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It's Never Too Early To Make The Leap To Financial Security The success of financial freedom is based on one underlying principle: money comes and goes, but understanding how to make it work for you lasts a lifetime.

By Jamil Khammu

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Young people possess an exceptional ability to learn. Throughout our formative years, our brains are similar to sponges; we internalize and absorb information without even realizing it. From walking and talking, to critical thinking and socializing, we learn by doing.

Yet, as youngsters, we don't always appreciate what might seem unfair at a specific moment, which has the potential to be hugely beneficial in the future.

My sister and I were raised in London, and every Saturday morning, we would be sent to Arabic school by our parents. At the time, you can imagine our reaction of having school on the weekend- endless arguments, as well as excuses to try and avoid attendance; it was a battle. Looking back, I'm ever grateful to my mum for persevering through our bouts of resistance, as I am now bilingual, which has been greatly beneficial in my life.

Of course, anyone with young children or teenagers will understand there's not much we can do to change this behavior.

Another extremely important -yet often neglected- life lesson is learning how to appreciate, value, and manage money. My personal inflection point was when I got my first job, and, ultimately, my first paycheck from working at a retailer in the UK, and I quickly realized how important it was to manage my money smartly.

The habits we pick up during childhood and adolescence determine our behavior as adults, affecting who we become, and what we choose to do in life. Not having an allowance at an early age taught me that the only way to make money was to earn it. So, when I got my first job at the age of 15, I quickly realized how good it felt to have an income.

Because I was so appreciative of what it took to earn money, my brain became hardwired to prioritize saving. From here, I learned how to make my money work for me, allowing it to grow and secure my financial future. When the time came to start university, I felt anxious about having less time to earn– not to mention the prospect of my impending student fees. Nevertheless, I continued to take on part-time work while studying and succeeded in paying off my student debt within four years of graduating.

In essence, I came to appreciate the true value of money. I learnt by doing.

Related: Think Ahead: Why SMEs Need To Start Future-Proofing Their Finances

I graduated in 2009 during the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, which wasn't ideal, to say the least. As I'm sure you all remember, jobs, let alone good jobs, were hard to come by. Fortunately, I secured a full-time job with Moneycorp in a career that would span over 12 years.

In this role, I spent my time supporting corporates with treasury management. It was an interesting journey, and I had the pleasure of working with a variety of companies within different industries; each with their own unique way of managing money. It was during this period that my passion for helping people take control of their finances become apparent.

It's now been over a year since a mutual friend introduced me to Ziad Toqan. At that point in time, Ziad shared his idea for an application that would teach kids and teens how to manage their money in an innovative and fresh way. When I heard him speaking about the concept and idea, it got me excited. Not only did we align on how we thought about money management, but we also both deeply felt for the cause, and we wanted to make sure more kids had access to this kind of learning.

Meeting Ziad was a turning point for me. We shared a vision to create a virtual helping hand and "a cool older brother" capable of helping kids and teens to navigate financial matters– something we both felt would have benefitted us earlier in our lives. And it's not just us who feel this way- research shows that 43% of 16-to-24-year-olds in the UAE do not feel ready to manage their own money, while more than half (53%) believe schools are not doing enough to prepare them to handle their finances. Ziad and I felt our shared experience made us the perfect duo to help young people recognize the importance of saving and managing their money. By combining my knowledge of finance with Ziad's expertise in marketing, branding, and content, we created our startup, Leap.

The point I'd like to leave you with is that we would never have been able to achieve our shared vision if not for the skills we acquired when we were young. This experience gave us the confidence to invest our own savings into Leap, bootstrapping the startup during its early stages. Consequently, we are now helping our ever-growing user base to develop money management skills from a young age, empowering them to achieve financial freedom and follow their dreams.

This success is based on one underlying principle: money comes and goes, but understanding how to make it work for you lasts a lifetime.

So, remember, it's never too early (or too late) to take control of your finances.

Related: Startup Spotlight: Dubai-Based Sav Is Helping UAE Residents Take Better Control Of Their Savings And Spendings

Jamil Khammu

Co-founder and COO, Leap

Jamil Khammu is the co-founder and COO of Leap, a UAE-based fintech startup that teaches kids and teens how to make better money choices. 
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