they don’t fall into the trap of spending it all in one go! Setting some aside is a wise way to start planning. 

What will you chose to spend your money on? Have you made a list ... and checked it twice? Even Santa checks his list twice! The smarter the planning, the less likely any pennies will be wasted on something of poor quality or that will be played with once and then neglected. 

What about donating some for a good cause? This is a great opportunity to think of people less fortunate and teach children that sharing is caring. And choose wisely which organizations you donate to. A great starting point can be to introduce your child to the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): pick a cause that is close to your heart! 

Does “Sustainable Development Goal” sound too complex for your young child?
No worries - we made it kiddy friendly with our “Start Doing Good” poem! It teaches children the SDGs in a simple way - and it’s as easy to memorize as the alphabet! 

Enjoy doing good this Christmas! 

November 8, 2019

My Interview with CNN Money Switzerland

CNN_Mara_Harvey_Smart_Way_to_start (1)

I've been fortunate enough to have been interviewed by Ana Maria Montero of CNN Money Switzerland, where I got to share more about my advocacy for financial literacy for young girls (and boys.)

In this interview, I got to share about the statistics and motivations that got me to creating the  "A Smart Way" series.

If you're interested to watch the interview, you can access it here. Otherwise, here is the transcript for you to read. I've underlined some important points that I think captures the essence of this interview.

AMM: Do you remember the first time that someone sat down with you and talked to you about how to manage money? In my case that happened quite late in life. But I’m joined today by a guest who advocates for this skill being learned much sooner rather than later. Dr Mara Harvey thank you so much for joining us today.

MCH: Thank you for having me.

AMM: Now, do you remember the first time someone sat you down and talked to you about money?

MCH: No. Actually, I don’t really because I just remember being told how important it is to save in life but never having a real conversation about the magnitude of that, the importance of it, and how to picture it, especially in the long term.

AMM: And why is that important?

MCH: It’s important because of longevity. Very simply speaking, we are going to live much longer than we thought we would. Our children are likely to live to the age of 105, maybe, with the medical advancements today. And I look at that’s and think: that’s wonderful. How are they going to be able to afford living to the age of 105?

And I think it’s a structural problem we’re not really addressing. In addition to the problems that we already see today with regards to women and involvement in financial decision-taking.

AMM: So it’s really, from what I understand, especially from the books that you’ve written...you’ve written a series of books on instilling financial confidence in children…[that] this really happens at an early age. Is it like languages where there’s kind of like a window of financial understanding that is more difficult to overcome later in life?

MCH: There is, actually. There’s also research that points to two things and that is: that confidence is largely shaped by the age of 5 and that money habits as an adult are largely shaped by the age of 7. So that really means that it is in primary school age that children’s attitudes towards money are formed.

And I think that’s why we need to start changing the conversations if we want people to grow up with a different notion of money and ethics.

AMM: I mean I have a child in second grade and they have just started to count money in school. So but I feel like, instilling adult financial decision-making in a child...that’s quite challenging.

MCH: It is challenging but money is something that surrounds us every single day. Every time a child wants to buy sweetie or a toy or a drink...so I don’t think it’s ever really too early to familiarise them with what is the value of money but also what are the values that you are transmitting with every financial decision you are taking.

AMM: And this is the theme that runs through your books?

MCH: Yes

AMM: Not only the spending, as I understand it, but also the effects?

MCH: Absolutely. So there are two themes that are really very very close to my heart. The first has got to do with equality and the second has got to do with sustainability. And these are two themes that I really wanted to bring to children. And indeed at the beginning, friends’ reactions on the first book, which is about earning your pennies and equality. Why would a little girl earn a penny less than a little boy for the same chore?

And many people ask me: why do you need to talk to children about that? And I tested it out with my own daughter who’s now 13 (she was 12 at the time.) And I said, have a look at this little story and tell me what you think.

She reads it and says “Oh it’s really cute but I don’t get the point. Why would a little girl earn less than a little boy?”

And so that made me realise that today’s generation of girls does not know that they are going to face the same problem as my generation. I also grew up thinking the world is fair and that we’re all equal and that the only limitation to my future would be my own intellectual capacity and my willingness to learn and to adapt..so I didn’t there there was going to be any sort of disequality topic that I would be confronted with in life. And I think girls today also grow up with the naive belief that everything is gonna be fine and they’re not equipped with the skills needed.

AMM: Yes and the parents...and one thing that..again a takeaway from the book is that..and from many...a lot of research out there...that it starts not only at an early age but in the environment, in the home and the behaviour that’s learned from the parents.

MCH: Yes, absolutely. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of research that also shows, when we talk about pay gaps...usually, we tackle this from a business perspective. We think about it in terms of people’s adult life.

