Category Archives for "All"

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
January 27, 2020

Parental Guide: Good Money Habits This Money-Giving Season

marty with money gift

I hope you had a very happy holiday celebration with your family! As the festivities dwindle down, I want to discuss with you what happens after all the gift-giving. This article is about discussing with your kids how to save money given to them. After all the physical and monetary gifts, another gift we can give is helping our kids develop good money habits, financial confidence, and responsibility.

Impart Financial Confidence By Showing Your Confidence

The best way to impart financial confidence to your child is to show them that you believe in them. When you talk to your children about money, especially their money gifts, make them realise that every decision they make is theirs.

Remember to offer your suggestions and your guidance, but do not force or push your idea in favour of theirs.

Here are some points for you to remember whenever you're talking to your child about what to do with his/her holiday money.

Don't forget to remind them about good money habits and saving

One of the things that should be constant is reminding your kids about saving their money. Talk about financial responsibility but don't be too insistent about it though. Mention it a casual manner while conversing.

Here are some tips on how to open up the conversation and subtly advocate for good money habits:

"I saw that your Aunt Berniece gave you $150 dollars for Christmas. That is so kind of her! Do you already know what you want to do with it? How much do you want to spend and how much do you want to save?

"If you don’t know what you’d like to buy just yet, why don't you put it aside for now? We can go to the bank together to open a savings account for you."

"Have you considered giving a small part of your Christmas money to charity or an animal shelter? We can have a look at them together if you want."

The goal is to inject the ideas in their head, but not order them or tell them that it's something they should be doing. Rather, you suggest to them the good practices that you think they should be doing. You then offer to go with them or help them out if they choose to take your suggestion. After all, the money was a gift to them.

Give them ownership over their money decisions

Let your kids buy their toy or chocolates or sweetie if they want to. The money was gifted to them. It's their money and they have full control over how to spend it.

Remember that you are trying to open a discussion with your kids how to save money given to them. Giving them ownership over their money decisions will allow them to make mistakes. As parents, we hate for our kids to make mistakes and suffer from the consequences of their mistakes. But we have to remember that mistakes are the best teachers.

It might hurt to see them be a bit careless or lose some money. But we have to let them stand and walk on their own two feet. When they realise that mum and dad will not pay for their mistakes; they will begin to think twice and begin to be more conscious of their spending.

Your advice is a piece of advice, not a command.

You have to remember that every time you give your children advice on what to do with their money, it is just advice. This means that they have the option of not accepting your advice and doing something else.

Let them. You have done what you could by making sure that you give them guidance towards good money habits; let them decide what to do with it.

Kids can learn and develop confidence, independence, and a good sense of responsibility. It's up to our role as parents to make sure they develop it by encouraging the right conversations and good habits towards it.

Did you enjoy this article? If so, please subscribe to our Monthly Money Tips newsletter to get advice on raising financially confident and responsible kids.

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)


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.


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:
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.

January 13, 2020

Marty’s World: Meet Francis

Francis_Smart_Way_to Start_2 (1)

Francis is Marty’s inseparable friend!
Their friendship is strong 
and won’t come to an end.
Marty found Francis when he was just small
He fell from his nest in a tree very tall.

The poor little birdie lay flat on the ground,
He might have been eaten, had he not been found!
Lucky for Francis that Marty was there,
She took him back home and gave him good care.

She made him a nest and gave him some food,
he seemed to be happy and in a good mood. 
He chirps when he sees her, and whistles a song,
He follows her everywhere, the whole day long!

Favourite Food
Cake crumbs, tiny bugs and earthworms.

Favourite Quote
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.

Francis is named after Francis Bacon (1561-1626), an English philosopher and
statesman who is credited with developing the scientific method and who was influential throughout the scientific revolution.

Why Gifting Your Kids Money For The Holidays Is A Great Idea

mum giving amrty money

Happy holidays, fellow parents! This article is something that’s very relevant for the recently concluded holiday season. I'm going to be talking about gifting your children money for the holidays.

Caught in-between?

Sometimes we’re stuck between:

  • giving our kids things they’ve always wanted (like a toy, shoes, clothes, etc.)
  • giving them money so that they can have more freedom with the gift you’re giving them.

As an advocate for financial responsibility in kids, giving your kids money for Christmas is a good choice. 

I can feel that this decision might raise some eyebrows for some. But let me explain why I think money-gifting is a good idea.

Gifting the kids money allows you to engage them in money conversations.

