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One Life-Changing Class You Never Took: Alexa von Tobel at TEDxWallStreet

One Life-Changing Class You Never Took: Alexa von Tobel at TEDxWallStreet


Translator: Bob Prottas
Reviewer: Leonardo Silva So thank you so much for having me. I’m Alexa von Tobel and I’m incredibly
passionate about personal finance. I wanted to start talking to you all today
about my favorite television show, which would of course be,
The Biggest Loser. I love The Biggest Loser and I’m sure
many of you watch it here. I love to watch it while
I’m on the elliptical machine. Everything from the crazy donut binges,
to the dramatic weigh-ins, it’s incredibly entertaining. Though when I watch it
I often step back and I think: “What a great television show.” America is struggling with obesity and this is a show that
brings that to the forefront. Six million people view it every Tuesday
night and I often pause and think, “God I really wish something like this
existed for personal finance.” I really wish that there could be a show
like The Biggest Loser for person finance but unfortunately money is still so taboo. In America right now, the average person makes approximately 6 to 10 money
decisions every single day. Those decisions can range
from simple things like whether or not to buy a cup of coffee? to bigger things like
What should I do with my 401K? I think what’s important about that is
those decisions are completely unguided. Right now personal finance
isn’t taught in high schools, colleges, or graduate programs across
the United States. People typically learn about personal
finance by talking to their parents, who unfortunately were also never formally
educated about personal finance. The take away there is most people
simply learn through trial and error. Money is such an important thing
it effects us all and most people simply
learn about it through trial and error. So from there, it’s easy to understand
that money right now is the number one thing
that young people really stress about. Worse 76% of the country feels completely
out of control when it comes to money. Pause for a second, four of your closest
friends, three of them right now feel out of control when it comes
to their personal finances. Seventy five percent of this room
feels out of control when it comes to their personal finances. Unfortunately we’re not doing anything
to change this. Right now 84% of college graduates
said that they need more help when it comes to personal finance
but they’re not getting it, and as a result of all of this, 61% of the
country is living paycheck to paycheck. More than 50% of our country
is not quite sure how they’re going to pay their bills
next month. That is staggering. Think about the stress
that puts on individuals. So I often ask myself:
How on earth did we get here? How do we end up where
this thing that is so critical to every single person in this room? It’s something that we’ve never learned. I want to take the 1.8 million college
graduating seniors from this year and I want to walk you through exactly
what ultimately happens. I want to introduce you to someone
who will represent the absolute norm and we’re going to find out
how they ended up on such a ride. So meet Jessica. She’s 22 years old,
she studied English. She’s going to graduate from college
this year with $25,000 in student debt, and $4,000 in credit card debt,
and she’s going to end up, if she is lucky and I repeat lucky, with a job right out
of college, where she’ll make $35,000. That means that her monthly take home pay
will be approximately $2,300. I’m going to walk you through
5 decisions that Jessica’s going to make, some that she’s aware were bad decisions,
some that she’s not, and it helps you better understand
how she ended up in a situation that most of America is in.
So first she’s not going to have a budget. Jessica thinks about her life now
and says: “I barely get any money that I’m making.
Why am I creating a detailed budget? I’ll be lucky if I can just pay my bills.” She doesn’t know that good financial
planning recommends that 50% of her money that she takes home
goes towards essentials, 30% towards life style,
and 20% towards the future. That’s really key, 20% towards
her future savings. Jessica’s going to move
after college to a big city. First she’s going to do what every other
college graduate does, get an apartment. Then she’s going to spend $1,200 on rent. In the beginning, a simple decision
such as getting her apartment is going to throw even the chance of her
having a balanced budget completely out of whack, but also put her
in jeopardy for years to come as she won’t have that 20%
going towards her future. Next Jessica already has lots of debt.
She thinks to herself: “Everyone in America is in debt.
Why do I have to worry so much?” Instead of aggressively paying it down she
only going to pay her minimum payments. Worse she’s going to miss a few
of those payments. She doesn’t even understand
what a credit score is. Nor does she understand why
it’s so critical to her financial future. After that she’s not going to think
about emergency savings, and the reason is she can
barely think about how she pays her bills. She thinks: “What do I need
emergency savings for?” What she doesn’t know
is if she loses her job tomorrow or has any type of an emergency,
she’s completely vulnerable and she’s going to rely on credit card
debt to keep her head above water. Her fourth big mistake is she’s not going
to negotiate her salary. She is so thankful that she got a job that she’s not going
to negotiate her salary. She’s going to wait for her boss
to tell her when she gets one. So few years later
she’s still making just $35,000. The final major mistake
that Jessica’s going to make is she’s not going to think about
retirement in her 20’s. The reason she’s not
