Teen CEO Empowers Global Youth With Financial Literacy

Daily Point of Light # 7781 Apr 2, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Ashwin Joshi. Read his story and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

At just 18 years old, Ashwin Joshi is making waves as the founder and CEO of Ashwin Teen Financial Academy (ATFA). ATFA’s mission is clear: to provide a crucial skill often overlooked in traditional schooling – financial literacy – to every young person.

Recognizing the widespread deficiency in financial education among his fellow high schoolers, Ashwin took matters into his own hands. The academy employs a multifaceted approach to reach teens globally, including the creation of Financial Chapter Clubs in high schools across the U.S., distribution of media modules for broader accessibility and the development of an online academy covering topics ranging from basic budgeting to complex financial instruments like stocks, credit management and 401(k) plans.

Since its inception in 2020, AFTA has made a global impact, reaching nearly 100,000 students across 190 countries through its online classes.

Ashwin’s passion for financial literacy extends beyond ATFA’s programs. He was among a handful of high schoolers who testified in favor of House Bill 1915 at the Washington State Capitol on January 15. The bill sought to make financial education a graduation prerequisite and a required component of public education. While the bill failed to pass, Ashwin remains dedicated to advocating for financial education reform, driven by his belief that every student deserves the tools to thrive in an increasingly complex financial landscape.

What inspired you to start ATFA?

I’m the first generation raised in America from both sides of my family’s lineage. My parents immigrated from India; my mom had some financial experience, and my dad came to become a physician here. When we came to the Tri-Cities, moving from our apartment in Connecticut, my dad got straight to work. As time went on, my parents continued to invest in businesses and that became a key part of our success in this country, and so naturally, I got put into that world at a young age, too. Growing up, my playground was my family’s first gas station, and I took on more responsibilities over time. We wouldn’t talk about tennis matches at the dinner table; instead, we discussed the day’s dealings.

When I started to register for high school classes, I saw that there were requirements for English, science and math, but I didn’t see a requirement for financial literacy. That made me upset because this is such a crucial skill. This must be a fundamental right of all students. It cannot be a privilege for a few. As the pandemic ensued in 2020, I saw it as a chance for me to go fully into my passion. I read as many books as possible and then I also started writing my own “Money for Teens” book. The book got lots of attention from kids in my school and they were commenting that it was so insightful and helpful. So, then I started building a “Finance for Teenagers” curriculum and that would be the beginning of the in-person program I established at my own high school in 2022.

Ashwin leads a financial literacy course to high schoolers through the ATFA Academy he founded. /Courtesy Ashwin Joshi

How has ATFA grown since you founded it in 2020?

In 2022, we established ATFA as a 501(c)(3), with the mission of enabling every single teenager, regardless of circumstance, income, privilege, race gender or disability, to learn these critical life skills such as budgeting, stocks and credit, so that they can reach their maximum potential.

Our turnkey package curriculum that we give to schools is completely free and we have over 90 high school chapter recipients.

We also established the online academy in 2022 after we received grants from Microsoft and Azure for our web hosting and everything. I had a great co-founder who came along in 2022, chief technician officer Sahir Tandon, and we started building a team of 20 high schoolers across the nation.

As of our biannual Impact Assessment report last year, we reached 50,000 students in 190 countries including the U.S., UK, Canada, India and Indonesia. But I expect that our online academy should have reached over 100,000 students by now with the partnerships we’re building. For example, we partnered with a nonprofit in Massachusetts called StockSense, which gamified stock investing into a Duolingo-like mobile app.
They’re integrating our courses into their app and helping to bring new traffic to both of our platforms.

What has the feedback been from the students and also their parents?

It’s just been amazing. We get so many emails from parents and students just thanking us for doing this for them. And it’s really what keeps the entire team going. I’ll never forget how there was this one student, teary-eyed, who said to me, “Ashwin, the programs you offer here at ATFA are what makes me convinced that I can settle my mom and me.” Students like him are why we do what we do. If we can help kids understand the way money works, we can change so many of our society’s biggest issues, and that’s a future I will always fight for.

What are your long-term plans or goals for the organization?

This is one of the hardest decisions I’ve made, but I am making it because I realize what makes ATFA special is that it’s about a teenager wanting to help other teenagers, a high schooler wanting to help other high schoolers. So what I’ve done now for over a year is that I’ve been working with a student of mine, Parker Collette, who’s now the executive assistant of the organization and also a freshman in high school. When I graduate, I’ll remain as the chairman of the Board of Directors, but I will step down as the CEO. I’m still going to be involved, but I’m not going to be as involved as I was before because I want there to be new ideas, new innovation and new worldwide impact.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?

The first would be creating content that simplifies financial education so that any teenager can understand it and seeing how kids get excited learning about this. Secondly, being able to help enact legislation that changes policy for the entire state. For example, since last August, I’ve been working on House Bill 1915 as legislation in Washington state. With the bill passing, it not only changes the lives of hundreds of thousands of students that are going into our upcoming education system but also the kids after that and after that. And then it goes on to impact millions. And that’s really what gets me fired up, seeing how this is going to change countless kids’ lives. (Note: House Bill 1915, which unanimously passed in the Washington State House, ultimately failed to progress due to disagreements on making financial education a high school graduation requirement.)

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?

I have learned that if you’re going to volunteer for something, volunteer for something that you can give your heart to. I have not made a single penny from volunteering, and I’ve devoted thousands of hours to this organization. But I’ve gained so much in terms of management, leadership experience and goodwill from the community and that’s so invaluable. There’s no amount of money that I would take in exchange for all these experiences I’ve gained. Volunteering is really a test of how committed you are to one thing.

Ashwin (fourth from right) and his fellow ATFA team members pose for the camera during the academy’s Youth Entrepreneurs program. /Courtesy Ashwin Joshi

Tell us about future partnerships, programs or events that you are excited about.

We’re currently working with Junior Achievement of Washington to form a collaboration. Then there’s also the Center for Inspired Learning. And we’re also looking into mobile app development as well for a standalone ATFA app. Those are all things I’m incredibly excited about because when we put together talented people and organizations, then we can create an even bigger movement.

What’s one piece of financial advice that you want all teens to know?

Save more than you spend.

Any advice for people who want to start volunteering?

Do something you’re passionate about. Organizations are always looking for volunteers, looking for people who are vicious and driven. We always want to find new people, new teenagers who are willing to volunteer with passion and promise. And even if it’s not for our organization, there are countless organizations. Whatever you want to volunteer for, you can find it.

What do you want people to learn from your story?

I want people to learn that if you truly believe in something, don’t let anyone else try to discourage you. Make sure to fight for it. If you remember why you started in the first place and you continue to keep that why as you go on, the results will show.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Ashwin? Find local volunteer opportunities.


Alicia Lee