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Sep 2, 2021

Interview with 16-year-old financial education advocate and author Ella Gupta

We interviewed Greenlight ambassador, Ella Gupta, who published a book for teens about personal finance when she was a sophomore in high school. We asked her about her book, how she got started and what she sees for her future.

Greenlight: Tell us a little about yourself!

Ella: I am a financial education advocate. My first book, Gen Z Money $ense, was recently published. I am also interested in sustainability and educational equity.

Greenlight: Why did you decide to write a personal finance book for teens?

Ella: When I was in elementary school, my family had two close friends who were both diagnosed with cancer. One was a nurse’s wife and the other an orthopedic surgeon. Both were unresponsive to traditional treatments, but experimental treatments had excellent results. However, the treatments were not covered by insurance. While the orthopedic surgeon was able to afford his treatments, the nurse’s wife was unable to pay for hers out of pocket and passed away. These two very different situations awakened me to the reality that money is a tool and touches all aspects of our lives. 

Greenlight: What was your goal in writing a personal finance book for teens?

Ella: Through my book, I hope to empower Gen Z to be the most financially successful generation ever. I realized that there were no engaging, digestible personal finance books that explored relevant topics today, such as cryptocurrencies and cashless payment systems. The financial landscape is more complicated than ever and many Zoomers are not sitting at a desk with a desktop to manage their finances. Many of us are managing money with our phones, and it’s critical that we are able to make smart, informed decisions in this new domain. I felt compelled to use my voice and unique perspective to create an engaging resource that explains foundational financial principles in a fun, relatable way. The book covers topics ranging from budgeting to taxes to diversification.

Ultimately, my goal is to democratize financial education for everyone and to level the playing field for those who have less financial opportunities. 

Greenlight: What makes your book unique?

Ella: I wanted to write the book that I felt was missing. There are several financial guides written specifically for millennials but not for Gen Z. My book is by Gen Z, for Gen Z. It is written in a way that my generation can relate to and presents information in a fun, accessible manner. The book is also unique in that it covers both fundamental finance and investing topics in addition to relevant topics, such as ESG investing. 

It combines pragmatic instruction with insights gleaned from my personal interviews with financial experts, such as Greenlight CEO Tim Sheehan and CNBC Squawk Box co-anchor Andrew Ross Sorkin. 

Greenlight: What topics does the book cover?

Ella: The book is divided into four sections. Part 1 discusses what makes Gen Z unique when it comes to money and why we are so well positioned to generate wealth. Part 2 covers foundational personal finance topics, and Part 3 is an investing 101 guide. Part 4 covers timely, relevant topics, including Environmental Social Governance (ESG) investing, investing apps, and cryptocurrency. At the end of each chapter is a bulleted list with key takeaways called “Z Notes” as well as a couple fun facts relevant to the topic. 

Greenlight: What money quote or money wisdom has most guided your approach?

Ella: I love this quote by Farnoosh Torabi: “We often say you have to be wealthy to invest. That’s not true, but you do have to invest to be wealthy.” This quote encapsulates my financial philosophy. I also think that it applies to other aspects of life. To reap rewards, you must put in effort.

Greenlight: What’s something inspiring you learned or gained a deeper understanding of while working on your book?

Ella: The Time Value of Money (TVM) is the most important concept in my book. Although I understood compound interest before, I truly gained a deeper understanding of the long-term difference that waiting even one year to invest can make on your nest egg. This concept has truly led me to view my financial decisions with a different lens. 

Greenlight: What was your favorite part of the book to write?

Ella: My favorite part of the book to write was Chapter 10: Buy Low, Sell High. I introduced the stock market and investing in this chapter. Investing is a powerful wealth creation engine, and there is so much to learn about the stock market! This chapter covers a lot of ground. It discusses why investing at an early age is so important, the relationship between the stock market and the economy, the differences between trading and investing, and more! 

Greenlight: What are your thoughts on financial literacy and financial education?

Ella: I believe that every student in America should have guaranteed access to a personal finance course prior to graduation. Learning about personal finance is just as important as learning how to ride a bike. It is crucial to understand how to effectively save, spend, protect, borrow, and invest money. Money touches every aspect of our lives. Becoming financially literate at a young age can not only prevent costly mistakes but also enable young people to begin to build wealth and utilize their greatest advantage: time! If teens begin paying attention to their finances today, they can form habits that will pay dividends for the rest of their lives.  

Greenlight: What was your first experience with earning and investing?

Ella: When I was ten years old, I started my first business selling Rainbow Loom bracelets. I made around $500 in profit and donated half to a pet charity and invested the other half in the stock market. I invested in companies like Apple and Disney with the help of my parents because I was familiar with their products. I was fascinated with the idea that I could own pieces of the companies I loved through investing. When I began my first job cleaning dental instruments in a dental office at age 14, I opened a Roth IRA.

Greenlight: What do you see for your future?

Ella: I see myself continuing to promote financial literacy. While writing the book, I came across a statistic in a Greenlight study: the financial gender gap begins as early as age 13. I would like to use my unique perspective to do my part in reducing this gap through empowering young women to take charge of their financial futures. gen

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