Interviews

FIREside chat with Jess: "There is a huge gap in financial literacy, especially for women"

Quirk Team
November 25, 2020
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FIREside chat with Jess: "There is a huge gap in financial literacy, especially for women"

Hey Jess! Thanks for agreeing to chat with us. Can you introduce yourself?

I’m Jess, the founder of That’s Common Cents! I am 25 years and have degrees in international economics, finance, and political science.  I have worked in a variety of financial industries from Corporate Banking to Private Equity to FP&A. Crazy enough, after studying finance and working in the industry, I would say most of my knowledge has come from google and blogs online. Before I started this, I thought that everything I knew was just common sense, but the more and more people I speak to, I realize that there is a huge gap in financial literacy, especially for women. My goal is to break that gap and make financial literacy simple, fun and more readily available. 

 

What personality type did you get? Did you find the results to be accurate?

I got the Explorer, which honestly seems like me to a tee. I am deep in the details for my job doing analysis so it only makes sense that I treat my money the same way. 

Jess took the Quirk money personality test and received the explorer personality type.

What inspired you to start a social media presence about personal finance like That Comment Cents (great name by the way)? For completely new readers, what is the “tl;dr” of your brand?

I studied business in college and I have always been interested in money. Fun fact, in middle school I would buy wholesale livestrong bracelets and sell it to my class and I made almost $1,000 which A LOT for a 12 year old (I was always finding something haha). In college, I was always the friend to help my friends and family find the best credit cards and maximize rewards, understand their student loans and how to pay it off sooner and even had my whole sorority asking me money questions. The more of my friends I spoke to, the more I realized that there is such a gap in financial literacy – even for those well educated surprisingly. My goal is to be your BFF (best financial friend) making complex topics simple so when you have your next finance question, the response is duh, that’s common sense. 

 

What is your relationship with personal finance? - If applicable, how has that defined your current pursuits? What changes have you made that have helped? How has it changed over time?

When I was younger my parents would always shield me from any issues they had with money because they didn’t want to worry me and just wanted me to get an education (which I am extremely thankful for), but it definitely made me not realize the worth of dollar until I got a bit older. I think because of that, I was never really able to adopt a more frugal lifestyle that so many in this community do to reach their financial goals sooner. However, I do focus more on increasing my income and finding new sources of income rather than restricting my lifestyle. For my full time job, I try to learn new valuable skills and get promoted rather than focusing too tightly on saving more of my current salary. 

What’s the worst money advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t worry about your loans, you will make more money later to pay it off. I think this extremely toxic mindset can lead to bad financial decisions later in life. If I can leave your readers with anything, it is to pay your student loans as early as you possibly can. 

A checklist of tips to tackle student debt like budgeting, refinancing,  a side hustle and automating payments.

You mentioned that one of your goals is to help millennials in building their financial health. What do you think are the biggest financial challenges that millennials are facing right now? 

I think the biggest thing is the stigma attached to money. Out of the many millennials I work with, the major things that come up is their stress about sharing their financial situation. My goal is to help break that stigma to get more people talking. Most millennials are either still in school or early in their careers, so most of their money questions are similar, so they should use each other to collaborate, instead of just completely avoiding it. For example, let’s say your friend gets a promotion at work and you are struggling to get promoted. Rather than just saying congrats! And moving on, actually have a conversation and see what they did that helped them get there. More often than not, there are some actionable items you’ll be able to apply to your own situation. Let's share the wealth!

 

Is there a specific financial goal you are working towards right now? What steps are you taking to achieve that goal? 

Right now, I am working on reaching a 6 figure net worth before my 26th birthday, which I am right on track for. I have been able to do this by increasing my income sources outside of my main source of income, and am on track to have invested 30% of my salary in 2020. Since I am a numbers person, tracking my goals visually really keeps me motivated. Before I did, I really had no idea how much I was putting towards my goals. 

A list of ideas on how you can hustle and make money in creative ways.

What do you most enjoy spending on? Or any guilty pleasure you can share. 

Good food and cool experiences! Due to COVID, those have both been on hold unfortunately, but I am a big travel fan. Thanks to travel card hacking, I haven’t paid for a flight in 5 years! My life goal is to eat at Alinea in Chicago and meet Grant Achatz (definitely an unpopular opinion in this community to spend that much on a meal). 

I am also a big coffee junkee so investing in quality lattes is a must for me. Contrary to popular belief, you can have $5 lattes and build wealth too!

 

How often do you check your finances?

Probably way more often than I should, I am a big fan of personal capital and the good thing is that it's so simple to use, but the con is that it just makes me want to check it more often! On average, I usually check all my accounts around once a week so make sure there aren’t any weird transactions and to check on how my investments are doing. 

For someone who is starting completely new to personal finance, how would they get started? What specific tips would you have for newbies?

Just google. Ask a friend. While I did study business and have worked in the field, I have learned most of what I have through testing out different things and reading articles online. Trust me, you do not not need a fancy business school degree to understand financial topics. When I was first starting out I literally googled everything! If you have a question it is pretty common another 1,000 have the same exact question and there is more often than not 100s of blog articles covering it. Next, I would say the drive to learn more is really what motivated me. There is so much free content out there, you just have to go out of your way to find it. 

 

What’s your stack? (Accounts, credit cards, apps or other tools)

- 3 HYSA’s - I like to use different accounts for different goals

- 5 Credit Cards (Chase Saphhire Preferred, Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited are my go-tos to maximize cash back rewards)

- 1 spreadsheet for budgeting

- Personal Capital for tracking my net worth

- Discover It for tracking my credit score


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