People & Perspectives: Paridhi Jain, Founder of SkilledSmart

Paridhi from SkilledSmart
 

Paridhi Jain believes that getting good with money shouldn’t be hard, scary, or boring.

We couldn’t agree more!

Paridhi is the founder of SkilledSmart, an education program she calls ‘money school for adults’. Whip-smart and passionate about helping Australians better understand their finances, we caught up with Paridhi to discuss why adults need money lessons and how her early career speaking to people in financial stress planted the seed that led to SkilledSmart.

Tell us a bit about SkilledSmart.

SkilledSmart is an independent financial education institution (or, as I like to describe it, a ‘money school for adults’) that runs educational programs and events for adults about money, wealth and personal finance.

When I looked around, I found that financial advice was too expensive for most Australians, and there were too many ‘vested interests’ in the industry that really eroded consumer trust.

I wanted to create a safe space where Australians could learn practical money skills without worrying about being ‘sold’ something, or whether someone was earning a commission for pushing a product.

So our flagship program is a 6-week program that covers everything from budgeting and life insurance, to investing and superannuation. It’s been designed around all the foundational components a financial planner would typically go through with a client.

Students get to learn from an experienced financial professional at a significantly reduced cost (who, ordinarily, charges thousands of dollars!) and the program is practical from day zero, so students implement their learnings and get real results.

Did you have a light bulb moment when you realised you could help people learn how to ‘money’ better?

Early in my career, I worked with the Cancer Council’s Pro Bono Legal & Financial Advice arm, and I spoke to countless Australians who were experiencing a lot of financial stress.

It was the first time I saw first hand how many people struggled with understanding finance, and how far reaching the consequences of being financially fragile were. Until then, I think I had taken my financial education for granted.

A few years later, I had a more personal experience. I decided to change my super fund and started asking other people which super fund they were with.

This opened up conversations about money that I’d never really had before, and I quickly became aware that most people – regardless of age, gender, or profession – felt seriously lacking in confidence when it came to money.

This was a big wake up call for me. I couldn’t comprehend why or how the vast majority of our society can feel so under equipped to deal with something that we need to use almost every single day, till the day we die…something that significantly impacts our lifestyle and quality of life.

SkilledSmart lesson
 

Why is there so much confusion and even shame around money and managing your own personal finances?

I think money is still very taboo to talk about. I often hear our students share that, growing up it was frowned upon to talk about money at home. Even amongst friends, it’s often considered impolite and very personal to talk about finances.

So, this environment of secrecy makes it very hard to really learn about money, let alone share your own story without fear of judgment. After a while, people start to feel that they “should know this by now”, so they get to a stage where they feel too embarrassed to ask or admit that they don’t know.

It doesn’t help that the industry likes to use big words and jargon that most people feel intimidated, overwhelmed or completely confused by!

Are there any key themes that you see across your students on money and finance?

One of the most interesting things I’ve seen is the shift in the emotional relationship people have with money after going through the program.

So many students come in feeling confused, overwhelmed, intimidated…and once things have been simplified, and they overcome the hesitation in talking about money, they start to really enjoy learning about money in a way they never anticipated.

That emotional shift has far-reaching implications: it means they start voluntarily seeking out opportunities to learn more about money, it changes the conversations they have about money with their family and friends, and it changes how they feel about their own finances.

I think that emotional shift is probably more important than just financial tactics, because it makes people self-motivated.

Should financial literacy be taught in schools?

The short answer is: I think the basics are important in schools, and there are efforts being made to include those basics in schools now. The longer answer is: I think it’s complicated.

There’s only so much that can fit into a school curriculum, and often teachers themselves don’t have the financial training to teach more than the basics.

That’s actually why, at SkilledSmart, we make sure classes are taught by financial professionals who have worked in the industry. Another factor is that students may simply not be ready to fully absorb the lessons.

Adults pay more attention to finance because it’s an everyday reality for them, but at the school level money can seem a bit abstract when you don’t have an income let alone a household budget of your own to manage!

Paridhi from SkilledSmart
Stockspot CEO Chris Brycki speaking at a SkilledSmart event.

What are the two most important financial lessons you think everyone should understand?

1. The difference between money and wealth: far too many people think that earning a big income, or having fancy things, is the measure of how ‘rich’ someone is. This often lends itself to consumerism, lifestyle inflation, and generally poor financial decisions. This is also why many people feel like their income keeps increasing but they feel like they’re not “getting ahead”.

2. How income is converted into assets: I find that once people understand how their income can be used to create wealth through investing in assets, and how those assets can help pave the way for financial security and financial independence…it’s like a light bulb goes off, and suddenly they see the purpose of money in a completely new way.

Are you a saver a spender or an investor? Is there anything you’ve really splashed out on that you’re prepared to disclose 🙂

I’m a bit of all three (like everyone should be)! In all truth, I think it’s changed over time. When I was younger I was a bit of a spender, nowadays I’m more of a saver, but actively working towards a healthier balance between all three.

Probably the biggest thing I’ve ‘splashed out’ on was my wedding…by Australian standards it was elaborate, but by Indian standards it was kind of “small” so…I guess it’s all relative? Haha!

Complete this sentence: When I think about money I…

When I think about money, I think about having options and choices. Although it’s commonly said that ‘money can’t buy happiness’, there are a lot of really important things money can buy: security, healthcare products and services, vacations etc.

Used well, money can help to support and enhance your quality of life, and assist you in living a life aligned to your values. In essence, I think money (when properly managed and used) can give you a lot of options for how you live your life.

You can find out more about Skilledsmart here.

 

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