Meet Fintech Superstar Nina
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a twenty-something working professional living in London, but born and raised in the Silicon Valley. I work at a fantastic FinTech company called Bud which is focussed on bringing Open Banking to the masses. Even though I work in the FinTech industry, my first love was government and public service. I’m a total political junkie and spend a lot of my spare time advocating for women’s right and childhood education. I’m a financial feminist, a social feminist, a political feminist, and pretty damn proud to call myself one!
What’s your relationship like with money and personal finance?
My relationship with money and personal finance is much like my relationship with the gym! Bear with my metaphor - but I know that looking after my money is good for me. It’s the smart thing to do to spend, save, and invest responsibly. It’s even good for my (mental) health! But just like going to the gym, it is so difficult sometimes to force yourself to get started. Just making the decision to open my banking app and really confront myself with how much I spend on flat whites each month gives me the same feeling of dread as leaving my warm bed and bearing the cold to get to the gym! But I have found as I’ve begun to make conscious steps to manage my money better that it is exactly like exercise. It is miserable when you first step on that treadmill, but when you hit your stride and continue consistently, it creates a habit -- and a great habit at that!
What does financial independence mean to you?
Financial independence is freedom. It is being able to live comfortably and not fall asleep dreading your next credit card bill. Financial independence is also being adequately educated and aware of how your money can work for you.
Really, my financial aspirations are not all too grand. Sure, money is a great thing to have. But what I want more than anything is to be able to pay my rent and my bills on time. To save a chunk for a rainy day and invest a chunk for my future self and children but still have enough leftover to go see a play or treat myself to some avocado toast if that’s what I want!
Budgeting - do you follow any guides, or are you more of a freewheeler?
When I was young, I used to watch Friends quite a bit. Actually, who am I kidding? I still do! There’s an episode in which Monica gets fired from her job. She goes to ask her parents for a loan and her dad says something to the effect of, “Not to worry! We raised our girl right. 10% of every paycheck into savings!”
From a young age, I was intimidated and struck by the idea that I should put 10% away into savings each month. My parents also raised me with that similar idea, but rather the more you can put away in savings, the better. I know there are a lot of different ways to cut up the pie, but obviously there are months where it really is just paycheck to paycheck - the boiler breaks, you lose your phone, whatever. Keeping in mind that I am still quite young, I try my best to be moderate. We live in a very strange world, where my generation often views being splashy with money or living extravagantly as a desirable lifestyle. We want to fly to Bali and we want to sit first class, but paradoxically we’re pickier about our work and often take pay cuts to work jobs we insist on being happy at all the time. So although it’s really cliché, I find it’s about balance. If I go out for a night with friends, I’ll be sure to pack a few lunches that week to offset it. I want to get to a place where I’m following the 50-20-30 rule, which Vestpod has written about!
What’s the one thing you indulge in?
Funnily enough given my previous metaphor, the one thing I absolutely do not compromise on is my membership at Move Your Frame. It’s not really a gym, but rather a fitness studio that specialises in group exercise. I’ve been a member for years now and I have seen it make a marked improvement on my physical health and wellness, but also my mental wellbeing. Never underestimate the danger of extreme cortisol levels!!
What is the best financial decision you have ever made?
Honestly, the best financial decision I ever made was negotiating my salary. It sounds so trite, but it’s something that I think we as women have a great fear of doing.
I read a book once that said, “Walk into that room and say the highest number you can say without laughing. And why shouldn’t you? Most mediocre men would!” It really gave me the confidence to go in there and demand more. A starting salary is such a fickle thing, because you obviously need it to live but it also sets the tone for your pay moving forward. Many people who say the gender wage gap doesn’t exist claim that if it does, it only exists because women take lower paying jobs or do not negotiate. Now, I know for a fact that the gender wage gap does very much exist, but there is something to be said of this point. If you compare it to a race, if a woman is standing at the start line but a man is already 20 metres in, any advances the man make will obviously compound to be greater than the woman makes!
Similarly, not everything needs to be monetary. It helps to be creative, I’ve found, when negotiating. Perhaps instead of more money, you’re able to negotiate more holiday days or a budget to put towards your personal development. The sky’s the limit as long as it is a fair exchange of value!
Have you ever experienced a financial epiphany? A sort of wake-up call, where you suddenly think - “I must start doing things differently”?
Actually I would say I have financial epiphanies all the time - usually when I speak to other people about what they are doing with their money. A lot of these epiphanies have come from my mom. She’s incredibly savvy and definitely holds the purse strings in our household. But she is constantly telling me about different ways to manage money. She has been my biggest financial educator and when I was a teenager and had just started university, I made a huge mistake which led us to a really tumultuous time in our mother-daughter relationship. This mistake really disappointed her and I hated myself for letting her down. That was probably the moment when I realised how emotional money is and how it is absolutely necessary to take responsibility over my financial life.
Own up. Have you made any major financial faux-pas?
Well, that mistake I made that disappointed my mom had to do with a credit card. When I first started uni, my mom suggested I get a student credit card with a relatively low spending limit (about $1,000) to start building my credit score. Anyone who knows the American spending culture will know that we are a society that loves credit. And I am really ashamed to say that I was spending well above my means. I was buying ridiculous things I could neither afford nor realistically needed (especially considering I lived in a dorm room!).
It really spiraled out of control and because of the predatory behaviour of the bank in question, my credit limit was increased and so I spent even more. I was paying off the minimum each month, completely blissfully unaware of what an APR even is! It wasn’t until I was really in trouble that I finally admitted to my mom what I had done. You cannot imagine her rage, but it was a learning experience and now I am so weary of credit products. Even though the total amount wasn’t too gross compared to the debt that many people carry around, it was a huge wake up call.
What is Vestpod for you?
Vestpod is POWER! I say this because I find Vestpod so educational and eye-opening. Every week, I learn something new in my Thursday mailer. To me, education is power. As I said, knowing how your money can work for you is a part of financial independence. But also, the Thursday mailer is like a friendly reminder each week that nudges me to think, “Have you been good this week? What could you be doing better?” and that is really valuable to reflect and re-calibrate each week!
The book that changed your life: The Great Gatsby
A podcast: I absolutely love all NPR podcasts, but I religiously listen to Planet Money and The Indicator. Other favourites include 99% Invisible and Death, Sex, and Money by WNYC Studios.
Your story: Nina is a twenty-something California native living in London. She works at Bud, a financial network currently bringing Open Banking to the masses. She is a self-proclaimed champion of women and children as well as a political junkie and tech evangelist. When she’s not working, she can be found reading with a healthy glass of wine or wandering the halls of a museum.
Thanks a lot Nina!