How a Harvard Grad Manages His Finances
This week MyBankTracker spoke with Ali Evans, a recent graduate of Harvard University. He majored in economics as an undergrad and will be starting work at Bain & Company this coming fall.
Ali is amazingly savvy with personal finance, so we talked to him about how that came to be and how it will influence his post-college plans.
MyBankTracker (MyBankTracker): Why did you choose to major in economics?
Ali Evans (AE): I went in with the intention to go on the pre-med track. But when I was actually studying it, I realized I didn’t really like hard sciences or medicine very much. I was looking at trying anything else, and that’s when I took my first intro to econ class. I always had a knack for money with my own personal finances, so it was kind of intuitive to me that maybe I should try it out. I really enjoyed the introductory class, so I decided to switch my major to econ.
MyBankTracker: What do you ultimately want to do with your degree?
AE: My economics degree will probably help me as an investor. My end career goal is to be somewhere in between investing and management. I probably wouldn’t work on hedge funds or anything like that, but I would, for example, want to work at a firm that purchases companies that are in bad shape and turn them around.
MyBankTracker: You mentioned that you always had a knack for money and personal finance. Tell me more about that.
AE: I’m pretty intense about that stuff. When I was a kid, I had a safe in my bedroom, one of those little box safes. It was my version of the piggy bank. I never really trusted bank accounts, because you needed to have your parents on the account and I didn’t want them to be! So I used to keep a log of every time I took money out.
MyBankTracker: Did you earn money as a kid or was it allowance?
AE: I used to do a lot of odd jobs like cut grass and shovel snow. Basically anything I could do, and I always had a job through middle school, high school, college.
MyBankTracker: When did you get that safe, middle school?
AE: I got it when I was about 10.
MyBankTracker: You started when you were young! You weren’t joking around with money, even as a kid.
AE: I grew up in Michigan, and because it snows so much, my cousin and I used to shovel snow all day from like 6 A.M. til it got dark. We would each make like $70 or $80 and then I would save half, and then with the other half I would buy video games, candy, or whatever. That’s how I primarily made money when I was a kid.
MyBankTracker: You sound like you were pretty strict with money, did that carry over with you in college?
AE: For the most part. I’m less strict now than I used to be, only because I have more money now. When I was growing up, I didn’t have a ton of money, and I had a car in high school, so that was a big expense. When I was in college, I worked a lot. I saved a ton of it and I paid for school with a lot of it, but I would still go out with my friends and spend. On the whole, though, I’m pretty strict.
MyBankTracker: Do you track your expenses or use personal finance management tools?
AE: Yeah, I check my Mint everyday. (laughs) I combine Mint with my own Excel spreadsheets. I make spreadsheets for everything, it’s just an easy way for me to organize my thoughts. I have a record of most of my budgets, my balances and accounts. I use Mint to track things in real-time. The bigger monthly and yearly data is all on Excel.
To be honest with you, I don’t think most people my age — actually, not even just people my age — most people aren’t this way about money. For me, it’s what works.
MyBankTracker: I know you have some student loans you have to pay back, what are your repayment plans with those?
AE: I have about $10,000 in student loans. I’m in deferment until the end of the year, and I’m going to start payments then, but I’ve already saved up about a third of the money and plan to pay it off early next year.
MyBankTracker: You are in ridiculously good financial health!
AE: (laughs) I hate debt, more than anything. I always pay my credit card bill off every month, no matter how much it is. I hate debt. My goal is to pay off my student loans interest-free, but if not, with very little interest.
I’m going to be making way more than the minimum required each month; my goal is to have all $10K paid by next March or April. That’s another reason why I’m working this summer, so I can save money to pay back my loans faster.
MyBankTracker: Where does this “I hate debt” mantra come from?
AE: Both my parents had significant debt as I was growing up, so maybe I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. My mom had a lot of consumer debt and if you only make minimum payments, it just compounds on you. My dad had business debt and mortgage debt, since we got hit pretty hard by the housing bubble.
MyBankTracker: Are you worried about how the economy is going to shape your finances in the future?
AE: I’m a pretty big saver, so I’m not too worried. I have an investment account, I have retirement money saved up. I have a Roth IRA, which I have to give my parents a lot of credit for, since they told me about that and I started it my freshman year of college. I don’t have a ton of money in these accounts, but I do contribute to them monthly. I have a pretty standard rule, I contribute 15% of my income, after taxes, to my savings, whether it be for my loans or for retirement. I think I’ll be alright for the future.
MyBankTracker: Do you have any big money goals you’re working towards?
AE: My first goal is definitely to pay off my loans. I’m planning on going to business school down the road, so I definitely want to save some money for that as well.
I don’t have any big ticket items I want to buy. I would like to travel and do more outdoor activities like hiking and camping, but other than that, nothing huge. I just want to be at the level where I have enough money to be comfortable doing the things that I like to do.
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Amy covers personal finances, student loans, and money management for younger adults. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Business Insider, New York Daily News, and more.