Seeing my credit card debt pass $10,000 was a metaphorical punch in the ear that inspired me to challenge myself on what I thought I knew about money. Fin!
It started with a budget
Working down my credit card debt required taking an austere look at my spending habits. I estimated where my money was going in an excel spreadsheet, then tracked every expense for a month by manually inputting all my purchases.
If you ever want to cut back on your spending, write it all down. People used to do this. It was called“balancing a checkbook.” I had never balanced a checkbook… I don’t think I’ve used a pencil since 2013.
The initial feelings that came with logging dollar after dollar spent were shame and guilt(I didn’t go to Catholic school, so these were both novel and jarring.) That lasted for a few weeks, but pretty rapidly evolved into something else. I’m hesitant to use the word“empowering,”(listening to Beyonce is empowering, I was just sitting in the dark, staring at an excel spreadsheet), but rigorously tracking my spending got me excited about not spending money on shit I didn’t need.
The exercise helped me see a path to paying down my credit card debt. It took 25 months, but it happened.
“Put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others”
On the back of more conscious spending, I wanted to figure out how to be a bit more productive with the extra cash. Time to think like an investor. Time to make my money make money. Put me on the fast track to becoming a grizzled investor baby! Let’s do this! I had no idea what to do or where to start.
So I googled stuff. Can I invest with my checking account? 401k... what does that mean…. Roth IRA vs. Traditional IRA… what is my tax rate again? Again? I never knew it in the first place… Wouldn’t it be easier to just use Robinhood? What stocks should I buy…I should probably understand how the stock market works… and maybe learning a thing about the economy and credit couldn’t hurt…. can you invest in anything? Is a mutual fund different from an index fund.. why is it even called that…. You get the picture. Lots of research, podcasts, books, blogs, and a whole lot of twitter later, I felt like I had a solid handle on it. I even felt confident about it. Confident enough to know what I could afford to invest on a monthly basis, which accounts were appropriate for both my retirement and short/medium-term goals, and what kind of investments made sense for someone like me(i.e. someone with 20+ years to let my money grow).
Helping 1 friend
Once I’d wrapped my brain around the basics, I was eager to help others. Learning about investing felt good. It was liberating and fantastical, much like the slippery-slimy sensation of rubbing your tongue over your teeth after getting your braces off. But it took time and effort and I had a hunch that a lot of my friends had not gone to similar lengths. Could you blame them? Nobody taught us about this stuff in high school or college. I assumed there’d be at least some appetite, so to test my theory I had a friend over for a“1-hour finance bonanza” in exchange for watching my cat for the weekend. Lo and behold, she dug it! So did my cat!
Next up: close friends and work peers
After running through my“content” with a few friends, I decided to take my learnings to a group I was slightly less comfortable with: work peers. But first…. the interns.
I set up an hourlong“lunch and learn” with 20 new grad employees at my company. We walked through the basics of building a budget, covered the financial benefits offered by said company, and talked about the stock market. Save for some Canadian interns who felt the material wasn’t spot-on for a non-U.S. audience(personally I think they were just disappointed that no maple syrup was provided with their lunch), it was very well received.
Reaching a broader audience
Helping young people with financial literacy evolved into a full-fledged passion project. I did regular sessions at work, hosted zoom calls with friends, did 1:1s with family — you get the picture. The idea of turning this project into a business seemed like a natural progression. It was the logical way to reach a much larger audience.
The vision: close the financial literacy gap for millennials and zoomers.
The plan: write down everything I learned, put it in an order that makes sense, make it not boring, and put it all into an automated email journey requiring no more than 5 minutes of reading a day(for about a month). It was important that it was visually interesting, and especially that it was cheap. Essentially, make learning the basics of investing into a great, accessible experience where the only requirements are an email address and $5.
The blaring issue: I know nothing about marketing, I have a hard time creating visually appealing anything, and I’m not very technical. Triple whammy! The notion of building Big Later as a solo operator was a non-starter.
Thankfully, my team-building efforts required less groveling than expected. I had an existing work history with Summer and Skylar which definitely played a part in them signing on as co-founders. An added benefit is that Summer’s daughter does all of our illustrations(and we don’t pay her a cent which makes it a screaming deal but also means we’re in potential violation of child labor laws).
The founding team was made complete with the addition of my good friend, former roommate, and Marketing Ops guy, Ben. Ben coming onboard was particularly important because to be considered a“startup,” you need to work with at least one(current or former) roommate. Have you seen The Social Network? Rules are rules.
The past 9 months
With the team in place, turning the plan into a reality has been a genuinely fun experience. Lots of early and late-night conversations, trying to spend as little money as possible, navigating a saturated technology landscape, getting content in front of every willing audience, debating our price point, iterating on style guides, waking up super sweaty in the middle of the night to making edits that came in a dream… I’ll spare you the details(but not the run-on sentence).
We’re quickly approaching our launch date and we’d love to bring you along for the ride. The whole course is a pretty good bang for five bucks, but if you aren’t convinced, you can try it out for free. What’s important to us is that you feel confident about the financial outlook of your future.