is retirement is 43 years away. Why on earth would she think about it?
She says. Because of that she doesn’t take advantage
of her employer 401k match program, and she doesn’t open a Roth IRA.
Now I want to fast forward 15 years. Applying those exact same
behavioral traits, not learning much more about personal
finance, making a few more mistakes, Jessica’s going to get married
and she’s going to have 2 children. Fifteen years later,
applying the national APR of 15%, Jessica’s going to be closer
to $20,000 in debt. As her life grew,
credit card was her answer. Her interest rate has of course gone up. From there, she still has about $10,000
of her student loans. So a decision she made 2 decades ago
is still haunting her every single month. Additionally her credit score has gone
from 622 to something more in the 500’s, and that’s because she’s amassed more debt
and she’s missed more payments. She started thinking about retirement, but she currently has less than $10,000
in her future retirement savings. Which actually is about
54% of America right now. Beyond that, she doesn’t set up
a 529 plan for her children because she has no other dollars
to think about. So I want to pause for a second and I
want to think about the national impact. I just walked you through Jessica’s story
and I want us to pause and I want us multiply that by a thousand
by a million, and by tens of millions. Jessica’s story is the story
of tens of millions of Americans living in our country today. You understand that
and we pause and really think about it. It helps you better understand why we
currently are a country where we have $2.5 trillion, yes trillion dollars
in consumer debt. We’re in a position where the American
dream of home ownership is not a reality as 25% of applications
are denied immediately. Where 31% of Americans today
have no retirement savings and therefore the American dream
of pausing when you’re 65 when your bones are starting
to get brittle and being able to retire, they’re not going to have that
as a reality, and finally and maybe even worse, money is the number
one cause of fights in marriages. And married couples who fight
are 30% more likely to end up in divorce. So this gives you an idea
of where we are today. But this doesn’t give you
a sense of the domino effect. Jessica and her husband
they have two beautiful kids. Those kids will go off to college
with the exact same credit card debt and student loan debt that Jessica had. But worse, they’re probably going to have
to help Jessica with retirement. That domino is going to fall down for
generations to come and as you can see Jessica has flipped
a domino and the downward financial spiral that will continue for many generations.
So what if we could rewind? What if I told you that I really believe
that there’s a solution to all of this? I really believe that we can go back
to the tens of millions — We can ultimately go back to Jessica
and there’s a simple solution. We can take her
before she enters the world, before all of our college seniors do,
and we can basically stop and teach them 5 principles. We can help them
avoid making these mistakes, let them understand why
a budget is so critical, learn the principle of living beneath
their means; help them better understand
that debt is not an answer and in fact it is absolutely so important
to aggresively pay it down as it is designed to defeat you; help them understand that an emergency
savings account is so critical – if anything happens, you want
to be able to sleep at night and that’s why it’s there; help them understand that they have to
negotiate their salaries along the way that their voice will always
be the loudest; and finally that retirement is something
you have to think about in your 20’s. I saw this graph many, many years ago. It’s a simple principle,
it’s compounding interest. An individual who starts contributing
to retirement in her 20’s versus her 40’s and they both contribute the same dollars. This is a really powerful graph
and a really important thing, and I just always wonder
what if we can make this go viral? So I want to go back
to the educated Jessica. Let’s say we did actually teach her
all of these empowered facts. Years later she’d be in a position
where she could open the coffee shop she’d always dreamed of. She and her husband now own a home
because they knew about credit score. They knew not to miss their bills
and they knew to keep it in the 700’s. They’re looking forward to their
retirement. They took advantage of all those things
in their 20’s and compounding interest worked its magic, and probably best yet,
her children have 529 plans. They’ll go off to college and they’ll be
in a significantly better place than Jessica was decades ago. This is the empowered Jessica. So I wish it weren’t true but it is,
money is such a lifeline. If you love someone you can travel
around the world to see them, and if you’re sick, as I know this week
you’re going to want to pay the best dollars that money can buy
to get the best doctors. Money will affect us every single day
of our lives until the day that we die, and I wish it weren’t true,
but it’s a fact. I look forward to a future where
we can pause, we can take all of the people
before they enter the world and teach them these
basic financial principles. That we can empower them so that they can end up
living really powerful financial lives. That they can feel great about money and
from there it ultimately is going to have fantastic impact on our balance
sheets and as our nation as a whole. But most importantly it’s going dwindle
down for many generation to come. When I think about money
I think it’s not important to be rich. It’s not about being rich. It’s about
being able to live your richest life. I want that for me.
I want that for Jessica. I want that for the hundreds of millions
of Americans who deserve just that. Thank you. (Applause)

