10 books that every teenager should read
 
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This article was originally written by me for The Mission

 

The common thread running through the following selection of books is that I feel each is best read by individuals during their formative years. That being said, there countless other books that inspire and influence teenagers to achieve great things; this list is not exhaustive — 10 is just a handy number.

1. ‘The Richest Man in Babylon’ by George S. Clason

“‘A part of all I earn is mine to keep.’ Say it in the morning when you first arise. Say it at noon. Say it at night. Say it each hour of every day. Say it to yourself until the words stand out like letters of fire across the sky.”

Originally serialised in an American newspaper, George S. Clason’s classic illustrates undying truths about personal wealth through eloquently written parables set in ancient Babylon. This short book is especially pertinent in today’s world where it is all too easy to forget the merits of saving and investing for the long term. The book is definitely essential reading for anyone who aspires to financial independence and is recommended by countless billionaires, entrepreneurs, and businesspeople.

2. ‘On the Road’ by Jack Kerouac

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”

This cult classic has been read by just about every wandering soul that has ever bought a bus ticket just to experience a journey. Based upon his experience of travelling around the USA and Mexico for seven years, Jack Kerouac’s magnum opus chronicles the various characters he encounters along the way, including the enigmatic Dean Moriarty (who was based on Kerouac’s friend Neal Cassady). Through all its ups and downs, the book perfectly reminds readers how many of life’s pleasures are beautifully simple.

3. ‘Atlas Shrugged’ by Ayn Rand

“What greater wealth is there than to own your life and to spend it on growing? Every living thing must grow. It can’t stand still. It must grow or perish.”

Another cult favourite — this time among ambitious students, Wall Street financiers and libertarian-inclined tech pioneers — Ayn Rand’s most famous book is not a light read. The gargantuan novel, which sprawls across more than 1100 pages, envisages a world where government regulations prevent businesses and industrialists from operating as they wish, causing them to disappear and join the mysterious John Galt. Whatever one’s political persuasion, Rand’s argumentative storyline offers much food for thought.

4. Principles by Ray Dalio

“Pain + Reflection = Progress”

Who wouldn’t want to learn from one of the world’s most successful and compassionate billionaire hedge fund managers? Ray Dalio has turned the lessons he learned over decades into easy-to-implement principles that can be used by any reader to achieve greater success in whatever fields they choose to pursue. Among those that have sung praises of Dalio’s book are both Bill Gates and Arianna Huffington, so you can count on it being worth your time.

5. ‘Tools of Titans’ by Tim Ferriss

“My goal is to learn things once and use them forever.”

The first of his books not to feature the “4-Hour” tagline, Tools of Titans is Tim Ferriss’ attempt to distill the wisdom of many of the world’s top performers from a multitude of different backgrounds. The book is subdivided into three sections, entitled ‘Health’, ‘Wealth’ and ‘Wisdom’ and is not necessarily designed to be read in that order. Instead, readers are encouraged to skip to the section that most interests them and immerse themselves in what the world’s most successful individuals have to say. This is definitely worth reading if you’re inclined towards optimising various facets of your life.

6. ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ by Yuval Noah Harari

“We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable, and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine.”

In Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari chronicles the story of mankind by explaining it as a product of four distinct revolutions. Harari tackles enormous questions without descending into academic jargon or reducing the magnitude and significance of the topics he discusses. Nor does Harari shy away from our role in driving countless species into extinction and the horrors of modern meat harvesting. Ultimately, the book charts humanity’s achievements without whitewashing its crimes, before providing a tentative insight into what the future might hold for us.

7. ‘Elon Musk’ by Ashlee Vance

“Good ideas are always crazy until they’re not.”

Although Tesla/SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was initially reluctant to be the subject of a biography, tech writer Ashlee Vance finally managed to crack him. The result is a gripping account of the life of the world’s most prominent entrepreneur and his vision for the future of mankind. The biography covers Musk’s difficult upbringing in apartheid-era South Africa, his initial forays into business with his brother Kimbal, and his present role in radically changing the aerospace and automotive industries. Above all, Vance highlights how powerful a combination of extreme resilience, boundless ambition and relentless execution can be.

8. ‘Freakonomics’ by Steven Dubner & Stephen J. Levitt

“Morality, it could be argued, represents the way that people would like the world to work, wheareas economics represents how it actually does work.”

