Pujyasri Jetty Financial Education Entrepreneur
by Team Sammy
Pujyasri Jetty Financial Education Entrepreneur
We are pleased to have Pujyuasri Jetty from Hyderabad, India and founder of Money Nook share some first childhood money memories and insights on kids and money with us.
Welcome and thank you Pujyasri!
Team Sammy: Please share with us a little about yourself and your family so readers get a sense of who you are.
Pujyasri Jetty: Hello Sam! I am 28 years old and am a Computer Science Engineer! I did my MBA from NITIE (National Institute of Industrial Engineering). Post MBA, I went to work with Procter & Gamble for 4 years and had different roles in Supply Chain.
Last year, I quit my full time job, took a break and started Money Nook with an aim to increase financial literacy and simplify managing finances. Over the last year, I held 18 financial education sessions and taught over 1500 people how to take charge of their personal finances.
I currently live with my husband in Hyderabad, which is a city in the South of India. We have been married for 3 years now.
When I am not working, I enjoy going to long walks, cycling, reading fiction & fanfiction. I am currently dabbling my hand at art.
Team Sammy: Tell us about what it was like growing up – your family and community?
Pujyasri Jetty: I grew up in Tenali, which is a big town in Andhra Pradesh, a state in South India. Our home is in Ithanagar, which is an agrarian village but is within Tenali. We are a family of 6.
My father is a lecturer in Government Degree College. My mother is a home maker. My grandparents lived along with us. I have an elder brother.
Given my dad is employed and my family owned a bit of agriculture land, growing up, we had more than enough money to live comfortably and had access to good education, etc. I studied in good schools and colleges. I got the benefit of masters for tuitions.
My parents always supported my brother & I for our education and things we wanted. They also emphasized as we grew up the blessings we have – be it in terms of good health, good family, opportunity to explore & pursue what we want etc. They encouraged us to be sensitive & emphatic to the situations around us.
Living in a village atmosphere in a financially, socially heterogenous society, I realized early on that awareness, education and money are the differentiators.
As I grew older, the differences started manifesting in various forms. I saw few of my childhood playmates getting married as early as 15, 16, 17 and continuing lives without the benefit of education. By the time I joined college, completed my bachelors & started masters, their kids started school. And though there are interventions from Government, Social Organizations, I believe it will take time, awareness & opportunities for this cycle to break.
Team Sammy: What was one of your first money memories?
Pujyasri Jetty: One of my first money experiences was during my 5th Standard. I was 10 years old then (In India kids start school at 3. Kids attend Kindergarten from 3-5 years and start Class 1 at 5 years).
During my 5th Class, my school completed 3 decades since inception and to celebrate the milestone conducted various competitions for students.
The only competition with prize money was talent test, where the students are assessed their knowledge on various subjects studied at school. I won the first prize and received INR 1116 as prize money. (In India typically money is gifted as 11, 108, 116, 1116, etc., as it is believed to be auspicious).
My dad suggested, we buy a silver bowl with that. We bought a silver bowl & spoon weighing around 100 gms. My dad got my name, date of award engraved on the bowl. I still have the bowl with me. Today it would cost approximately INR 7000 – 8000 (~$100).
Team Sammy: What was your first saving experience or memory?
Pujyasri Jetty: My mother and father never gave us pocket money. If we wanted something, we would have to ask them for it. They would decide to whether to buy it or not.
Given that neither my brother nor I were outrageous in our requests and my parents were in a comfortable position to buy the things we requested, most often they would buy what we wanted.
They applied the same philosophy to gifts and rewards. My parents did not believe in rewarding us if we did well at school or in other stuff. They used to encourage us and they may have got us a chocolate or ice cream. But it was never a monetary rewards or big gift.
They believed in giving us toys or any gifts based on the utility of the items and our interest in them, irrespective of our performance at school.
Given this background, when I was around 13, in my 8th standard, I thought it would be good to have some pocket money, just to experience it.
I thought my parents might not agree, so I went to my grandfather who is a bit more indulgent. I told him I wanted some pocket money. We discussed and I negotiated to have INR 10 as pocket money per week. He agreed.
He used to give my brother and I INR 10 or 20 for every festival when we were kids. So, I requested he restart that. He agreed to that as well. So, every Sunday afternoon, once my Mom and Dad asleep for afternoon siesta, I used to tip toe to my grandfather's room and collect my weekly dues and make an entry in my pocket book.
We continued this for 1 year and then I requested he increase my portion to INR 20 per week. He agreed again and continued giving me INR 20 for one more year. During that period, my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and left us.
After he passed away, I told my Mom, I took the money and gave her my savings and the pocket book (close to INR 1500).
I felt proud to have saved something of my own and even prouder to have accounted for everything. That single habit of accounting, which I unknowingly developed in childhood, stuck all these years and I believe that is my best financial habit.
Team Sammy: Did you save in a piggy bank, savings jar, use envelopes or another mechanism?
Pujyasri Jetty: I had a piggy bank as well as muntha (Piggy Bank made of Mud). We used to put INR 1 or 2 occasionally. But as our parents did not give us pocket money, we never had a formal system in childhood.
However, as we reached our majority, our parents, started giving us an allowance and encouraged us to spend and invest as we like.
Team Sammy: Share a little about it with us. What about your children?
Pujyasri Jetty: My husband and I are yet to have kids. But in future, we plan to start giving pocket money to our children & encourage them to budget it for spending, saving and investing.