100 comments on “One Life-Changing Class You Never Took: Alexa von Tobel at TEDxWallStreet

  1. I agree people are stupid about money but in many ways the apathy comes from employers not paying fairly because they have unrealistic laws to protect them and sky high rent costs.the hippies this years ago by living communally,protesting,and working alternative platforms..then later they became yuppies and fucked everyone over….the real issue is greed..you want money?get greedy. ..it will come as fast as you want it to.

  2. Isn't this a common sense? Not everyone want to live beneath their means. Of course if you invest money and avoid debt, you'll have more financial freedom later in life. No shit?

  3. Strange, because Israel receives part of Jessica's money. If she took back what goes to CIA, military, "security", excessive policing, etc., Jessica will find out she's actually rich.

  4. wow amazing…maybe too late for me ( maybe not) but have passed this on to my children.
    Its weird having someone say this in just 11 minutes…we all know this stuff but it gets fragged…maybe that's why so many "educated" people land up as she says. Its hurtful cos I am educated and yet …exactly where she said I was…that's a good thing by the way.
    One other thing I should mention…who put me onto Tedex? my daughter 🙂

  5. she soo true. money causes all the problems. money can buy happiness. money is everything. im sorry  but this the world we live.

  6. Great talk. In some weird way, our larger society thrives on our impulses, and that is why we spend so much money on …. you name it. Just as the little ant carries six times its weight, we can get easily get indebted beyond our capability to pay. Forcing ourselves not to buy the latest fad but to save that money for the future would be a good decision today.

  7. The more valuable lesson on money probably relates to how people spend it, which leaves them in the financial position, they've dreaded off.

    Poor people – They just spend their money on things, any spare cash, they will spend it on buy a squeaky toy from pound land or whatever

    Middle Class- They spend it on liabilities, which are things that are going to cost them even more money..e.g. Cars, holidays, furniture, the list goes on 

    Rich people- They mostly spend the money on something that's going to make them even more money, could be a antique, could be a business, could be anything

  8. I thought the example of Jessica getting ther own apartment right out of college was a great point. She did not realize the long term impact- and coud have rented a room for the first year, using the difference to pay off credit card debt and keep up with bills.

  9. Western banks need to STOP charging interests and operate instead like islamic banks. Interests are one of the, if not the, biggest reasons why people are drowning in debt. How does charging more money to someone who needs money in the first place make sense?? Plus it's so unfair to have to pay "X+Y when you only borrowed X.

