June 16, 2024
Finance

The financial lesson Alexa von Tobel wishes she’d learned as a kid


“Rather than spending the $2 today, let me invest it and I’ll spend [more] in a few years,” says von Tobel, who is a founder and managing partner of venture fund Inspired Capital. 

Like most children in the U.S., von Tobel received “no formal education” on personal finance. It wasn’t until she was already an adult that she fully learned the skills she needed to be wise about saving and spending.

“Money becomes real when you’re making it yourself and spending it yourself… So, in your 20s, we all understand that you quickly are learning about money, whether you want to or not,” she says. 

Von Tobel’s own childhood experiences with money inspired her to found online financial advisory LearnVest in 2008, which she later sold for a reported $375 million to Northwestern Mutual. When she was 14, von Tobel’s father passed away and she watched her nurse practitioner mother assume control of the family’s finances. As an adult, recalling that experience convinced von Tobel that the average person could use more personal finance tools at their disposal.

That same belief played a big role in von Tobel’s latest project: writing a children’s book aimed at teaching young kids, especially girls, about personal finance and how to earn, save and spend money. She partnered with children’s media brand Rebel Girls to write the book, called “Growing Up Powerful: Money Matters,” which will be published on March 26.

The book features lessons for kids and teens on a range of personal finance topics, including setting savings goals and creating a budget, or even a business plan. It also includes a whole chapter on investing.

“Appreciating that you can have your dollars work hard for you, and on behalf of you, is a really powerful concept,” von Tobel says. 

‘A skill set that you need for your whole life’

Given her success as a fintech founder and investor, von Tobel clearly mastered that particular financial lesson eventually. But, it’s one she believes all children can benefit from learning early on to put them on the path to future success. 

Understanding how the value of an investment can compound over time is related to the “concept of delayed gratification,” von Tobel notes. 

That would be the ability to resist acting impulsively in order to receive greater benefits down the road, which is an important milestone in a child’s development — one they start learning around the age of 5, research shows. It requires mastering your self-control and helps you prioritize and achieve long-term goals, leading to greater success in the long run.

“That concept is very powerful,” von Tobel says. “I feel like teaching kids that delaying gratification, making smarter choices [and] trade offs, is really a skill set that you need for your whole life.”

Learning the long-term benefits of investing, making your money work for you, is exactly the type of “empowering” lesson that von Tobel wants kids to take away from her book. 

Von Tobel is a mother of three young children herself and her hope for them, and any others reading her book, is that they learn smart and healthy money habits at an early age. That means, in part, learning to view money as a “powerful tool [that] can change their life” if they learn to wield it effectively, she says.

“Money is a very fun thing. And it doesn’t have to be something that we orient with stress [as adults],” von Tobel says. “It can be something that we orient with empowerment, and living the life you want to.”

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