ELLA GUPTA SHARES HER FINANCIAL LITERACY MISSION
At 14, I opened a retirement account!
If I’m being frank, it was my parents idea. For as long as I can remember, they intentionally decided to instill in me their values on money.
DIRT BROKE FINANCIAL LITERACY
My parents are doctors. When they had just gotten married and were completing their residency in Baltimore, Maryland, they were, as my mother puts it, “dirt broke.”
THE TINY TABLE
When she would pay bills, she would place them on a tiny IKEA glass table and sit on their apartment’s carpeted floor; they could not afford a couch.
One day, my mom sat at that tiny table and calculated how much money she and my father owed in student loans. She also calculated how long it would take them to pay off their debt if they made the minimum payment due. What she discovered made her feel as if she “had just been punched in the gut.” She discovered, that combined, her and my father had six figures in student loan debt and it would take decades for them to pay it off.
AN INVESTMENT IS KNOWLEDGE PAYS THE BEST INTEREST
Consequently, she began to learn all she could about personal finance. She invested hours going to the library and reading everything she could on how to manage money. What she discovered was this:
“You have to learn how money works if you want to make it work for you.”
FINDING A WAY FORWARD
My parents each worked 80 hours per week, earned less than minimum wage, and somehow “lived below their means.”
My father now tells me stories about the “good, but not so good old days” and of times when his old car wouldn’t always turn back on if he turned it off. Because he couldn’t afford to have it fixed and gas was cheap, there were times when he would keep the car running the whole day and just lock it.
People would often make comments to my parents about their house. They would say things like, “Aren’t you doctors? Why do you live in a place like that?” The answer was simple. They were determined to become debt-free. Except for socking money away in a savings account, all their income went to paying off their loans.
And debt-free they became.
After zeroing out their debt, my parents began investing in the stock market and growing their money. They were able to move to North Carolina and make a down payment on a home. When I was born, they built their own home. They were able to start a family and create a college fund for my sister and I. Now, they are able to enjoy themselves and live with total financial freedom.
My parents do not want my sister and I to experience what they had to go through. So, that is why since we were young, it was important to them to instill their money values in us.
They wanted us to know the importance of living debt-free and investing in the future.
They would use trips to the mall to teach us about opportunity cost. They would ask questions like, “By purchasing that T-shirt, what are you really giving up? 30 bucks? What if you invested that $30? How much would it be worth in 10 years? 20 years?”
DAD AND CNBC
My dad frequently discusses the wonderful force of compound interest with me. His advice, harness it and “invest every penny I can.”
Hearing CNBC in the background has become normal for me. I used to sit with my dad and watch program after program, scrunching my nose in an attempt to make sense of what the anchors were talking about. Now, I understand much more than I did before and have even had the chance to interview some CNBC anchors for my upcoming book.
THE BIG PAYOFF AND OPPORTUNITY
Here is my main point, money isn’t and never has been a taboo subject in my house which has been an enormous benefit for me. I think it can be for other kids as well. I would encourage other parents not to be afraid to have discussions on money with their children. There is a saying that we can learn something from everybody. We can learn from mistakes and successes. So, whether your financial situation is good or not so good, it is an opportunity to learn. Don’t give up that opportunity. The cost of not learning about personal finance can be enormous in terms of lost freedom and reduced security, not mention the stress poor financial choices place on our health and relationships.
So, that is why at 14 I had a retirement account. And I am excited to share with you how those funds continue to grow in the coming decades!
Discover more about Ella Gupta’s and her mission:
See her bio below.
Visit her LinkedIn profile and learn about her forthcoming book: Generation Zinance.
Check out her contribution and thinking to Sammy Rabbit’s Teen, College and Young Adult Financial Literacy Discussion Panel #2.