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S4: EP 8

When you understand that our mindset toward money typically begins as early as 3 years old, you realise just how deep the impact is of the messages transmitted in childhood when it comes to attaining financial freedom.

In today’s episode of the podcast, we are joined by two distinguished guests from the worlds of financial literacy and education, Dr. Mara Harvey and Sabeen Nanji, who share fascinating perspectives to empower the next generation with essential financial skills and ethical values.

Dr. Mara Harvey is a senior leader in the finance world with an illustrious academic background stemming from Harvard, Fribourg, and IMD. With over two decades of experience in wealth management, she has worked extensively with UHNWI families and led global social and digital innovation initiatives in the financial industry. She currently serves as the CEO of VP Bank for the Switzerland and European Region. Mara is also the author behind the children’s series, A Smart Way To Start. And she holds the title of educator under her belt, launching the world's first masterclass for parents to 10x their children's financial future, which is endorsed by the UN.


Sabeen Nanji is an accomplished educator with a rich foundation in Montessori philosophy, having honed her skills at the prestigious Maria Montessori Institute from an early age. Armed with a degree in Psychology with Philosophy from the University of Exeter, she has embarked on a journey of lifelong learning, obtaining her AMI Montessori Diploma in London and later delving into a Master's program in Integrated Provision for Children & Families in the Early Years. Since 2014, Sabeen has been an invaluable asset to our family business, Step By Step Montessori, where she has grown to become the Co-Director over a decade-long journey, demonstrating exceptional leadership with an unwavering dedication to shift educational paradigms. As she shares with us, ‘Montessori is not just a method; it’s a way of being with humans that nurtures their true nature and we must get it right from the beginning.’



Our discussion begins by exploring our guest's earliest memories of money and how their first encounters have shaped their financial mindset. As Mara recalls, aged 5, her father asked her to sweep leaves in the garden on a windy Autumn day, conveying the message that she would have to sweep to the very last leaf to earn her pocket money. Reflecting back, this anchored her belief that in order to earn money, a job needs to be done to perfection. But it was also an underlying message of work ethics. As Mara shares, “it was implied that I wouldn’t question how much money I was given, it was about satisfying my dad to perfection, and it was his judgement on what my work would be worth, so it was actually disempowering in a way! Because we didn’t have a conversation about what the job is actually worth and why we're doing it. Instead, it was about meeting someone else’s expectations and being thankful for it.” This mindset of perfection in order to be worthy has taken decades to undo.

Sabeen shares that her earliest memories were of saving coins in her Minnie Mouse piggy bank. There was always an implication that she should save money, which discouraged her from being a spender growing up, but yet there were never actually any conversations on what this all meant, and crucially, how she could grow what she saved. 

Both Mara and Sabeen underscore the critical importance of starting financial education at a young age. Many parents make common mistakes when teaching their kids about money, leading to long-term consequences. One of the biggest mistakes is avoiding financial conversations due to discomfort or fear of burdening the child. This leaves children unaware of their responsibilities as they grow in life. Emphasising spending without equal focus on saving or investing fosters impulsive buying and neglects long-term planning. Sabeen beautifully phrases that “in the early years, we are building up the habits of the mind”. She highlights that children naturally absorb money values and beliefs from their parents, so it is critical for them to think deeply about what they are transmitting because the messaging we receive is what builds a solid or weak foundation. Eye-openingly, this is all shaped between the ages of 3-7 and as Mara summarises, “money is not just a transmission of value, but of values passed on from generation to generation”. 



The transition from analog to digital money significantly impacts the mindset toward money, particularly for younger generations. This shift presents unique challenges and opportunities in how financial education is approached and internalised.


The movement from physical to digital money means that children today often interact with money in a highly abstract manner. Sabeen eludes that while we, as adults, experienced the tangible nature of money by physically exchanging it, today's children frequently encounter money through a digital experience, such as seeing parents use Apple Pay. This abstract interaction of cashless spending can hinder their understanding of the true value and mechanics of money, as they miss out on the concrete experiences that help build a foundational understanding of financial principles which could affect our future generations significantly.  "As our experience with money becomes more digital, we must adapt our educational approaches to ensure children grasp the value and ethics behind money," she notes.


Given the abstract nature of digital money, Mara emphasises that it's crucial to start building solid foundations with hands-on experiences such as using coins, banknotes, and piggy banks, before transitioning to dealing with digital currencies. It’s also important to remember that because digital transactions are often instantaneous, they can contribute to a mindset geared toward instant gratification. She warns that without proper financial education, children may grow accustomed to the ease of digital transactions without understanding the effort and discipline required to earn and save money. This can lead to poor financial habits and an inability to manage money effectively. 




Mara particularly emphasises the ethical dimension of financial education. She advocates for teaching children that money is not just about power, greed, and competition but also about empowerment, equality, and environmental impact. She stresses that ‘children absorb money messages from their surroundings, and it's crucial to guide them intentionally’. It’s also critical for children who inherit wealth to understand their responsibility instead of entitlement. This understanding is crucial in shaping a generation that views money as a tool for positive change rather than merely personal gain. 


It’s also imperative to be aware of the education children receive (or in many cases, do not receive!), in the classroom. As Sabeen shares, ‘the classroom should reflect society’ but sadly financial literacy is not part of the syllabus. However, there are still important principles children can learn while at school, like self-control, and community which help them understand that freedom comes with responsibility and ethical behaviour, preparing them for responsible financial decision-making in the future.

Throughout the episode, the symbiotic relationship between financial literacy and education is evident. Mara and Sabeen's collaborative insights illustrate the importance of integrating financial education into early childhood development in order to navigate our financial futures confidently.

As the episode draws to a close, they both provide profound insights into their respective fields and the future of financial literacy and education, underscoring the importance of collaboration, creativity, and passion in driving positive change.

We also uncover:

  • Rising above materialism despite societal influences

  • The impact of gender differences in financial education

  • How our mindset towards money has changed over the years

  • How Montessori principles can support holistic child development

  • The differences between needs and wants when it comes to money

  • Common mistakes parents make when teaching their kids about wealth

  • Strategies for integrating financial education into children's daily routines

  • Overcoming our own financial challenges to effectively teach our children


To hear the full conversation, tune into the Mission Makers podcast available on Apple and Spotify.


Be sure to like and subscribe to stay updated with our latest episodes.

Lessons To Fuel Your Mission
  • it is critical to build our foundations correctly

  • we must bridge the gap between the abstract and tangible experience of money

  • the way we phrase difficult situations has a profound impact on our ability to transcend them


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