Talking with her friends about their post-graduation plans, 2020 University of Virginia graduate Kavya Ravikanti quickly realized that one topic—personal finance—sparked a lot of confusion, misinformation, and anxiety.
“I knew some friends who did not have a credit card, and some who juggled multiple cards for different rewards,” said Ravikanti, who studied computer science. “There were a lot of gaps in understanding, and so much contradictory information online. I had a hard time finding reliable sources that I could relate to.” Personal finance stories online tended to be about people who were over 30 and were saving to buy homes or retire early, she said.
That’s when she had an idea. More than anything, she wanted to hear real stories from students and recent grads who were finding financial strategies that worked for them. What if she started a newsletter sharing those stories?
“I loved storytelling platforms like ‘Humans of New York,’ seeing how impactful those stories are and how many people relate to them, even if they look or act nothing like you,” she said. “I wanted stories talking about how people handle their finances that I could relate to.”
And so, Young, Not Broke was born. It’s a biweekly email newsletter, blog, and website filled with personal finance tips from college students and recent graduates who are embarking on their first jobs, saving for graduate school and other big expenses, planning for retirement, and exploring the basics of investing. Ravikanti started the site last fall, and further developed her ideas in McIntire School of Commerce Professor Eric Martin’s “Launch” entrepreneurship class.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Young, Not Broke’s audience swelled quickly. Now, as the pandemic dramatically changes the job market, knowing how to manage your money feels more urgent than ever, Ravikanti said.
We caught up with her and classmate Christina Wei, head of marketing for Young, Not Broke, to talk more about it.
Why did you start Young, Not Broke?
Ravikanti: Growing up, my dad always emphasized the importance of financial independence, no matter what I ended up doing. I worked part-time jobs throughout college, and tried to make the most of summer jobs and internships.
I started talking to my friends about personal finance, just like I talk to them about so many other things, and quickly realized that there were big gaps in understanding. We are inundated with a lot of online resources, but I found that many of them did not pertain to me as a college student, or to my friends. I started searching for stories I could relate to, and talking to people about how they handled money, and that is how Young, Not Broke started.
Wei: Kavya was looking to bring someone onto the team to help out with marketing and asked if I wanted to join her. I worked on Young, Not Broke as my entrepreneurship capstone. I had taken a personal finance course the previous semester, which was incredibly useful, and I wanted to keep sharing and exploring the financial questions that come up in my own daily life.
How did Eric Martin’s course help you get started?
Ravikanti: Professor Martin pushed us to think bigger than we were thinking ourselves, to reach out to for professional partnership or funding, and to grow our community. We talked with staff at Student Financial Services, and applied for and received a grant from the UVA Parents Fund. We have started other initiatives, such as YNB Live!, a series of online events that connect personal finance experts with students, and generally expanded our reach much more.
As the pandemic shakes the global economy, what are you keeping an eye on? What concerns are you hearing from fellow students and graduates?
Ravikanti: It is definitely scary, and uncertainty is never easy. However, it is important to think of the long term. So, we are working on educating our peers about preparing yourself to be as successful as possible, whether that means starting your first job, learning more about how to start investing, or answering tough questions about how to prioritize your finances. Those are all basic that will be helpful in any economy, and we want to keep coming back to those fundamental topics.
Wei: We also want to make sure that people remember that we, like them, are adjusting to current events and giving our own take on what that looks like. So, we recently covered the CARES Act and the stimulus checks people might be receiving on our Instagram. We want to continue to keep track of how various stimulus efforts are actually affecting the economy and job market for graduates and students like us and update our audience.
What are some of your favorite personal finance tips for students and young graduates?
Wei: Don’t be afraid to try something. Credit cards are a good example. I have talked with friends who were afraid of trying a credit card, because they were afraid they would miss a monthly payment. However, if you are confident you can pay your monthly bill on time, it’s a great tool to build your credit and also take advantage of rewards certain credit cards offer. It might take some adjustment, but I think it is so important to believe in yourself, and to set up structures that will help you build those habits.
Ravikanti: There is one resounding piece of advice we hear over and over again in interviews—understand where your money is coming from and where it is going. It’s always a good idea to look back at your spending habits over several months to see where you are spending money and if that is how you want to be spending it. That understanding is crucial to the next step, and the earlier you do it, the better.
Anything else to add?
Ravikanti: Zooming out, personal finance boils down to simple math and learning the lingo. It’s not as complicated as it is made out to be. It can seem intimidating, but remember not to give money the power to control your life; instead use it to give yourself the life you want.
Finally, Christina and I are not experts. We did not major in finance, and we are not going into finance. If we can learn about this stuff, and really make meaningful progress, so can you. Not everyone has access to this knowledge, which is why we sincerely hope our content can empower someone to take that first step.