This month I had a wonderful conversation with Ms Laura Weston: devoted mother and dog owner, as well as an inspirational financial services entrepreneur, podcaster and money coach. The day was grey and wet as so many of our winter days are, but we sat cozy and warm in my kitchen over a cup of tea while I learned how excited she is to be working with young people…
AF: Let’s start with you introducing yourself, please.
LW: Sure, my name is Laura Weston. I live here on the Park and have done since 2009.
AF: A nice long time!
LW: Yes, we were one of the first houses! I’ve got three young children who all go to Fairfield school and a little puppy named Daisy as well. So a busy household!
AF: It does sound really busy! What do you do for work?
LW: I run my own business called Savvy Peacocks. And we’re on a mission to financially educate the next generation. So we’ve just launched a programme to help and support young people to get as prepared as they can do for adulthood around finances.
AF: Oh, wow, that sounds really interesting and so needed! Do you go into schools to teach children or is it something that parents sign up for online? How does it work?
LW: We have been going into schools but parents can sign their children up for online classes too. It’s the same programme whether it’s the private classes or in the schools. It’s a six-week programme. In the schools, they can put as many students as they want through the sessions; in the private course, I take up to 10 children per session. And the way it’s been running is for local businesses to sponsor the local schools, which has worked out quite nicely. And then the private classes sign-up has just launched this week, and they’re going to be starting after the half term in the evenings and the weekends, as well as another one after Easter. Financial education isn’t on the official school curriculum. There are lots of schools that kind of play around with it, but what we do in the programme is real vital life skills that children need to take into adulthood. So not just as simple as what’s a bank account; what’s a standing order, etc. But much more in-depth, like what’s a credit score and how to influence it and how you can use credit effectively and what to be aware of… things like that.
AF: I had to take a class in high school called Home Economics. You learned the basics of running a household and I remember a section on budgeting – essentially how to balance a cheque book. And I don’t recall feeling like it was hugely helpful. My financial literacy developed many years later when I taught myself by reading certain books. But how much better would it have been for me if my school provided things that were really practical?
LW: Yeah, exactly! Or you were in a group where you could have interaction on those topics? And what I’m finding is that that age range is really inquisitive. They have extra questions they want to ask, and so it’s really important that financial literacy is taught by someone with expertise like me, rather than by a teacher who may well have their own funny hang ups around money. Young people need to learn how to structure their savings and think through what they’re saving for and how to break that down and how to decide in advance how they want to spend their money, all of those kinds of things that are actual, real-life skills that are more in depth than just your basics. The basics don’t cut it.
AF: You mentioned ‘that age range’ – what ages do you teach?
LW: We work with 14 to 18 year olds, so anyone in secondary school. I’ve specifically chosen this age range because that’s the stage when children are starting to think about approaching adulthood. They’re starting to think about what jobs they might want to go off and do. The children who complete our programme get a certification at the end, which they can show their colleges, universities, future employers, etc, and say, I’ve been through this financial education programme – and that’s really powerful. I also put quite a big emphasis around embracing their entrepreneurial spirit! We do a section around how to earn money, and how you might be able to bring your business ideas to life; at the end of the programme, participants get the opportunity to come into the Savvy Academy where I mentor them for their first six months in business. So that’s about structuring finances. They learn to generate money from lots of different avenues and take control of revenue streams themselves so they aren’t beholden to being put on furlough or being made redundant – it’s very liberating!
AF: To have that kind of relationship with your own finances at such a young age must be incredibly empowering! When I was a teenager – and even into my early twenties, actually – I almost felt a little afraid of money, in the sense that I wasn’t confident about managing it. Opening bills would create a huge amount of anxiety in me, and it took years of educating myself during my mid-twenties to reach a place of confidence with it.
LW: Just imagine you’d had that knowledge and confidence when you were 15 and the difference of an extra 10 years of financial health… 10 years is a long time isn’t it? Secondary school students can be doing things now to prepare for their future. And what I’m quite passionate about is making sure that they don’t set themselves up to fail before they’ve even got started!
AF: That sounds amazing, and so rewarding! Where can people find your programme?
LW: Anyone interested can visit my website at http://www.savvypeacocks.co.uk/courses. As I mentioned, it’s a six-week programme and we’ll be doing all sorts of fun things with the kids, like a money mythbusting segment and a round like Dragons’ Den! I also have a podcast called Money Savvy Parents for anyone who is keen to learn techniques and tips about how to discuss money and finances with their children. And I also co-host a Clubhouse chat room every weekday morning at 8:30am called Savvy Women in which we promote a safe space for all female led businesses to come and share experiences, offer advice and create collaborations.
AF: Perfect – thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today!
LW: Thank you, Amber!
Amber Fortier moved to Fairfield Park in 2017 with her husband and three young children. She is originally from New York.