BY LAURA-LEE CASCAGNETTE
For millennials, managing money can be overwhelming and intimidating. Student loans, credit card debt and the rising cost of living in the GTA make the idea of financial freedom feel like an unattainable dream. Deeper than that, millennials feel disengaged and unreached by traditional forms of banking in a very untraditional moment in time. Octavia Ramirez, founder and CEO of Paper & Coin, a financial coaching service for millennials, says she is meeting a new type of need in the financial industry.
Like many millennials growing up, the conversation of money wasn’t a dinner table topic for Ramirez. “I wasn’t encouraged to ask questions around money, it was a little bit taboo. Everything was taken care of, so we didn’t talk about it,” she says. “Even in different cultures, money wasn’t something that parents would talk to their kids about.” This kind of aversion towards financial discussions has set a poor course for Generation Y’s financial literacy.
Ramirez recounts the moment where her financial future changed, setting her on the path that many hope to follow.
“Money would land into my bank account and I would put hundreds of dollars onto my credit card, which at the time was maxed out due to mismanagement. I was stuck in this cycle of getting paid and paying off my credit card and I was sick of it. I never felt like I had the margin or the freedom to do what I wanted with my money. I wanted to live a certain lifestyle and I was charging it on my credit card,” she says.
Tired of being stuck in a pattern of debt, Ramirez grabbed scissors and cut her credit card into tiny pieces. This symbolic moment is one she recounts often as she shares her story with others. “I just remember in that moment feeling such a relief. The card wasn’t paid off but it was a step in that direction. I paid it off in six weeks and I have been debt free since then, January 2013.”
Ramirez began sharing her journey of financial freedom with others, blogging the process along the way. When Ramirez and her husband, Will, paid cash for their $25,000 wedding, they did something many people would never do. The couple opened up their financial workbook and showed people how they did it, down to the last dime.
“That part of my journey really led to opportunities to share my advice on platforms like Girlboss and Tangerine Bank,” she says. “Those pieces really transitioned my career into the financial sector and how the start of Paper & Coin came to be.”
Ramirez believes that millennials are an interesting demographic. Many new grads are entering into the workforce each year and there are not enough jobs to keep up with the demand. This has given rise to a new economy called the “gig” or “share” economy. Think coworking spaces, Uber, Airbnb. These were businesses that were actually birthed out of the recession.
The banking and financial sector was not prepared to handle that type of demographic, the wave of entrepreneurs. This point of contention for many millennials is why Paper & Coin feel that they are meeting a very felt need. They believe they understand millennials better because they are millennials. And unlike a bank, driven by pure numbers, the Paper & Coin team is passionate about helping this generation experience financial freedom.
“My approach is simple,” Ramirez explains. “First thing I tell people is to actually look at your bank account! Look at your debt! You don’t know how many people don’t even look at these things. Then, we get real with your money. We go back to basics, paper and coin, like the name. We teach people to actually use the money they have in their bank account. It’s about making people rethink the way they spend, the way they think about money and the way they make decisions about things they purchase. Also, learning how to prepare for the future.”
Amy Morris, a young working professional, says that she feels lost when it comes to paying off her student debt and understanding life from a financial standpoint. “I don’t really know where to begin sometimes. I don’t necessarily understand the in and out of my finances when it comes to interest rates and things like investing. Banks are intimidating. I do worry about it a lot but I push this to the back of my mind and try not think about it.”
This is why Ramirez is passionate about empowering millennials to understand money. “I have been able to experience what it feels like to truly be financially free. I know what it’s like to break the negative cycle of debt. Seeing people worry about money and struggle, that’s why I am so passionate about helping this demographic figure this out. It’s so freeing, it’s so liberating and I really want to help people feel that for themselves.”
For more information, check www.paperandcoin.ca/