But there’s lots of research that shows that pay gaps are already visible with pocket money. By the age of 10, there’s already a discrepancy that can be anywhere between 10 and 30 per cent and this is across many, many countries.

And that also led me to reflect because I said that means that we as parents are actually perpetuating the patterns that have led to the inequalities today without even realizing it. Nobody does it with bad intentions. Nobody would discriminate their own daughters but they are being steered towards either more unpaid chores or chores that are just valued less...if they’re getting less overall. And we’re not teaching them to negotiate.

AMM: I think that’s a whole other conversation. My eight-year-old is quite the negotiator but then we do have to steer her in that direction in terms of negotiating when she’s older. 

But something that comes up in the first book is this idea and it’s fundamental is this idea that children are compensated for the work that they are doing.

MCH: Yes.

AMM: So that little girl on your story does separate chores in the house and she gets money for this and then she saves it. I have to tell you that sparked quite the debate at my dinner table because...you know my husband is raised in a way, in which he feels that family...you shouldn’t be paid for chores that you do for family. Children should not be taught to expect always compensation for doing things that they should do anyway. 

So how do you reconcile this?

MCH: Correct. So the jury is really out on that one. And I also do believe that we need to teach children that there are certain contributions to family life and to a household where you do not get paid for that. That is part of being a family.

But there are probably also chores where one could say “This is a chore for which you might get some extra pocket money if you do it if you do it well.” because it’s a learning opportunity and that’s what I think the conversation is really about. It’s not about you know, saying every single chore needs to have a price tag.

But it is about giving the children the opportunity to learn to earn money, to save money, and spend money wisely so we need to give them a framework where they feel they can control that. They can do a task, they can do it well, and they can get a reward for it that they can then decide “What am I gonna do with the money I’ve earned and how am I going to manage it?”

It’s really about giving them a platform to learn.

AMM: And it’s quite the negotiation that they place there. And if we look at savings, I have to say I kind of giggle to myself because you have a whole book on savings and again it comes up on the first story and then it has its own story…

But reality is we don’t even get an interest rate on savings accounts at the moment.

MCH: I know, I know. 

AMM: So how do you reconcile this? Sure it’s good to put your money away but if you don’t get anything in return…

MCH: That actually breaks my heart, and especially as an economist. The fact that we are at a negative interest rate environment is actually pretty much a tragedy if you ask me. Indeed, book 2 does try to explain the notion of compound interest to children in a very easy and playful way. I believe that it is important because ultimately that is what will allow people, over a very long time horizon, to make such a difference in the way they manage their money. 

Now it’s true that today, you cannot generate returns just on a savings account, it needs investments for that to happen...and maybe to explain investment to a 5-year-old child is stretching it a little too far. 

But I do believe that the concept of compounding over time, the concept of “if you let your money work for you, it will grow over time.”

And the way I try to explain it is: “money in a piggybank cannot work for you so you need something more.”

AMM: Which can be short-term or long-term but…

MCH: Yeah.

AMM: Another interesting distinction, which I think is very applicable to these generations and it wasn’t to ours...is the idea of digital money. 

MCH: Yes

AMM: And...I think it’s such an interesting distinction to make. 

MCH: Yes, it is. And indeed the third book on spending has a hidden chapter for that reason.

So, once you explain to a child all the tradeoffs of spending now, spending later, saving more, buying something cheap or buying something more expensive and looking at quality; the question of digital money really is so important because you realise that those tradeoffs are so much faster to make in a digital world where it’s just a swipe or a tap and the money is gone but the amount of time to earn the money is still going to be the same. It’s not necessarily going to be faster or easier.

And the same way you actually can’t touch digital money, you cannot touch the chapter on digital money so it’s actually only digital to try to make the point to children that you know...it is abstract and you need to learn about these abstract concepts. And that is again why I think these conversations around money and around digital money do need to happen early because digital is part of children’s lives so early.

AMM: So now, you’re going to have to do a chapter on cryptocurrency?

MCH: Possibly! Indeed that is already in the back of my mind for 2020. Let’s see.

AMM: That will be a bit challenging...explaining blockchain, et cetera.

MCH: Very challenging.

AMM: And now you’ve really...and now this idea of making smart choices with your money and addressing the sustainability, the planet, the sustainability development goals.

MCH: Indeed. So at the beginning of the journey was talking about values and talking about equality and the end of the learning journey is really about sustainability. 

Why?