  10. What about making education free and not to push heavy duty credits on everyone, encouraging to spend money? The idea of saving sounds idealistic, out of reality of everyday life for someone who simply has to have a roof over the head and stay healthy.

  11. I Look forward to a world with no money. this is possible with the tools we have. yet we are short on unity consciousness and transformative narratives

  12. THIS SOCIETY IS NOT DESIGNED FOR YOU OR ME NOR ANYONE TO BE DEBT FREE!!! EVERYONE HAS A DEBT OR WILL AT ANY COST CREATE A "SYNTHETIC ONE!” THE SYSTEM IS ON “AUTOPILOT” CAN’T YOU SEE THE ALLEGORY YOU HYPOCRITE! THIS SPEECH IS JUST ANOTHER APORIA! A QUIMERA. YOUR SPEECH = A LOTTERY COMMERCIAL— IF YOU DO NOT PLAY THE LOTERY YOU ARE THEREFORE A JERK FOR NOT FEEDING IN TO THE SCHOOL CHARITY! AS IF THAT 60 BILLION A YEAR REVENUE IS EVER INVESTED IN ANY SCHOOL, ENOUGH TO MAKE A SUBSTANTIAL IMPACT! LET ME CLARIFY— THEREFORE IF YOU DO NOT SAVE, YOU ARE A STUPID JERK THAT DOES NOT CARE FOR THE FUTURE! ( IF YOU HAD THE CASH TO PAY FOR TUITION, WOULD IT REALLY BE STUPID TO SPEND IT IN ANY TUITION? AFTER ALL YOU ARE BUYING A DIPLOMA? EXPENSIVE TOILET PAPER!! WHEN YOU COULD OPEN YOUR BUSINESS INSTEAD? AND HAVE THAT EXPERIENCE!!! MOST DIPLOMAS WILL GET YOU… WHAT?? HAPPINESS?) DEFINE SUCCESS! BUT DO NOT IMPLANT YOUR FUNDAMENTALISM ON THE REST!!! NOT EVERYONE WANTS YOUR EXISTENCE! AND YOU BETTER RESPECT EVERY EARTHLING!!! FAUNA AND FLORA RESPECT US ALL! FOR NOT EVERYONE WANTS AN ANTHROPOCENTRIC LIFE! IT IS UNSUSTAINABLE!!! ALL OF YOU ARE NOTHING BUT HYPOCRITES!

  13. yes lady you talk about debt and the fact that we should change that…but you don't say HOW…this is mostly empthy talk…you already pointed out what i know, that debt is bad but how just how to escape this vicious circle?? when everything around you force you to get debt, college, apartament, and soo on, all these things are inevitable to get you in debt…ofer us some practical solutions don't just say "save some money for old days" what if we just get by and there's really no way to save money? and i don't live in USA but the situation in Europe is noo diferent

  14. If you would like your very own video request go to my channel where I talk money, personal finance and investing 🙂

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  16. the information shared by this young lady is very helpful…n what she talks about personal finance is extremely most important coz what she is saying is same being said in the book RICH DAD POOR DAD by Robert T. Kiyosaki

  17. For the most part this is good information and I agree that many schools don't put enough emphasis on personal finance, but some schools do teach it. Unfortunately many schools don't teach it well and tell students they need car loans, credit cards, ect. Where I disagree with her is here…

    1. She tells people to stay away from debt
    2. She stresses the importance of having a high credit score

    The problems with it is that to have a high credit score you have to borrow money. You need debt. Yes, credit cards are borrowing money. So to tell people to stay out of debt while saying they need good credit is inconsistent because you can't do both. If you don't borrow money you don't need a credit score because if you can afford what you're buying you don't need to put it on credit. And one of the reasons so many people get into debt is because they think they need to build credit so they go out and borrow money. STAY AWAY FROM CREDIT IF YOU WANT TO AVOID DEBT!

  18. Is this video some sort of a cruel joke. Very few people would be able get ahead by playing it that straight, the system will eat them alive in no time.

