Some teens used their extra free time during the 2020 lockdowns to play Animal Crossing, learn TikTok dances or hone their tie-dying skills. Chicago high schooler Kriti Sarav created her own podcast — WhyFI Matter$ — to demystify personal finance for her peers.
An avid tennis player, 18-year-old Sarav got her first window into the world of audio while traveling to tournaments with her dad, listening to NPR podcasts like How I Built This with Guy Roz.
Her passion for the sport meant that she was paying attention to equal pay issues for female tennis players, and an eighth grade research paper on the topic sparked an interest in economics. After watching her parents navigate the complex process of buying a new house, Sarav realized she was unfamiliar with the details of budgeting, saving and interest rates: “I never really thought twice about money, where it was coming from and where it's going,” she says.
Then the pandemic hit.
“Seeing how the whole economy crashed and how people were struggling made me realize that learning about [financial] concepts at a young age is extremely important,” Sarav says. But all the money articles she could find online were uninspiring.
“I wasn't engaged,” she adds. “It was honestly kind of boring.”
The solution was her podcast, which is designed to be fun and trendy for teenaged listeners. Its logo is a lime-green piggy bank wearing sunglasses, and its tongue-in-cheek mission? “How not to live in your parents' basement.”
Now a senior, Sarav has been building WhyFI Matter$ for more than two years, finding time for research, interviews and editing in her busy high school schedule. She’s tackled topics that many adults struggle to grasp, from the student debt crisis to cryptocurrency to the economics of truffle mushrooms. Sarav’s love of the hit Netflix show Stranger Things sparked an episode about the power of nostalgia as a marketing tool for Hollywood, and an early episode about thrift shopping included tips for buying stylish clothes while discussing the ethical drawbacks of fast fashion.
WhyFI Matter$ is packed with facts and Sarav’s own sharp analysis, but it never feels like school. There are no preachy lectures about saving your allowance, either.
Instead, the podcast is like a conversation with your cool friend about what’s going on in the world, with insights from CEOs, academics, personal finance experts and other teens sprinkled in along the way. Sarav says her episodes on current events — like the economic impact of overturning Roe v. Wade — tend to be most popular.
The podcast also hosts online workshops for younger teens, with activities designed to help kids understand terms like income and debt. While those topics might not always be as flashy as current events, Sarav says they’re an essential foundation — and they can be entertaining, too.
“The important part is starting young so that when you do have to manage your money when you're older,” Sarav says, “you'll have the tools to do that, and you won't be in a state of panic.”
Sarav hopes to pursue economics in college next year, and plans to stay involved in podcasting along the way. Her dream guests? NPR’s Guy Roz, host of her first-ever favorite podcast, and tennis legend and equal-pay advocate Billie Jean King.