When your kids open their presents, you can begin to talk to them about money. You can talk about saving it for the future or allocating money in different “budgets”. It is also an opportunity to give them light tips about responsible financial ownership

You can also consider gifting your child a piggy bank together with the money. That way, you can nudge them towards putting all (or a part of) the cash into the piggy bank.

Reminder: The money you are giving them are gifts, meaning there should be no strings attached.

When you are gifting your children money for the holidays, you have to remember that the money you are giving them should not be subject to too stringent  “savings conditions”. You shouldn’t tell them that they can't spend the money. The money you give them is theirs and they should have the freedom to spend or save it in any way they want to. But you should certainly engage them in a dialogue around what they want to spend on and why it would be sensible to save some.

We want to give them confidence in the choices they make involving their own money. You are using the gift as a tool for opening up responsible spending and saving habits with kids.

I don’t recommend gifting cheques or digital money to younger children. Cheques are very abstract concepts and children cannot understand deep abstract concepts yet. They are still not able to understand that a piece of paper with the amount written on it can equate to real money.

Stick to cash for younger children as it is more concrete. As I mentioned in one blog post, it is important to concretise the concept of money.

Take advantage of kids' receptiveness for tactile and kinesthetic experiences.

I recommend breaking the bigger bills into coins or smaller bills! Because this allows a more tactile experience for them. They can count smaller bills so that they can see how coins or smaller bills can make twenty, fifty, or even a hundred! This imprints to them that even the smallest amount will contribute to wealth-building.

Aside from that, don't be dismissive when they ask you follow up questions as you give them tips on saving. Children are naturally inquisitive and curious beings, so they are bound to ask. Use that to your advantage. Explain the importance of saving but also don't forget to remind them that the money is theirs.

Be responsible money gifters!

Part of responsible financial parenting is making sure that our kids do not create unrealistic expectations on receiving money. So I would like to remind you to discuss expectations with your kids.

Do not forget to explain to children the concept of gift and that the money given are gifts. You have to let them know that they should not expect to receive such amounts every Christmas or special occasion.

When you give cash gifts that children will personally be handling and counting, make sure that the amount is appropriate for their age. There's no point in handing over something like $1000 dollars to a 7-year-old. They won't be able to understand the immense value of such big money. The things they want won't reach that value anyway. You’d rather gift them a smaller amount they can manage themselves, and transfer the rest directly onto their savings account, for example.

Fellow parents, I hope you and your family have a very wonderful holiday celebration. I hope this quick article helped you decide on whether you'll be giving your child money for the holidays or not.

If you find these tips useful, subscribe to my Monthly Money Tips newsletter.

Happy holidays!

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.

Why Teaching Your Kids About Money Is Important

mum teaching marty about money

As parents, we all want the best for our kids. We want our kids to get the best upbringing, the best education, the best quality of life, and the best financial situation. An important part of raising our kids and giving them a good upbringing is making sure that they grow up to be financially responsible individuals. We are the biggest influence on our children’s development and it’s important that we set good examples and become more transparent about money with our kids. This includes teaching our kids about money.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

An annual study created by T. Rowe Price called Parents, Kids and Money Survey last 2017,  showed that parents are likely to pass down good and bad financial habits to their kids. This survey sampled 1,014 parents of 8-14-year-olds in the US, which analyzed parents’ attitudes and behaviours that were associated with kids’ financial habits. The survey found that positive money behaviours and expectations among kids are often associated with parents’ decision to let their kids decide how to save and spend their money on their own, as well as parents becoming good financial models. Negative and troubling money behaviours and habits were also frequently seen on kids who have a troubled history with money.

The good and bad habits that our kids learn and develop come from us, so we have to be more aware of how we discuss and treat money in front of our children. 

We are the key to our own kids’ financial success. It's important that we figure out how to teach our kids about money and how to slowly inculcate the money habits that will accompany them through adulthood. 

We have to be diligent when it comes to teaching our kids about money.

We have to start exposing our kids to money and let them participate in small money decisions. That way, they begin to develop a very clear and concrete view of the value of money and how it works. 

With the rise of credit card usage and the increasing number of digital and blockchain payments, the notion of currency is becoming more and more abstract. If children are not able to get a grasp of the actual exchange of money and goods, then they will develop the idea that money is endless and easy to come by.

Also, our children do not see us save when all our money interactions are digital. They do not see our salaries being wired to our accounts, and part of that being wired to our savings account. These distant digital-only transactions make it all the more important to create interactions around money at home for children to observe and copy. 

Get Started on Teaching Your Kids created a simple guide on how to slowly introduce your kids to money including how to slowly introduce these concepts in everyday practice and everyday encounters.

