Why Marilyn Pinto wants children, teens to learn financial literacy at a young age

Founded by Marilyn Pinto in 2017, Dubai-based KFI Global is a financial education company imparting financial literacy to children, teens, and young adults.

Why Marilyn Pinto wants children, teens to learn financial literacy at a young age

Tuesday April 11, 2023,

5 min Read

Key Takeaways

  • Since its inception, KFI Global has taught close to 6,500 students.
  • Its pedagogy is focused on changing behaviour and mindset towards personal finance.
  • It undertakes financial education initiatives in partnership with companies.

Most businesses stem from a necessity. For Marilyn Pinto, it was a lack of awareness of the basics of finance earlier in her life. 

“We had absolutely no discussion on money in our family. Like most households, things were expected to work out with age,” she says.

“I pursued a Master’s in Business Administration. It taught me a big fat zero about money. They teach you how to handle company money, balance sheets... but nobody tells you what to do with your first salary, how to save, start investing, or have a different mindset about it,” Pinto adds.

Marilyn Pinto

Marilyn Pinto

Now, as a mother, she realised her eight and ten-year-old children’s school syllabus also did not have finance-related fundamentals, and conversations surrounding money management were negligible. 

To not repeat history, Pinto received a certification from the National Financial Educators Council and started educating her kids on finance at home. 

Soon, she realised the learning process could be more refined with a structured programme and the help of teachers, which translated into her venture, KFI Global—a Dubai-based financial education company.

“I realised it is something we [parents] should not take personally. Most parents have difficulty teaching their kids. But when the children are in a space with their peers and learning from professionals, it goes down a lot better,” she tells YourStory Gulf Edition (YS Gulf).

Founded in 2017, KFI Global specialises in teaching the basics of finance to children in a bid to help them make smarter money decisions. It offers separate programmes for nine to 12-year-olds, teenagers, and young adults.

Imparting financial education

KFI Global has partnered with financial institutions and corporates, including Dubai Islamic Bank, Emirates NBD, National Bonds, and TECOM, to impart financial education to children. In fact, they also sponsor the programme in various schools.

The pedagogy is focused on behaviour and mindset change towards handling personal finance.

The firm holds five-hour-long classes for two days. Speaking on its effectiveness, Pinto says, “Financial literacy is not something you have to keep learning throughout your life. It is about introducing somebody to the concept and making them understand the awareness they need to have."

“The programme is free for the school and students. Sometimes, the classes are mandatory for the students. Other times, we offer it as an option on a first come basis,” Pinto says.

KFI Global also offers another model, where schools purchase its programme for students and pay the firm to deliver the pedagogy to their students. 

For nine to 12-year-old kids, KFI Global focuses on money mindsets, money management styles, understanding credit, common money mistakes, budgeting, types of investments and associated basics, frauds, scams, and more. It has divided the classes into three levels for teenagers and young adults. 

“Real life will not present you with a situation where you will have to give me three examples of good debt or bad debt. It will be more like, ‘Why is this a good debt in this particular situation?’ ‘Is it a good debt for you?’,” Pinto says.

Since its inception, it has helped over 6,500 students globally gain financial knowledge.

Marilyn Pinto

Interestingly, KFI Global does not give students a traditional test at the end of the programme. Instead, it engages them in the concepts they have learnt through quizzes and similar activities and sends one quiz after the programme ends.

“I keep telling children that there is no test now because once you’re an adult, you’re going to be tested on your money knowledge every single day, typically about 10 to 12 times a day,” she adds.

At present, KFI Global has six individuals in its team. Besides Pinto, it has two more teachers taking classes and also freelance teachers on board.

Looking ahead

So far, KFI Global has partnered with nearly 30 schools and universities, including Middlesex University, Heriot-Watt University, Amity School (Abu Dhabi), Amity University (Dubai), and others. The company is bootstrapped since its inception with about AED 150,000. 

It competes with the likes of Education 10X, EverFi, Greenlight, and Go Henry, among others.

While many fintech companies offer products aimed at facilitating financial literacy, Pinto attributes traditional classes to be more effective for children.

She says, “The discussion, debates, and activities a financial education programme entails will help drive the concepts in a way that augments learning by making retention, recall, and reflection a key part of the programme. Fintech products don’t do this.”

As the world continues to head towards a cashless society, Pinto asks parents to be careful with their choices and ensure their children’s first interaction with money is physical.

“We’re just waving a card over a wireless [device]. Children do not see or understand the value of money, especially youngsters. I think, giving an allowance in cash really makes a big difference because it becomes tangible for them,” she says.

Meanwhile, KFI Global launched a nationwide campaign to encourage financial literacy—Fin-Ed UNITED 2023—where it will deliver its financial education programme to students across the UAE.

Marilyn Pinto

For this, it has collaborated with educational institutions, educational authorities, government bodies, financial institutions, and corporates.

Advising women entrepreneurs, Pinto says, "The entrepreneurship journey is brutal. So, ensure you have to wherewithal to stay the course. Trust the process; consistently showing up and delivering excellence is bound to pay off."

(Cover image designed by Chetan Singh)

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Edited by Suman Singh