Economics is only taught to students to decide to pursue it, but everyone needs a grasp how the economy works, or how are we able to vote for the people who run it? That’s where Freakonomics comes in and makes the what Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle called the “dismal science” both fun and accessible. Levitt delves into everyday riddles such as how people of different races name their children, and how this affects their chances in life. If crack dealers make so much money, why do they still live at home with their mums? This book is guaranteed to make you laugh, think and will also heighten your curiosity about the world around you.

9. ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho

“When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.”

This is a fable you can read in a day, but one you will certainly want to come back to. It’s the tale of a young Spanish shepherd who sold his flock to travel to Egypt in search of treasure. This beautifully written little book is an extraordinary adventure story of a boy with big dreams. The novella is packed full of life lessons about perseverance, believing in yourself and finding your true calling in life. It’s truly an uplifting and inspiring read.

10. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ by J. R. R. Tolkien

“Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars.”

J. R. R. Tolkien’s classic is a celebration of individual and collective bravery in the face of a seemingly insurmountable evil. Aside from perhaps being the most famous work of fantasy ever published, it is also credited by numerous Silicon Valley CEOs as having inspired them to achieve great things. In fact, Peter Thiel’s data analytics company, Palantir, is not only named after an object in the books but also takes the slogan “Save the Shire” — after the home of Tolkien’s hobbits. All that being said, I fully understand if teenagers would rather watch Peter Jackson’s movie adaptations…

 
5 websites to help teenagers learn personal finance
 
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With creeping interest rates, flat wages and sky-high property prices, it’s arguably more important than ever for teenagers to understand personal finance. 

Fortunately, you don’t need a subscription to the FT in order to understand how money works, and neither do teenagers. In this article, we give a quick rundown of which websites can really help teenagers get to grips with understanding the wider economy and how to manage money.

1. Investopedia

As the name suggests, Investopedia is basically an encyclopaedia of everything to do with finance. It’s an incredibly useful go-to site for anyone who is unsure of how a financial product works, whether a corporate bond or a credit card. Most definitions also include a short video that helps illustrate ideas more clearly, which makes the site ideal for younger readers. 

NB: It’s a US website so some of the terms used might be unfamiliar to UK readers.

2. The Motley Fool

Originally started in the UK, The Motley Fool is now a global investment website with a particularly large presence in the US.

However, its UK site is still a fantastic resource for those interested in learning about investment and the stock market. Look out for the site’s “Investing Basics” - it’s a no-nonsense breakdown of the key principles of smart investing.

3. Money Saving Expert

Martin Lewis is a legend in the world of personal finance and someone we really look up to. In fact, he’s probably the only person to have become a celebrity by blogging about personal finance.

Fame aside, his website, Money Saving Expert, offers tonnes of advice that teenagers can easily digest, including the latest apps and deals to help you save and grow your spare cash.

4. The Guardian

The Guardian is less educational than some of the other sites on the list, since it’s more focused on current affairs (not surprising, really).

However, there’s no point in learning about personal finance if you cannot relate its importance to real life. That’s where The Guardian comes in: the stories on the site's "Money" section offer fantastic context to contemporary issues about money.

5. TechCrunch

Ok, so this isn’t exactly a personal finance site. However, TechCrunch does contain the latest on what’s going on in the world of tech - specifically who is launching what products, how much they cost, and how much money tech companies are making.

The content is always light and exciting and, given that age and tech-savviness seem to be inversely correlated, TechCrunch is a great way for teens to learn more about business and, consequently, money.

 
21 reasons why teenagers should invest now.
 
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Research shows that teenagers in England and Ireland rank among the lowest in the world for financial literacy. As such, very few young people manage money properly and even fewer actively invest to grow their spare cash.

In case you think investing is a waste of time or just something that adults do, here’s a list of 21 reasons why teenagers (or anyone else) should start investing ASAP.

1. Money loses value over time

£100 will buy you more today than it will in 20 years time (unless you invest of course). That’s inflation for you.

2. Inflation is rising

We’ve had years of very low inflation but things are changing. Inflation is now at around 3%, meaning that your spare cash loses 3% of value each year.

3. Property prices are very, very high

I know it, you know it. Property prices are sky high. And although they’re falling in some places, they’re unlikely to collapse any time soon.

Either way, you’ll need to have cash for a deposit if you want to avoid renting forever.

4. Investing doesn’t have to be super risky

No risk, no reward goes the saying.

