Capital One associates and recruiters hosted Cornell’s first People + Money talk Tuesday at Philips Hall. Co-sponsored by the Theta Tau professional engineering fraternity, the event featured five Capital One associates who each spoke briefly about how students can better manage their finances and career passions.
Justin Steimle ’12 and Alex Chang ’14, both analysts at Capital One, began the presentation by telling students to ask themselves how money affects them both as individuals and members of the millennial generation.
“In my time at the Hill, I’ve learned three things,” Steimle said. “It’s way too cold here, everyone’s rich at Dunbar’s Group Therapy and money is an extremely emotional thing. But what is this connection between people and money and how does money affect us beyond a dollar sign on a paycheck at the end of the week?”
“Most of us here are millennials,” Chang added. “We’re already the largest share of the workforce, and we have the strongest desire to find purpose in our work. Millennials have already transformed some industries like transportation retail, and dating. Finance is next.”
Pam Jue, an interaction designer at Capital One Labs, spoke about how millennials can find a sense of purpose in their work, which often can be outside fields they have studied or feel truly passionate about. Jue recounted how she ultimately decided against pursuing a career in art, despite having a strong childhood love for drawing and even having studied art in college.
“As a kid I thought I was going to be an artist,” Jue said. “But even though I thought my purpose was to make art, I decided not to pursue it because frankly it couldn’t pay the bills. It was a really difficult decision for me.”
Jue said he believes many millennials are currently questioning their purpose in the world and that people have a sense of purpose when they experience personal growth, express themselves, connect with others, build community and use their talents to contribute to a societal cause. She referenced Aaron Hurst of the Taproot Foundation in saying that the U.S. economy is transitioning from an information economy to a purpose economy in which workers seek out a sense of purpose above all else.
“Passion is a key component of purpose, but often we are sacrificing passion for money and time,” Jue said. “I was very fortunately to have family and friends to guide me through my life transitions. Although I knew art was my purpose, I couldn’t really articulate why … I realized that I loved making art because it allowed me to create experiences where I could connect with others, and I still fulfill that same purpose not with art but with design.”
Jake Fuentes, CEO and founder of the Level Money app, spoke about the future of banking and personal finance. Fuentes recalled how, as a child, his mother paid for all of the family’s groceries with cash or checks, which allowed them to be fully aware of how much money she was spending at all times. With the rise of credit and debit cards, Fuentes expressed his worry that people are much more likely to overspend and admitted that he racked up over $11,000 in credit card debt during his college years.
“We’ve lost a really important experience. When we move from cash and checks and paper forms of currency to cards, we’ve lost the ability to just open up our wallets and see how much money we have left,” Fuentes said. “It’s a very basic experience that has existed since money has existed. But I didn’t have that.”
Fuentes said his experiences with credit systems inspired him to create a budgeting app that simply told him “Do you have enough money to spend today and still remain in the black?” Fuentes and his team proceeded to build the Level Money app, which was acquired by Capital One this January.
Emma Sagan, a product manager at Capital One Labs, spoke about the unique taboo status of money among college students and the importance of sharing finances with others. Sagan said it is easier for college students to talk to each other about sex than their own finances.
“No one spends Sunday brunch talking about the awesome night they had balancing their budgets with their boyfriend,” Sagan said. “No one sits there going like: ‘Hey, did you save money last week?’ People say: ‘Hey, how did the date go?’ We have a much easier time talking about sex than we do finances and that’s because money is taboo.”
Sagan said most people are dependent on others during childhood, have others dependent on them for much of adulthood and are dependent themselves again during old age. This leaves a narrow eight-year gap during a person’s twenties when he or she does not share finances with anyone, a fact that led Sagan and her team to begin developing an app called “Jungo,” which specifically helps people manage shared finances.
“How many financial apps or financial products actually address shared finances? There aren’t many, and yet 94 percent your life is going to be dealt with sharing finances,” Sagan said. “That’s a kind of problem that you can’t not address.”
Jacquelyn Brioux, an experience designer, said how people choose to spend their money affects happiness more than how much money they make. Specifically, Brioux said that spending more on intrinsic goals than extrinsic goals produces greater long-term happiness. Fifty percent of one’s potential for happiness is genetically determined and 10 percent is determined by our immediate circumstances, leaving 40 percent up to one’s “intentional activities,” she said.
“So this is our opportunity,” Brioux said, “40 percent of our happiness is within our power to change simply by shifting how we think and how we act. There are six things you can do right now as part of that 40 percent to be happy: be engaged in life, create and sustain close personal relationships with friends and family, laugh more, think positively, exercise, and feel and express gratitude.”
Caleb Dunn, a researcher on the enterprise visual team, ended the presentation by speaking about forming an effective motivational system to achieve goals step by step. Dunn recounted how he and his brother once failed to attend the NHL Winter Classic because they did not continue setting aside small amounts of money necessary to buy tickets. Instead, Dunn said people should motivate themselves for long-term goals using the hook model of trigger, action, variable reward and investment.
“We never made it that game,” Dunn said of the Winter Classic. “What happened? We had a goal. We even had a game plan. But something was missing. It was the hook. What if there had been a trigger to help keep us on track? What if the process of saving the money was as simple as a single click? What if we had had continued motivation through variable rewards? Maybe then we would have invested more in getting into that game.”