Some people are taught about money when they are quite young. However, the statistics show that financial illiteracy in the U.S. is a pandemic problem. Because the general public isn’t knowledgeable about seemingly simple concepts as compound interest, it is no wonder 75% of Americans would struggle to gather $1,000 in case of an emergency. According to a study from the National Endowment for Financial Education, only 24% of millennials demonstrate basic financial literacy . Funny enough, 69% of participants in the same study gave themselves a “high” self-assessment of financial knowledge.
Tina Hay decided to tackle the problem of financial literacy in millennials and beyond. Hay never thought she would be a FinTech entrepreneur. The Los Angeles-native with a liberal arts background worked in film at Miramax and Paramount before launching her first company, CityTripper. After selling it, she went to Harvard Business School where for the first time she was surrounded by bankers and consultants that knew finance like the back of their hands.
“ In school I struggled with finance as a very visual learner. I’ve always used sketching and illustration to understand topics,” says Hay. After graduating, Hay found herself explaining compound interest to a friend – simply writing the basics on the back of a napkin. The moment sparked the idea for Napkin Finance, a quickly growing content-focused FinTech company based in Hay’s L.A. hometown.
The company started in 2016 with just one napkin explaining compound interest, but has branched out into multiple forms of media, all with the goal of teaching consumers about money in 30 seconds or less. Hay describes the company’s brief finance lessons as “snackable,” and they have now released hundreds of napkins focusing on topics ranging from savings, interest, ETFs, investing, taxation, and even cryptocurrency and Blockchain. A serendipitous meeting at the White House led Hay and Napkin Finance to partner with Michelle Obama for the First Lady’s ‘Better Make Room’ and ‘Reach Higher’ initiatives to help students and young adults heading to college. For this, Hay’s team created a FAFSA napkin.
“We’re finding ways to communicate to people and it changes the way they see their opportunities. They can empower themselves and make important decisions,” says Hay.
Hay sees the company as an opportunity to level the playing field while getting people engaged with a sometimes intimidating topic in a unique, entertaining way.
“ Coming from a non-financial, non-Wall Street background has been my advantage. We look at it from the perspective of someone who knows nothing about the topic.”
Her background in creative content has come in handy with this venture, which relies on design to engage users. “Creativity and design have been an important aspect. I see every company as a design company, even in finance. It’s all about user experience and interface, how you absorb content,” she says.