However, investing doesn’t need to be insanely risky for it to pay off. ETFs and index funds mean that you can sit back and have your money simply track the stock market’s movements with minimal risk.

5. The only way is up (in the long run)

The stock market will go up and down many times in our lives. However, over the long-term, the only way is up. As the world gets bigger and new money enters the financial system, stock prices get pushed up over time.

Don’t believe me? Then look at a chart of the S&P 500 over the last 100 years.

6. There’s a tonne of financial technology out there to help you

If you think that saving and investing is a hassle then luckily there is a tonne of technology out there to help you.

Check out our list of the top 5 apps you need to help manage your money.

7. The tax benefits of an ISA

If you put your money into an Individual Savings Account (an ISA), you will not be taxed on the profits you make on your investments (up to a limit). Over time, this really adds up.

8. Good habits last

The average UK household has £8,000 of debt. In other words, they have no savings and owe banks money. If you start investing early on, you’ll likely avoid picking up bad habits later on.

9. Reach goals quicker

Investing should be for the long term but putting your money to work will help you reach your goals faster than the 0.5% interest paid out by banks.

10. Compounding

If your £1,000 investment grows by 10% in a year, you have £1,100. If it grows by another 10%, you’ll have £1,210, thanks to compounding. Over time, this really adds up. 

11. Startup capital

Studies show that today’s teenagers are the most inclined to start their own businesses.

However, banks don’t lend easily, so without some cash at hand you’re going to struggle. Having a stash of money in safe investments will help you turn an idea into reality. 

12. Grow your money by doing nothing

People love the idea of passive income. The reality is that very few things are truly passive, including investment. However, investing in passive index funds is probably the closest you can get.

13. Earn money for doing nothing

Companies don’t just keep all the profits they make - they give them to shareholders via dividends. Not all dividends are equal and some companies pay out more than others.

14. There are no barriers to entry

Unlike jobs, there are very few barriers to entry in the stock market. You can open account with a broker today and start growing your wealth right away.

15. Develop self-control

At some point, your investments will crash and seeing the value of your holdings go down will be a shock. However, by remaining calm and not selling at a terrible time, you’ll develop great self-control that will apply to other areas of your life. 

16. Understand how the world works

Like it or not, it's a capitalist world.

Learning how to invest in stocks, bonds or property will give you a greater understanding of how money flows through the system.

17. You have a long investment horizon

As I said earlier, your investments will go down at some point. Fortunately, the younger you are, the longer you have to ride out any difficult periods in the market.

This effectively means you can take on more risk than someone older than you with the same financial means.

18. You don’t need to be a financial genius to do it

Investing isn’t always easy but it isn’t complicated either. You’ll need to learn to develop self-control and patience but these things don’t require immense brainpower.

With the range of passive funds available today, you can sit back and let the markets do their thing.

19. Sound investments pay off

Investing in good companies or passive funds over the long-term will pay off (literally).

Had you invested £1,000 in Amazon 20 years ago, you’d be a millionaire today. Apple stocks were $4.95 each in 2000 - they’re $180 apiece now.

Enough said really.

20. You don’t have to rely on a crappy pension

People are living longer but aren’t saving nearly enough. If you fail to invest enough or don’t put enough towards your pension, you risk having a miserable retirement.

Start growing your wealth today and you can avoid this.

21. The earlier you start, the quicker it will pay off

I mentioned compounding earlier, but it’s worth a second mention. Warren Buffett, the world’s greatest investor, made 99% of his money after the age of 50. Compounding takes time but the sooner you start, the quicker you’ll get to your destination.

So, what do you reckon - is investing worth your time?

 
Satya Doraisamy
Find out why ONE in FOUR young people are broke.
 
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Financial education in the UK is failing and teenagers are growing up totally clueless about personal finance.

The UK is the world’s sixth largest economy and yet we have a huge problem with financial literacy.

The reason?

We simply aren't teaching it. 

Why aren't schools teaching finance?

Study after study concludes that not enough attention is paid to financial education in schools.

Late last year, the Guardian estimated that despite personal finance being on the national curriculum since 2014, as few as 40% of schools actually teach it. 

A loophole means that academies, free schools (and private schools) are exempt from honouring this obligation. 

And of those teenagers that are taught personal finance, 58% feel its not taught properly.

How bad is the situation?

The problem is made worse by the amount of consumerist advertising that teenagers digest these days.

There is an enormous amount of pressure on young people to look great, wear expensive clothes and live a lavish lifestyle that they simply cannot afford. 

