>I hate seeing young people’s eyes glaze over

This entry was posted by Monday, 4 December, 2006
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>I want to share some of what I’ve learned from talking to thousands of young people about personal finance. Some of it isn’t pretty, but there’s a huge amount that can be done to educate young people about personal finance.

My name is Ramit Sethi and I’ll be speaking at the YES Summit on Wednesday afternoon. I’m the founder of I Will Teach You To Be Rich, a blog on personal finance and personal entrepreneurship for college students, recent grads, and everyone else. I started it while I was a sophomore at Stanford and it’s grown to have over 100,000 readers/month.

Here are some of the key things I’ve learned that I’ll be covering in my talk.

The message matters. Personal finance can be fun. I made it my goal to make it interesting and engaging. That means I mock people, I point out mistakes (including my own), and I occasionally curse. But I also talk about things that matter to young people: How much do you save by cooking at home? What’s the difference in starting to invest at age 20 vs. 30? Why do I disagree with all the personal-finance pundits who recommend only buying used cars? And is being rich really all about money? (Absolutely not.)

The messenger matters, too. Young people think of personal finance as boring drudgery. And every time they hear about personal finance, it’s either (1) some hyped article telling them “The 10 Hottest Stocks!!!” or (2) someone coming to give them a boring lecture on bond laddering and other irrelevant issues. One of the reasons I started my site was getting frustrated by all the personal-finance education out there. It’s mostly written by old white men for old white men, and young people’s eyes glaze over. I’ll talk about how I avoid this.

Don’t forget about the product. Some banks have tried to slap new marketing on an old product. Young people see right through it. Instead, they’re flocking to banks like ING and Emigrant Direct (which I personally recommend on my site–in fact, I’ve personally referred hundreds of people to ING). Why? Part of it is word of mouth spread by the insanely high interest rates. Young people seize upon the 5% interest (“10x what I’m getting at Wells Fargo?!”) and jump ship. But there are more levers you can pull besides interest rates.

There’s nothing wrong with being a little flashy. I usually write very long essays for my site. But once in a while, I put up images like this:

It’s not as nuanced as a thousand-word essay, but it grabs the attention of certain people who respond to different messages. Could you use video to reach young people? Images? Podcasts?

I’ll go into all these topics (and more) at my talk on Wednesday, December 6, 2006 at 12:40pm. If you have any specific questions you’d like me to think about beforehand, please email me. I’d love to hear what’s keeping you up at night.

You can also read some of my past articles on iwillteachyoutoberich.com.

11 Responses to “>I hate seeing young people’s eyes glaze over”

  1. Anonymous

    >Yep, flipping me off really makes me respect Gen Y.
    Over 40 and proud of it.

  2. Anonymous

    >I don’t think the point is to garner respect for Gen Y. It’s an image meant to grab your attention and deliver a message to a demographic. Apparently it succeeded in grabbing your attention but perhaps the message was overshadowed by the image… I notice that the picture was removed… probably a good idea for the risk-averse audience of this blog.

  3. Anonymous

    >In response to comment #2: this blog wasn’t written for a Gen. Y audience. Its intended audience is the over 40 crowd that would get upset looking at a picture of someone flipping them off. That should have been thought of before that article was allowed to be put up.
    I find it pretty funny that Ramit thinks that it’s okay to use images like that as attention grabbers. I am a part of the demographic that he’s trying to reach, and I found that offensive as well.
    And after reading his article and blog, I wondered what made him so superior to everyone else in his generation that he can talk down to the rest of us? The answer is nothing, as far as I can see. The only “qualification” he seems to have is that he’s a recent Stanford graduate, and he throws that out every chance he gets. I don’t see any real job or qualifications mentioned anywhere (selling bitter, angry T-shirts doesn’t count). Personally, I’d tend to believe what an “old white man” was telling me about personal finance before a recent Stanford graduate.
    So I guess commenter #2 was right that the image grabbed my attention… and told me to find a more credible blog than this one.

  4. Anonymous

    >There’s a difference between risk taking and disrespect.
    That crossed the line.

  5. YES Summitt Attendee

    >First let me say, that I am in my early 20s and I am on pace to be in CU mgmt well before 30.

    I did not get a chance to see the image that has caused the debate. But I do want to comment on something.

    Comment #1 says “Over 40 and proud of it.”