  19. What a great video. I love it. It encapsulates the importance of why everybody needs to learn about personal finance. It really hit me with your point about the inter-generational domino effect of those who go down a bad financial path. I'm trying to teach my kids about personal finance and money now, so any time there is something involving money (on the radio, at a store, etc.), we talk about it. I think it's just so important just to talk to your kids about every day money issues so they have some grounded sense of how to spend, how to save, and just how to know what a dollar actually is worth. Like you mentioned, I don't want them to find out by trial and error. So I want to pass on some knowledge so they have a leg up when they are adults.

  20. I would like to recommend The Financial Hero of New Era from Paul Mica. Inspiring book about complex personal finance and great lie of today's money.

  21. I did have a personal finance class in high school and it's offered in college. Honestly, though it just didn't really stick with me. I loved learning about it but I wish it would have been more extensive other then learning the basics and had been more interactive.

  22. How to not be Jessica? My parents who didn't finish high school have told me the same too. This's too academic BS.

  23. Assuming the ROI on investments remains that high as debt declines.

    Banks gotta make money somehow.
    Debt isn't necessarily a bad thing. Debt can be a force for good when controlled properly. Debt isn't imprisonment, it can be freeing. Without a system of debt, lending, leverage, we're less free. The problem of course, is that people are irresponsible with debt, aside from the inherent risk. The problem is people seeing it as Monopoly money, imaginary numbers. Not tangible, physical cash.

    Plus, Jessica is pretty fucking boring. Pretty fucking undisciplined and pretty fucking monotonous. Not everyone wants to live so placidly like Jessica. In fact, whoever chooses to live like Jessica, deserves exactly what Jessica gets.

  24. Right after highschool ( 18 yrs old ) i gave myself a choice. Either to go to college get a student loan or find a job doesnt matter if it pays well or not (at that time) .. I ended up going with the second option however i promised myself to be really keen with handling my income properly like tracking where my income would go, things i would buy etc … but i'd save most of my income id say 80% or more… I lived with my parents coz i know it would save me alot and avoided literally going out.. i was just focusing on the numbers… and at the same time i was putting money on mutual fund, GIC, TFSA ( i live in Canada ) etcc. i also wasnt screwing with any ladies at the time because didnt want to be distracted lol. Fast forward 2 years later… had 35gs in my bank account all diversified.. and i thought to myself hmmm ok life is getting boring… sooo got myself a girlfriend… couple months later we had a baby.. soo instead of renting i decided to put down some money towards a townhouse.. Me and my wife also saved up money for our baby on the way to help us out…. too makee a long storrry short if i would've went to college..i wouldve aquire student loan.. maybe drop out of college, have huge personal debt because college is stressfull and every student needs to party and let all go.. I'm 23 now already paying mortgage, not in debt except mortgage.. have a decent investment although it still neeeds to grow and i have a 1 year old.. and thinking about putting him to private school :)… nothing against college or education but you also got to take care of your personal finances coz the numbers are really going to define what life are you going to be able to afford down the road…. and yea they never teach that in highschool.. maybe they did.. but never paid attention….. thank god jst clicked in my head

  25. Im a 19 year old college student and i loved this video so much. so much great info and i feel ahead of the game. THANK YOU!!!!

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  27. "Killing me softly with [her] words, killng me softly, with [her] words, telling my whole life, with [her] words, killng me softly, with [her] wooooooooords. Strumming my pain!" By the grace of God I picked a lucrative career, paid my student debt off, albeit 20 years post graduation, mortgaged a home (don't recommed it) and managed to keep my credit score in the high 700s (never a late or minimum payment-early and extra is the motto). Learning late but learning to dig myself out of the pit created by what she just described.

  28. And all of this starts with student loans. The problem isn't only that people don't know how to spent their money, it's that education is not free for everyone. Make. education. FREE!

