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Financial Leaders Explain How Early Experience With Money Shapes Success

April is Financial Literacy Month and CNBC features advice from our frequent contributors and guests. Here’s what they think about financial literacy and its impact on their lives and on future generations of American consumers, savers and investors.

Noah Kerner is the co-founder and CEO of Acorns, a micro-investing app that helps users save and invest their money.

Kerner, who earned a degree in economics from Cornell University, learned about money — and that everyone should learn about money from an early age — when he was 17 and working as a bank teller.

“I went through all of this training to learn how to serve customers well, how to explain money to customers, and how to help them manage their money, and this educational experience, for me, was incredibly important and invaluable,” Kerner says. “And I actually think if everyone in their teens or even before could go through the process of learning to be a bank teller and learning how to help people with their money, it would make them much more effective at managing their own money.”

Many people discover money when they get their first job. As a child, Bob Greifeld, who would become president of the Nasdaq, learned that working hard at a first job can teach lessons that last a lifetime. He had a job that Warren Buffett also once had.

“As a young child, I learned about money by having a paper route. I mean, it’s certainly in many ways, a microcosm of all the business lessons I’ve had throughout of my life… to be involved with money, to profit from your hard work, is a fundamental life lesson. And I’m so glad to have it.

CNBC contributor Sarat Sethi is a firm believer in personal finance lessons for every student in school, and he’s not alone. Earlier this week, Georgia became the latest state to require high school students to take a personal finance course to graduate.

“I strongly believe that a course in personal finance should be given to every high school student. It should be given to every college student. And I think every consumer needs to understand what personal finance means to them, what it means for now and what it could mean for them in the future.”

Ana Valdez’s financial literacy journey didn’t begin until a little later, when she came to the United States at the age of 28. The entrepreneur grew up and was educated in Mexico City. Coming to the United States meant that Valdez had access to capital and other sources of growth, but to understand the deals she was signing, it was imperative that Valdez learn financial skills.

“There were opportunities to grow my business…access to capital, from banks, to VCs, and all the sources of growth that could bring to life a fantastic idea that probably wouldn’t have happened in another country. .”

Even though it’s been since childhood, the pandemic has led many young Americans to invest in the markets for the first time, and now they’re getting their first lesson that markets don’t just go up. A popular face on CNBC’s “Halftime Report,” Joe Terranova knows firsthand how important financial literacy is to being a successful investor, which takes on even more importance as market volatility has increased and that the gains from the pandemic boom dwindle.

Novice investors need to be aware of and understand the risks, especially at times like these.

“Financial literacy has a positive impact on Wall Street. It creates market efficiency. It provides liquidity and without a doubt, it creates strong demand for investable assets, both traditional and non-traditional. In addition to this, it creates an awareness of leverage and risk and an investor who better understands risk and leverage in the markets is a more successful investor.”

April was a wild ride for the markets. Volatility can scare off even the most seasoned and experienced investors. CNBC contributor Steve Grasso agrees with Terranova that in addition to understanding the risks inherent in investing in stocks, having financial knowledge allows investors to take advantage of situations of volatile market.

“During periods of volatility or selling, there’s money to absorb those selling. And they’re not as dramatic as they otherwise would be if you didn’t have that liquidity in the overall market. So, Wall Street thrives on capital, the more capital there is, the healthier Wall Street is.The more financial knowledge people have, the more capital Wall Street gets.

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