Because if we’re going to teach children how to earn money and what it means, why don’t we also explain to them that spending money has an impact on our planet. Every single money decision on a daily basis has an impact on our planet. And if we want to change the impact that we’re having today; if we want money to be a force for good, well it’s not just about all of the investment decisions we take or all of the consumption decisions we take as adults but it’s about creating that awareness already with children that every single money decision that even they take has an impact. 

So if we get children to grow up over the next 10 years, knowing that we can do better for the planet, I think that’s a good thing.

AMM: Now if we want to broaden out quickly as we wrap up the topic of financial literacy around the world, which we know is a challenge not only for women, but also for men. I mean in general, there is still so much ignorance.

What can be done?

MCH: Look, I think we just have to broaden out these conversations everyday a little bit.

I remember having seen research that shows that on aggregate, financial literacy seems to be lower than it was 30 years ago.

So I ask myself the same question: what is happening?

AMM: We have more access to information, right?

MCH: Exactly. And I think that’s part of the problem because the information is out there. There is a whole digital world of information that you can tap into if you want to that I think the necessity to teach these topics has dropped a little bit off the priority list and I personally think that we need to go back and fix that. 

Because data is showing that we are less and less knowledgeable about long-term financial decision taking and the implications of long-term financial decisions. We can’t afford not to have that knowledge in a world where we’re going to live decades longer than the generations did 30 years ago.

AMM: Can we, then, help lift people out of poverty with financial literacy? Is this a tool that can really move that forward?

MCH: I think it’s a tool that can complement all the efforts around lifting people out of poverty because clearly, there’s the whole topic about economic value creation, creation of employment to lift people out of poverty. But once they have access to decent employment in order to be able to manage money in a way that they understand the long-term life implications.

I’m concerned about old-age poverty. I think that these conversations, both with children at the starting point (no child is going to be thinking about “where will I be by the time I retire?”) but also with adults, and to engage parents in these conversations so that they all can reflect for themselves on “Hmm, have I really spent enough time thinking about the implications for me?” I think is important, because old-age poverty risks being a female problem because the women are just going to live even longer. 

AMM: Absolutely. What about Switzerland? Where is Switzerland in this landscape?

MCH: If I’m not mistaken, Switzerland scored something like 57% on financial literacy overall and the countries that are best in mark scored 70-70+ so I find it a little sad that as one of the leading financial places worldwide, our own country doesn’t score higher and I would really make a plea for saying that I think financial education is something that needs to be in the DNA of our country. It needs to be at the core of our education systems as well. It certainly needs to be something that accompanies us on every level. Not primary school, not just secondary school, not just when people start their active life. 

I think it has to be a lifelong conversation. 

AMM: As we wrap up, I wanna take you back just to the moment where, I think it happened at Davos at the World Economic Forum, where you had that “aha!” thing and said “this is what I wanna do, I wanna write these books. I think this is the way to go to address financial literacy especially for girls.”

MCH: Indeed. The whole topic of female financial confidence was in the spotlight because we realised that the consequences of pay gaps on wealth gaps are so important. If you look at all the other aspects that influence a women’s financial well-being over her lifetime, there are so many considerations where we need to better educate or involve women and increase their participation.

But it was a comment made by Shelley Zalis, the CEO of The Female Quotient, in Davos; when she said

“Confidence is shaped at the age of 5.” And, indeed, I went to research that and it’s founded. That’s when I realised that if we tackle the problem only with adult women, we tackle the problem 20 years too late.

We essentially really need to start at the age of 5. That’s what made me want to find a way to make this fun for children and I thought “Fun? It needs to be in rhymes.” And so that’s how the books were all written in rhymes.

AMM: Alright, wonderful. Mara, thank you so much for joining us today and for sharing your story.

My Unexpected Learnings During The Fourth Book Launch

“A Smart Way To…” is only the beginning! 

Financial responsibility and gender pay equality have always been dear to my heart and I’m glad that I’m helping parents slowly open up these conversations with their children 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦

When I realized the huge impact parental guidance has on the financial habits of children, I set out to advocate that part of any responsible parenting is also integrating positive money habits to your children 💵

I want to help parents help their children become financially savvy as they grow up.

I am very happy to learn the impact and effect of my books firsthand – mums and dads alike want to empower their kids. The little girls want to read them over and over again and are actually asking for what their pay will be of the do a specific chore like cleaning the car. It’s amazing to see girls and boys alike become smarter with their time and money.

To those who attended our fourth book release and anniversary at the Birdhaus in Zurich, thank you! It is in your presence that I saw the impact of what I’m trying to do and realised that we all have more to do if we truly want to raise a generation of sustainably-minded and financially responsible children.

I’m glad that I’m seeing this goal and advocacy become a reality through “A Smart Way To..” and all the parents and likeminded people that observed this special occasion with me.