  29. Some decent advice mixed with a lot of terrible advice. Credit score is "critical" to your financial future? Right, because paying interest to finance everything is such a great plan. Building assets is the key to financial success, not financing liabilities.

  30. hey ,if anyone else wants to discover best ways to save money try Renkarter Amazing Finance Report (do a google search ) ? Ive heard some great things about it and my cousin got cool success with it.

  31. So true…. i was able to have my parents backing in finance, so I've done well working with a budget. I am no exception I lived well within my means to accomplish a goal this year. And I made a sacrifice to be poor, to become a real estate agent. I make my own schedule and I feel for free than I ever have. it really is a mindset… plus numbers lol! the numbers don't lie

  32. really dislike this TED Talk. instead of explaining a story of what happens to millions and what millions are already facing , she should instead go in depth about compounding interest, 401k and matching, 529 and saving for college, and a lot more. also , as a finance major , there needs to be talked of accountability and going into a major that only produces so much money yet cost a lot more.

  33. So I don't get how jessica suddently got enough money to save up anyway. Is she just not going to have an apartment then?

  34. Ok. After watching all her capitalist lies.. I check her website:

    https://www.learnvest.com/pricing/

    and BAM!

    $299
    One-time setup fee
    + $19/mo
    On-going support

  35. I had the opportunity to attend a private church high school that offered a life skills class. Taught how to balance a check book, make a budget, cook from a recipe and even sew.

  36. Being able to save and invest is more of a well off white privilege thing. Good luck trying to get a poor Hispanic family to teach there kids about finances, especially when they themselves are only making about 40k a year household income or less. They don't even teach financing in schools.

  37. Ik this was 5 years ago, but I'm a senior, and since I've been a freshman personal finance has been a required class. We also have to keep up on a stock

  38. Really disappointing. She ignored the root cause of the problem, excessive consumer spending. People are brainwashed to think that they "need" a brand new Lexus SUV because it is "safe" and "reliable" when they should be driving a sensible used car, for example.

  39. It's not only true in America, I guess it's everywhere. I live in the Netherlands, and I had to learn about organisations, shops and how they work. I had to learn how to look at their bills, and make a debit-credit chart etc. But I never learned what I need now as a 22 y/o. I don't know how much things cost, how to look at insurances, how to make proper decisions. I am doing my very best, and I try to make the right choices, but I'm just not sure and I'll have to find out later on… maybe when it's to late…

  40. Honestly, how can I know what the world is going to look like in 45 (!!!) years? What if all my 401k dollars end up having very little value and crypto currency is the thing or something else that hasn’t been invented yet? Heck, how do I know I’ll be alive then? I agree that you shouldn’t have debt and you should try to make smart decisions. But this obsession with the far-distant future seems off somehow

  41. I like her enthusiasm. It’s cute that she thinks she is offering insight. Nothing new for anyone who can use excel or an hp calculator and understands TVM. I’ll offer her some insight: #5 should be #1. Paying your future self first forces the others on the list to happen. For the 90% of people living above their means, well they know it and don’t care.

  42. Why do we need expensive personal finance advisor ? since money management should be a common sense and common skill that we if just have mindful spending habit and calculator to plan, then we can do by ourselves.

  43. 6 years on from this video and the situation is the same if not worse. What fascinates me is how and why Jessica has 4k in consumer debt? Can't understand it.

  44. I disagree with one thing, the credit score. The truth is, you never need a credit score. Debt is always bad.

    Pay off all debt, call and cancel your card(s) then cut them up. Pay cash, don’t have enough, save for it and get it later.
    Live like no one else, so later you can live like no one else.

  45. The points are given are so important! Very few people know the truth about money and how governments manipulating us, bc the majority of people are too busy minding senseless topics such as gossip, tv and other bullshits. OPEN YOUR EYES FOLKS! For how long do we want to be slaves in this wonderful world? We should rebel on a bit more, to be free.

  46. i watched this in my financial literacy class today – makes me grateful to have the opportunity to take this class in high school !

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