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VIEW: Financial awareness has never been our plus point. And it is not our fault.

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Money and finance are almost like that optional question in an examination which you are never prepared for and will always attempt its alternative.

VIEW: Financial awareness has never been our plus point. And it is not our fault.
Authored by Rajan Bajaj
What comes to your mind when you hear the words ‘savings’ or ‘capital gains’? If you are under 30, then I am fairly certain that your first thought is probably to call your parents and check what this is about. Money and finance are almost like that optional question in an examination which you are never prepared for and will always attempt its alternative.
But this is the norm, so what is the problem?
Well, the problem is that while everything in our lives has evolved for the better at a young age - whether it is the smartphones we carry or the places we travel - our financial intelligence has not. A 20-year old today can potentially build a disruptive app and save lives but might still not understand how to get the best personal loan deal from a bank. And the biggest reason is that teaching the young about how money works in the real world has never been a priority.
Since the very beginning, an erroneous belief system that children will eventually learn about money management when it’s ‘time’, runs in our families. This is often backed by another unrealistic belief that they will probably learn about money matters in school or perhaps in college. This almost definitely never follows through and eventually trial-and-error stands to be the ultimate financial teacher.
The vicious cycle keeps on repeating and the ‘time’ never really arrives. I remember that I first understood how 'interest rates' are calculated after I took an EMI using my credit card. I went into each detail of my monthly installments and rediscovered the concept I was taught much earlier in elementary school. It's a really simple concept but I was never taught how to apply it in real life — so who was I to blame?
Financial awareness has literally never been our plus point and it’s definitely not our fault. We come in millions and with us resides the world’s biggest treasure trove of dormant financial potential.
According to a Morgan Stanley report, India has 400 million millennials while a recent Bloomberg analysis says that India’s Gen-Z population will rise to 472 million next year. A generation that is so tech-savvy, prompt, always on their phones, juggling between apps and have a somewhat disposable income that they don’t mind spending - if they aren’t taught how to understand money and finances, it’s a big, long-term loss for our economy as a whole.
Some of the most fruitful financial decisions are made in our early years. When you just start working and have the least liabilities, you can do a lot - from investments to building your credit score to planning a big, long-term purchase.
Without discrediting a simple savings account or a fixed deposit, our lives have evolved a lot and there are some amazing avenues that we now have access to build our wealth and get rewards and benefits that enhance our lives. However, in the absence of a streamlined, yet simple financial education structure, young adults in India are forced to go through some of the milestones of their lives, like, their first job or first freelancing project without being equipped with the knowledge or skills to manage the money that they earn.
While parents, schools and society, in general, can play a big role in bringing this change, I strongly believe that new age fintech companies can also efficiently bridge this gap. Education and advocacy should be a big part as entrepreneurs build their companies ground up.
Along with opening a gateway to easy set-up processes, linear transaction methods, secure payment options and pocket-friendly deals, it should be on fintech organizations to pave the way for an easy, streamlined, extremely accessible and fun process of education-first financial services.
Rajan Bajaj is CEO and founder at Slice. Views are personal
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