I look forward to celebrating more milestones with you all.

-Mara




October 24, 2019

“Women and Risk, What’s the Deal”, My Interview on IMEX America

IMEX_Mara Harvey - Smart way to start

I was invited by IMEX America last October to give a quick talk with them about the women’s financial confidence and the risks that women face when they give up on their financial decisionmaking.

It’s been such a pleasure to share my advocacy, as well as the questions and decisions that lead to my decision to create children’s storybooks in order to instil financial confidence and literacy to children starting at a young age.

To those who are keen to read about the interview, here is a transcription of the show:

Moderator: Can you explain to us what [Women and Risk] means?

Mara: Women and Risk, what I’m trying to get out in terms of discussion is that can we move away from the conventional notion of risk and start thinking out what are the real risks women are facing and that we are not having a proper dialogue around.

It started out when as a wealth management professional, I started asking myself a very simple question: “How does a pay gap affect a woman over the course of her lifetime and how does it affect her wealth creation?” I couldn’t find any research that answered that question and so 

I asked our Chief Investment Office to simulate it. So I asked: Can you simulate the life of a man and the life of a woman after university, setting out on their professional journey, and they buy a house and they spend…and all the other conventional assumptions you can make. And it was very interesting because when the team ran the simulation for the first time, they thought it was a mistake because they couldn’t believe the results. It was quite sad.

So after a couple of days, they finally brought the model to me and said “Look, we tried and we calibrated and we checked everything. The model is right, but the figure is shocking. And it turned out that just a 10% pay gap, a very benign assumption, all else equal, resulted in a 40% wealth gap over a lifetime.

Moderator: But 10% isn’t the actual number. I’m hearing you’re telling us the numbers like 16%, 20% almost. I think the average in the US is around 16% and in Europe, it’s above 20%.

Mara: So with a 20% pay gap, all else equal, is an 85% wealth gap.

Moderator: I mean that’s the thing. It’s huge. How do you go about changing that? I mean once you saw the numbers, you’re probably thinking “What now? What do I do with this?”

Mara: Exactly and that was the beginning of the journey in the past couple of years to say: we need to bring this conversation out there because I keep encountering women who say “I’m not really as involved in financial matters as I’d like to be.” Very often, women think that their partners or spouses are more competent than they are.

Actually, we did a survey on several thousands of women internationally and it turns out that 82% of women believe that their partners are more knowledgeable about money and I always think that unless you studied finance explicitly, why would you believe that your partner will be more knowledgeable about money than you are?

And so that effort to say we really have to look at women’s, not so much financial literacy but financial confidence. And I really think that it is a matter of awareness and trust more than expertise, strictly speaking. How do we change that? How do we make women aware of the fact that abdicating financial decisions is not a good idea, especially when those are the consequences that you could face?

And more bad news: one of the more shocking statistics that we came across is that millennial abdicate even more than the generation before them. So they are not getting involved.

Moderator: What I thought it’s getting better?

Mara: No it’s not getting better and that is the paradox that I am still trying to wrap my head around because you think that today there’s so much information available online. There’s so much speak about robo-advisory and digital marketing and so on but actually people might be engaging in that for daily payments and transactions and so on but the women are not engaging either through those channels to the extent that they could and should.

Moderator: I think you had it on though earlier when you were talking about confidence. I own my own business, I run the finances for my household but when you start talking about investment strategies and digital banking and all these other different pieces, it starts to get a little overwhelming. And it’s not that I don’t think I can do it, but I’m like: I have no idea where to start. So where do you build that confidence and when should we start having those conversations? Is it high school? Is it college? Is it earlier than that?

Mara: I think it’s earlier than that. We did indeed do a lot of work to answer those questions for women and to say “Where do I start?” and that’s exactly how we boiled it down to. Into these three dimensions of awareness, expertise, and trust.

And the first myth I’d like to dispel is exactly the one around expertise, which is: No you don’t need to be an expert on anything financial related to have the right conversations around what are the real concerns. I always say that the real question that people should ask themselves is not what equity market risk might I be taking if I’m investing, it should be “Can I maintain the quality of life by the time I hit 80?” To have an advisor that helps you navigate those questions is way more important in my view.

And where should the conversation start? Well, it turns out that research shows that confidence is shaped by the age of 5 and adult money habits by the age of 7. So if we’re not having this conversation with little kids and especially with little girls who we need to give a massive boost in terms of talking about money to. So they know their worth, they are encouraged to negotiate their worth. If they are doing a chore, can they ask money for it? That is a skill they are gonna need for life.