Ages 3-5

The time you start teaching your kids about the concept of delayed gratification. You teach them that whenever they want something that they don’t have the means to purchase for, they will need to wait and save up for it.

Ages 6-10

You show kids that money is a limited resource. This is when you need them to participate in actions that will allow them to practice transacting with a limited amount of money and making purchase decisions based on the budget you set.

Ages 11-13

You can begin to teach more abstract concepts like compounding interest. At Smart Way To Start we believe that it is important to explain the notion of interest even earlier - and help children as early on as possible that money in a piggy bank can’t grow. You can only fill a piggy bank but the money inside it does not grow. For that you need a savings account, so your money can be put to work. We think it is very important that children learn this from a young age, because every year counts when you are compounding interests. The earlier you start, the more money you earn.

Introducing early the notion of interest is key, because once children understand it they can also understand why debt can be dangerous. Compound interest on money you owe can make the amount owned increase very rapidly - especially with high interest rates on consumer debt. So when you children are teenagers and might receive their first credit card, It is very important to discuss  responsible credit card ownership and finance charges. 

Ages 14 and above

At this point, your child would be reaping from the fruits of the financial teachings you’ve been imparting since age 3, and the best you can do is to continue to be open about finances and money with your child.

If you want to learn more about how to slowly introduce your kids to money, I've provided 5 easy tips on this article.

If you’re interested to receive Monthly Money Tips,  an email series that will help parents like you raise financially savvy children, you can sign up through the link below:

A Christmas story…

Xmas_Marty_Smart way to start

A Christmas story...

A Smart way to Start 2019 Advent calendar:

December 1
One Christmas night, not long ago,
I woke up thinking: ho-ho-ho!
I tiptoed quietly in the dark.
No single light shone, not a spark.
It wasn’t even morning yet.
I went outside, my socks got wet.
The snow lay pristine all around
and covered every inch of ground.

December 2
The sky was black, the birds were still,
I tiptoed past the windowsill.
I shivered in the winter air,
the frost was stiffening my hair!

December 3
I tried to look up at the roof,
to see if there was any proof
of reindeer prints or sleigh ride marks...
I couldn’t see, it was so dark!

December 4
I ran back in, with frozen toes,
and suddenly felt all aglow!
I really wanted to rejoice
but realized... I’d lost my voice!
I could not shout: “Hip hip hurray!”
Nor cry out loud: “It’s Christmas Day!”
It was quite sad, I could not sing,
I could not say a single thing.

December 5
A Silent Night it is indeed.
This is the last thing that I need!
My voice is hoarse, I cannot call,
no sound, no word, no noise at all.
Just yesterday my voice was here.
Why did it have to disappear?
It can’t be something that I ate!
So maybe I stayed up too late?

December 6
Last night I watched The Santa Clause,
my favourite film and that’s because
it makes me smile and laugh out loud,
I feel as if I’m on a cloud!
What would you do if you had found
Santa’s suit lying on the ground?

December 7
I’d wear the suit, step in the sleigh,
And wish that I’d be whisked away!
I’d fly across the sky and cheer!
(And hope I just won’t grow a beard!)
I really wish that i could be
a little helper too, you see.

December 8
My very biggest dream of all
is to work up at the North Pole!
As chief of staff for all the elves,
and check the toys upon the shelves:
making sure that every toy
will go to the right girl or boy.
Wrapping each and every game,
all neatly labeled with a name.

December 9
We wouldn’t have a single muddle,
so every bear will get a cuddle!
A child who says: “I love you so!
Why Santa Claus, how did you know
that this is just the bear I need?
Exactly this one! Yes, indeed!”

December 10
There’d be no Naughty list this year,
so children needn’t ever fear!
We’d fill the sleigh at the North Pole,
without a single lump of coal.

December 11
The children on the list are Nice,
there’d be no need to check it twice.
Each stocking would contain a toy
so every child would smile with joy!

December 12
I then watched ELF and sang along…
that must be why my voice is gone!
I sang each single tune out loud
I felt so happy and so proud!

December 13
Each chorus line, each jingling bell,
I know all of the songs so well!
I sang out loud for all to hear,
spreading lots of Christmas cheer!

December 14
So now I cannot even speak.
Nor sing, nor shout, nor even squeak!
This very simply will not do!
It’s Christmas Day, there’s lots to do!

Enjoy the countdown to Christmas with our Advent Calendar and Marty’s
 Christmas Story on our Instagram account.

MERRY Christmas

Mara Catherine Harvey