    I ask what makes you proud to be over 40??

    I heard the question several times on Wednesday: “How do you want us to talk to you?” What I cannot understand is why do you think that we should be talked to any different then every other member. We have wants and needs, just like a “40 year old.” My needs are not that different from my parents. So I don’t budget, was I taught to?? Did my parents show me how to or did they show me how to use my CC to go buy what i wanted when i wanted it?

    Let me make a comparison. A 60, 40, and 20 year old woman. The 60 year old can cook anything for any amount any night of the week. (And it is good). A 40 yr old can cook most things, out of mostly prepared boxes, but still home cooked meals. A 20 yr old eats out most nights, and when they do cook it is a limited selection. WHY? Something was lost from my grandma to my mom, and that dwindled even more from my mom to my sister. Compare that to financial conservativeness. Why should we care if we weren’t taught to care.

    It is our (the CU) responsibility to show them that we care and what to make sure that they have the best oppurtunity to meet their goals.

    If you segregate yourself from me, HOW am I supposed to come to you with my financial needs? I can’t trust you, becuase you don’t believe in me. Someone believes in me, and I will find them. When i do, you will be wishing you believed.

    I know that we seem like we are not aware but when you look me in the eyes, I know if you believe in me.

    Without me you will fail.

  6. Anonymous

    >Dear YES Summitt Attendee :
    I am proud of being over 40. I have standards, including what I consider is obscene for a financial institution’s or national association’s website. I have standards on finances, budgeting, credit, buying a house.
    Don’t write me off either. The road goes both ways.

  7. Over 40 and gettin' older

    >I can tell you that I am in the 40 range and I believe that it is time that the CU industry wake up and look at the advertising with this generation works. I’m am not saying that I agree with it but I am also a realist and know that times have changed. Look at what happened in the 60′s and 70′s with Vietnam and F*** Johnson t-shirts ad signs. These young adults have a voice in our marketplace and we need to be willing to listen. I’m sure there are better ways than flipping off the camera but if we don’t pay attention now, our doors won’t be open 10-20 years from now to servicing this group

  8. YES Summitt Attendee

    >I agree someone flipping you off is obscene especially on a CU based website. I would defintily take offense. But all I ask is that you see that not ALL young adults are this way. I am 22, I am married, soon to be a father, own a new home, two cars, low CC balance, work 45 hours a week at the CU and just got done with my degree, going to school full time while working full time.
    I also have my finances in order, and i also was smart enough to learn from some of my parents purchasing mistakes. I in no way, want to write you (40+) off, becuase you are what is loyal to my CU and as of now, you are all my CU has. We are 10% under 30 and that is sad, we are an awesome CU but we are not appealing to my generation.

    All i ask is that you are not only proud to be over 40, but you are also proud that you can make a difference financially for the young adults that has had no financial guidance before. You have had 25 years to learn how to do it the right way. But when you were 20 i will bet if the money (loans, CC, etc.) was available to you, you would have gotten it to.

    I doubt you were walking around flipping people off when you were 20 (neither do i), but i will bet that you did do some things that you would now determine as rebelous, obscene, etc.

    Just understand just like for the 40-50 years we are all different, and just because there is a group out there that feels their finances are worth flipping off, doesn’t mean that you should seperate yourself from the entire generation.

  9. Anonymous

    >Just a note to say that I hope that everyone who saw Ramit’s presentation knew to not confuse the medium with the message.

    Amazing job.
    I enjoyed every bit of the conference.

  10. 20 something Marketier


    Thanks for speaking at the YES Summit. I think you are a great representation of showing how our generation thinks and thinks of money, more importantly. I was able to think of some pretty interesting ideas that I can hopefully incorporate into my CU. Thanks for being so blunt about your views. Afterall, that’s how I think a lot of us Gen-Yers are. We like information short sweet and to the point; nothing sugar-coated.

    You’ve even inspired me to create my own blog (and no, it’s NOT called “I will teach you to marry rich”.

  11. terrell

    >Ramit, I really enjoyed your presentation.

    And to clarify something for some of anon comments: this blog is for anyone who attended the conference, regardless of their age. It’s actually for anyone who wants to read it.

    Ramit’s qualifications are that he has a successful personal finance blog that appeals to young people (and not so young people). He’s already proven that he knows how to reach the 18-30s; we can all learn from him.

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