Moderator: I am over here, feeling like I want to pass out. I have an 11-year old daughter and I have to think about the conversations about money and finance with her and beyond having an allowance… it’s good to save money, that’s the message but that’s not clear enough, that’s not talking about your worth. I don’t know what it is I’m supposed to be communicating. So what are the messages and how do I figure out what those are?

Are there resources?

Mara: Well, there are now. I actually spent the first 18 months developing a book series for children. Specifically for the girls, but it’s okay for the boys too, to really enable parents to have those easy conversations with kids and they’re written in rhymes so think Dr. Seuss around money. And to make it fun and to make it easy to start talking about money. What is it that you need to talk to kids about?

I think we need to tell them clearly money doesn’t grow on trees. But really empower them at a young age. “Maybe I get a monthly allowance. Maybe there are also chores I can do additionally because it allows me to earn and to take influence on what I can earn. 

The second very important message for kids is: money in a piggy bank is great but it cannot grow. You can only fill a piggy bank but your money is not growing. You need a savings account. You need to explain to kids the notion of compound interest. I know it seems quite abstract but I try to take that topic and make it digestible for children.

So I believe that these very important messages around money need to be brought to children at a young age but for me, it was never just about the money aspect of it, it was also about the ethics around it. I think we need to talk to little kids about equal pay and I’ll explain why. And I think we also need to teach little kids about sustainability so if we’re teaching them to earn money, why don’t we teach them how to spend money and that their money choices impact the world every day.

Now on equality: why do I think we should have that conversation with little kids? When I wrote the first story, A Smart Way to Start, I had my daughter proofread it and she was 11 years old when she read it the first time and she goes “Oh mum this story is so cute but I don’t see the point. Why would a little girl earn a penny less than a little boy?”

And so that really made me realise that if my own daughter’s growing up not realising that she’s going to have to fight for her salary against pay gaps and really be engaged in changing the world because we’re not yet there and I think the World Economic Forum estimates that it’s going to take over 100 years to close pay gaps. That means even my grandchildren will still have to be fighting for this.

So if the little girls today grow up thinking that the world is equal, which by the way is how I grew up 40 years ago, thinking the world is equal..if I’ve got a good education, everything is going to be fine.

We can’t let the next generation grow up with that naive belief. We need to equip them with the skills that they’re going to need for the future.

Moderator: And not make it cynical. We were talking before went on air about the fact that, especially with the #MeToo movement over the last 2 or 3 years, women are talking about how much money we earn and we’re bringing it out of the shadows, making it not taboo and saying “I make this per hour and that guy makes that per hour and that’s crazy. I’m not going to do it for that. You’re not going to get me for a discount because my work is better than his.”

Moderator: I think what we’re seeing is we’re seeing this stripping away of the superficial layer of what’s appropriate or not appropriate about talking about finance as a woman. Why is this even an issue? And yet, when you talk about it, you’re here talking to the people at this conference because it is an issue, it is still a problem, it is still a thing where we have an issue sharing this financial information and talking about money. Why?

Mara: I think it’s because all of the semantics around money are very biased. There have been studies that have shown that if you look at the media messages around money, 80% of the messages targeting men focus on how to earn money and 80% of the messages targeting women focus on spending money. 

That’s when we just need to realise that money messages are very biased and we need to de-bias them and we need to find a way of empowering girls to talk about money and to talk about earning and making money the same way we talk about money with boys.

October 1, 2019

BOOK LAUNCH And Anniversary Party!

Dear readers,

What a difference ayear makes!

A SMART WAY TO START is celebrating its first anniversary and YOU are invited!

And what a better way to celebrate than with the launch of book 4!!

A SMART CHOICE TO MAKE is all about sustainability and teaching children that their money choices matter and impact our planet!

Wait until you see the illustrations of the forest animals and ocean friends!

We hope you’ll love them as much as we do!

After the very positive feedback we received on A SMART WAY TO START / TO SAVE / TO SPEND (and its secret chapter on digital money) we sincerely hope you will enjoy the next part of the story.

All four books will be available for sale as set at the book launch party so this is your opportunity to get your special edition!

Mariajo and I will be happy to sign them for you!

So if you are searching for Birthday or Christmas gifts for other children, search no further: gift them financial confidence!

We are delighted to to invite you to our book launch party the 24th of October, from 6pm to 9pm at

BIRDHAUS, Brandschenkestrasse 150,
8002 Zürich

Please do SHARE the good news with all of your friends who might like to bring financial confidence to children far and wide.

 We appreciate all your help to spread the word!

And a very big thank you for all the encouragement to date.

We are thrilled to have so many enthusiastic readers and supporters, so please do keep on sending us feedback or photos of kids enjoying the books: they bring us so much joy indeed!