This might sound weird to older readers and - well, it is.

However, the pressures created by social media and reality television are very real and are only being understood now. 

In an effort to keep up with the latest trends on social media and reality television, young people are putting their futures in financial jeopardy.

A recent study by a personal finance watchdog found that more and more teenagers are opening “store cards” without considering the huge amounts of interest they charge.

Financial products are also becoming increasingly complex.

Not only are super-risky assets such as cryptocurrencies making the headlines every other day, payday lenders are making a killing off indebted young people.

Most sensible people would never dream of taking a payday loan but unfortunately many young people are entirely unaware of the risks they carry. 

High street banks are often little better. Many common credit cards carry extortionate interest rates if payments are made late - something that many young people are simply unaware of.

This shouldn't really come as a surprise, though. We're not teaching young people about these so they only learn about finance once they're in financial trouble.

In fact, the situation is so bad that the Financial Conduct Authority recently warned that companies must take steps to protect young consumers who don’t understand “potentially damaging financial products”.

And yet still nobody is stepping in to teach teenagers about personal finance and how to manage money properly.

The result of all this?

Nearly one in four 18 to 30 year-olds is in constant debt. 

Consumer debt in the UK now stands at around £200bn - almost as much as the government spends on the NHS each year.

The BBC found that one in ten young adults skip meals to make their paycheque last until the end of the month. 

In the UK. The world's sixth largest economy.

Surely we can do better?

 
Satya Doraisamy
Why we're focusing on personal finance for teenagers (for now).
 
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We started Nebula with the aim of tackling two big problems that impact teenagers. 

The first was an increasingly poor level of financial literacy among teenagers, which we felt contributes to the soaring levels of debt among young people. 

The second issue was the fact that many students leave school without a proper understanding of what their strengths are and what career options are available to them.

We wanted to build a scalable solution to these problems and knew that developing an e-learning course was the best option.

If you’ve read previous posts on this blog, you’ll know that we released a beta version of our course in January. Feedback from the course has been really constructive and teenagers are enjoying our programme’s content. No issue there then.

So why have we changed things? 

Given that our original course was going to tackle both of the problems we outlined above, it was pretty hard to nail down a precise description of what the course was all about.

This was abundantly clear when I went to a leading education charity and academy trust to pitch our business. One of the main bits of feedback that we got was that our course description sounded “woolly”, even though we had a clear mission.

Following that experience, we knew something needed to change. After a night of brainstorming ideas, we decided to split our course into two separate courses: 

The first course will focus exclusively on money, basic economics and personal finance.

The second helps students identify and leverage their unique strengths in order to launch successful careers.

What’s next then?

We have pretty much all the content we need for our first course (the personal finance one), and we’re now adding some finishing touches to the course before opening it up for a pre-sale that will go live very soon. 

The second course will go live later this year, once we’ve fully released the first one. Also, everyone who purchases the first course will get a discount on the second course and vice-versa. 

Meanwhile, we’re still reaching out to influencers and bloggers to become affiliates of our course, so we’re very much firing on all cylinders. In reality, not much has changed - we’ve just decided to break up the course because it makes it easier to get our message across.

Why are we doing a pre-sale?

When releasing any product, it’s important to get as near to perfect as possible. However, as we all know, perfection is virtually impossible to achieve. By pre-selling the course, we give our early customers the chance to help push the envelope and get us ever closer to perfection.

Our pre-sale customers might spot things that we have overlooked ourselves and could prefer some design features over others. There might even be topics that we’ve touched on that they would like to know more about.

The pre-sale is about facilitating conversation between us at Nebula and our target market. Our early adopters will also be rewarded handsomely for their help: the first course will retail at £79 when it’s fully launched but pre-sale customers can get it for just £20.

That’s less than one hour of private tutoring. 

Our referral programme

We’re also empowering our customers by giving them access to a referral programme. 

As you know, we’re partnering with suitable influencers and bloggers to help expand our reach. But we can’t reward third parties without also rewarding the people at the heart of our business - our customers - now can we?

So, when you purchase our course, you’ll be given an exclusive affiliate link that you can share with others. If they use the link to purchase our course, you’ll receive a flat 25% commission

A referral from a customer is worth as much as a referral from an influencer, so we think this is only fair.

***

As per usual, drop me an email at satya@nebulawebinars.com with any questions/suggestions. 

Thanks.

