A recent Diana Award recipient sets her sights on educating the younger generation in financial literacy

WHILE many young people struggled to land a job, especially during the pandemic, 25-year-old Mathura A. Kannan stepped down as chief executive officer of youth movement Ascendance, a position she held since the age of 19.

While she serves as an advisor to the movement, she has decided to dedicate her time to pursuing her passion of educating youth on financial literacy.

Mathura, who is on track to becoming a chartered accountant through the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, has been conducting various activities to raise awareness on the issue.

She recently earned The Diana Award, which was established in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, and is given to a young person aged nine to 25 for performing social action or humanitarian work in the United Kingdom.

“It was a true honour to receive the Diana Award in 2019 alongside my co-founders of Ascendance. Through this platform, we have been able to connect with many more young change-makers from around the world,” said Mathura.

$!Mathura (fourth, from left) with her colleagues from youth movement Ascendance with their Diana Award. – courtesy of Mathura A. Kannan

What challenges did you face as a young CEO?

“I think just like any young entrepreneur, the biggest obstacle I faced was my lack of experience and awareness. We learned everything with a lot of trial and error.

“However, as much as this was a challenge, we were able to handle it because of the support and guidance we had from our mentors at ET Ideas (a platform for youngsters to find their passion). They helped us and guided us so much, from organising events, preparing content, doing proposals, to presenting to corporate partners.”

What inspired you to raise awareness about financial literacy among youth?

“I have always been fascinated with money and business since I was a child. However, I never took much effort to learn about personal finance. Despite doing accounts for business and discussing how they can manage their finances better, my own finances were in a horrible condition.

“I did not have a savings habit, I did not have any motivation to increase my income and become independent. I just did not know about any of it. At one point, I had a reduction in my income and I could barely cover my monthly commitments.

“I started questioning how I managed my finances. I started learning a lot about it and making small changes.

“Eventually, I did progress and grow in terms of my personal finance. I also realised that I wanted to share this with more youngsters so that they do not make the mistakes I did.”

What kind of activities do you conduct?

“The Money Matters talk show, which is conducted weekly on Sundays at 3pm on Facebook and YouTube. I interview individuals on various topics related to personal finance, business finance and entrepreneurship. We have featured over 25 entrepreneurs and individuals from various backgrounds, who shared their personal experiences.

“(I also conduct) talks or mini-workshops. I have been fortunate to be invited to several universities and colleges in Malaysia to speak on the topic of personal finance and how young adults can get started.”

How do your personal finance workshops and coaching help avoid financial crisis?

“The Personal Finance Workshop conducted quarterly with my mentor Joyce Lim is a four-hour workshop specially for young adults, where they learn the basics of what they can do to start managing their personal finances.

“This workshop has benefited individuals who have constantly faced issues with their finances and have developed a certain level of fear towards the topic. In this workshop, we break it down into simple steps and principles they can work towards.

“By interacting with other people, participants usually come to realise that they are not alone and can handle the obstacles and come out stronger.

“In Personal Finance Coaching, I guide young adults regularly to set into the right habit patterns in managing personal finances. I help them to analyse their current standing, goals and progress as well as help them to build basic habit patterns that would enable them to reach their financial goals.”

Why is it important for youth to have knowledge on financial literacy?

“It is one of the basic things to know about as a human beings in this era.

“We can choose to complain about this not being taught when we are young, but as youngsters, we need to take charge of our destiny and learn what needs to be learned.

“Money is just a tool to achieve our goals and if we can understand how it works, how we behave with it and more, we can achieve all of our goals much faster.

“My advice is to start now and find someone to guide you. It can be me or anyone else who can meet your needs. No amount of theory can beat experience. So, start as
soon as possible and this will give you the needed advantage.”

What is your future goal?

“My goal is to build a generation of youngsters who understand that money is a tool and use it as such. A generation that will value people more than money. Together with my teams in Ascendance and Simply Empowering, I believe we can build a generation that can do so.

“In fact, one of our upcoming ventures, which is a book that I will be releasing soon in December, will serve as a guide for the younger generation and pave the way towards making this vision a reality.”


What is your favourite book?

“The Seven Basic Laws of Nature. It is a book that changed my life.”

What do you read to keep yourself updated with finance?

“Catch Up on Google Finances Watchlist News mostly.”

What skills did you pick during the MCO?

“Cooking. I never did it before the MCO.”

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