Team Sammy: What was your first formal savings account at a bank, credit union or another type enterprise?
Pujyasri Jetty: My first account was with a Post Office (in India Post Offices spread across the country are the points of access for the majority of the rural population and even the urban population 20 years ago).
My father opened an account on my behalf when I was less than 10 and saved some money. My mom and grandparents used to add money to that occasionally. I was not aware of it until I completed my masters at 23.
When I was about to start my first job at 23, my dad & mom gave me INR 2 Lakhs (then, that was approximately $3,000 USD). This was the result of random deposits to my savings account. He asked me to invest or spend the money as I like. I invested the entire money in the Stock Market and I have continued to stay invested.
Team Sammy: What was your first job (formal or informal)? How much did you earn and what you did with the money?
Pujyasri Jetty: My first job was with Procter & Gamble as an intern and then a full-time employee. I interned with P&G for 2 months while pursuing my MBA.
P&G India has the policy to handover the entire internship payment on the first day of internship (which was fantastic).
So, at the age of 22, I received a paycheck of INR 160000 (~$2400 at then USD – INR).
I invested 60% of it in stock market and the remaining 40% I spent on a Kindle for myself and different gifts for my parents, brother, grandparents, uncle and aunt.
Team Sammy: Did your parents talk to you and/or teach you about money / personal finance growing up? What do you remember? What, if anything stuck?
Pujyasri Jetty: As kids, my parents did not teach explicitly about money to my brother and I. But we noticed as we grew up they gave importance to comfortable living versus luxurious living. And they lived a life below their means.
At around 18 or 19, my parents gradually started talking about money and life choices in general. They talked about our ancestors, how they worked and saved, about people around us, their financial and other life choices, and the results from them. A few things or examples that stuck were:
(1) Live below your means
(2) If you don’t give in to people opinions and splurge for major occasions like a wedding by taking loans, you can stay debt free & enjoy freedom for rest of your life. (This is something my father’s grandfather taught him & he passed on to us. My great grandfather was born and grew up in a time when India was not yet independent. Agriculture was the source of income for majority and people used to have a lot of children and struggle to make ends meet. In India, marriages are celebrated big, as big as possible and a dowry is given to the female child. He believed, if we don’t splurge on that, one day, we can stay debt free.)
Team Sammy: Besides your family, did you have any other money mentors as a child or teen?
Pujyasri Jetty: I read the book ‘Rich Dad & Poor Dad’ during my teenage years. But back then I did not understand all of it, though bits and pieces stayed with me.
Team Sammy: At what age and how did you come to realize money had a value?
Pujyasri Jetty: I am not sure. But I started to seriously think about it at age 23. Prior to that though I was interested in businesses and used to make plans. I was never conscious about money.
Team Sammy: What was one mistake and one smart money choice you made as a kid or teen?
Pujyasri Jetty: Smart Choice – Accounting for everything. This I believe is my biggest strength. By virtue of this habit, I understood my income, expenses, and cash flows. Building on this discipline, I started budgeting and making my financial plans by the time I started earning money.
One Mistake – I did not learn much about money as a kid. I believe some knowledge as well as avenues to earn money as a kid would have been great (In India, the majority of middle class or above kids typically don’t work till they complete college. Neither are gap years, exploratory internships, etc., encouraged. Kids more often than not complete school, including college and then start working).
Team Sammy: What piqued your interest in personal finance?
Pujyasri Jetty: My interest with personal finance started at the age of 23. I was in my last trimester of completing my MBA and had an offer with P&G.
Given, I received a well paying job offer and was about to start earning, I thought its time to learn more.
I started learning about different investment options, starting with tax saving schemes, retirement accounts and other options. As I studied more I understood more and started investing my internship money as well as money from my post office account.
My job location is in Mumbai, the financial capital of India and the most expensive city in terms of real estate. I realized that despite having a well-paying job, the affordability is a challenge especially once I started to have a family. That’s when I started to think more about managing my finances. This put together with an aim to start something of my own in future prompted me to learn more about saving and investing.
Team Sammy: Does giving back start with focusing on your own financial health? What should we be teaching kids about giving responsibly?
Pujyasri Jetty: Yes, I believe we should start focusing on our own financial health in order to give back to the society in a sustainable and worry-free manner.
I am not yet sure about how to teach kids about giving responsibly.
Team Sammy: One question I ask everyone is: If you could only teach a child one money habit, what would it be and why?
Pujyasri Jetty: If there is one money habit, I would teach a child it would be budgeting and planning.
I feel this is the basis of a healthy financial life. Budgeting is nothing but converting your life goals and dreams to financial milestones in the best possible way you can.
I believe a lot of self-awareness, prioritization goes into making a budget that helps one understand where they stand. It help give them confidence about themselves and their future.
Team Sammy: Please share your thoughts on the following questions:
Q. Is it important to teach kids about money? Why? At what age should parents start?
Pujyasri Jetty: I believe it is important for parents to teach kids about money. Because developing good habits, awareness and building knowledge as a child compound over time and helps the kids as they enter adulthood and manage bigger responsibilities.
Q. Should personal finance be taught in schools?
Pujyasri Jetty: Yes, I believe personal finance should be taught in schools. Too much emphasis is made on gaining skills needed to make money and far less on how to handle the money made.
Q. What is more important: how much you make; how you manage what you make; or some other factor?
Pujyasri Jetty: I believe how you manage is more important!
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