 
Satya Doraisamy
Why you should stop paying for private tuition (or at least reconsider it)
 
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The pressure on students to get top grades is going through the roof and the private tutoring industry is booming as a result.

More and more parents are turning to tutors to ensure that their teenagers get the school grades they need to avoid being left behind. Tutoring isn’t something that only wealthy middle-class parents pay for; even families with modest incomes routinely sacrifice upwards of £30/hour to give their child a perceived head start.

After all, a B in GCSE Maths and English is the gateway to landing a place at university, getting a graduate job and having a successful career...right? 

Well, the chances are that if your child needs tutoring in either English or Maths, they’re probably never going to be particularly good at those subjects. And they’re not likely to do a degree or take a job that relies too heavily on these subjects either.

Is a student who struggles with English essays likely to want to study law or history down the line? Will a teenager who find maths excruciatingly difficult choose to pursue finance or physics? 

Probably not. (But ask your child anyway...)

In reality, many parents probably agree with this logic but feel that their child will be left behind if they don’t get a tutor to help out. 

After all, education is competitive...

As true as this is, your child needs to compete in an arena in which he or she has a decent chance of winning. This is the crucial point: your child needs to be working hardest at what they’re best at.

So, if a child struggles with “core” subjects, they need to invest time and resources into finding out where their talents really lie. Otherwise, they really will be left behind as they continuously strive to compete in areas that they’re not suited to.

Instead of demanding that they succeed in subjects that might well be unrelated to their future ambitions, why don’t we ensure that teenagers leave school with an idea of what they’re good at?

Because, ultimately, it’s our strengths - not our weaknesses - that define our futures. 

***

As always, email us at beth@nebulawebinars.com with your thoughts or questions.

 
 
 
Satya Doraisamy
Parents, what do you think about UK education today?
 
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Given everything in the news today about the challenges facing young people - ridiculous property prices, high rents, low wages (I won't mention the elephant in the room) - it's easy to forget the huge impact all this has on parents. 

Ultimately, parents are the ones who step up when kids need private tutoring, help with university costs or a place to live before they land their first decent-paying job. At Nebula, we recognise the huge role that parents play in ensuring that teenagers succeed in school and beyond.

What do we need from parents?

That's why we want parents to be a big part of our product development. We've already engaged with parents to find out whether they feel our course topics are important. The response so far has been fantastic and it's great that parents share our concerns about exam stress and debt levels among young people. 

So, we're now opening up to parents further. We want to know what you think about the state of education today, what you feel is being done well, and what could perhaps be improved. 

If you feel like lending a hand, here's the feedback form. It won't take more than two minutes to fill out, so let us know what you think!

 
Satya Doraisamy
Education is more than just a competition
 
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Whether it's competition for school grades or university places, pupils are forever engaged in a rat race against their peers.

I’m by no means someone who advocates against competition. Indeed, I believe that when properly harnessed competition brings out the best in individuals and societies. Just look at how cities pull together when it’s their turn to host the Olympics or how children’s faces light up when they win school prizes.

What I do, however, take issue with is competition for competition’s sake.

Being terrible at art, I would personally never opt to participate in an art competition; competing would be pointless unless I genuinely wanted to take part. 

Why we impose children to the routine of focusing on what they’re terrible at — simply so that they can progress to the next stage of the rat race — is beyond me.

University Doesn't Solve the Problem

The private tutoring industry in the UK has swelled to an astonishing £2bn a year as parents scramble to ensure that their children get the grades they need to get into top schools and universities.

And the problem doesn't end there. Countless students finish school, wilfully take on enormous debts in order to attend university, and graduate only to find that there aren't enough "grad jobs" to go around. Not what you'd expect after paying £9,250 a year.

A study last year also showed how vulnerable young people are to payday lenders and other questionable lenders. Appallingly, 25% of young people are in constant debt. 

A Bright Future?

Against this backdrop, the future might seem bleak for today's youth. Yet the reality is that the world has never been safer, wealthier and more connected.

Studies also show that today's teenagers are highly inclined to start their own companies and will be the most innovative generation yet. After all, 80% of jobs that they will do are not even in existence today.

However, grades alone will not help students seize these opportunities and inevitably many will, without knowing, let great things sail right past them.

In order to succeed, students need to be adaptable to move with a fast-changing world. They will need to have a practical understanding of how economies and businesses work. Above all, they will need to know what their strengths are and how they can capitalise on them.

 
Satya DoraisamyComment