Figuring out what to say to a batch three decades my junior

Figuring out what to say to a batch three decades my junior

Jul 23, 2014
Can you guess where I am in the photo of Batch 1985? First three correct answers win a prize. See mechanics at the end of the article.

Today I will talk before senior students at the Ateneo De Manila University in an event they’re hosting at the School of Social Sciences. This is where I graduated from decades ago. I will be the last speaker following the two who will talk about marketing yourself and working your way up to the top. I was asked to talk on life after work and work life balance.

So here I am trying to figure out what these kids would like to hear and what they should hear from me. And of course I have to do this in a quick fun way to make sure I don’t lose their attention before I even get to my punch lines.

I tried to imagine back in the 80s how I felt when I was a senior looking forward to graduation and somehow excited to “conquer the world.” But the more closely I tried to look back, the more I remember that my immediate concern at that time (4th year 1st semester) was how I would make my parents proud by giving them reserved seats – i.e. by graduating with honors. Excel had not been born yet, so I had to do manual computations. With two more semesters left, what were the minimum grades I could get from my remaining subjects? I don’t know if I have to be ashamed of this, but I think this was my pre-occupation then.

When I finally succeeded in giving my parents their reserved seats, I moved on to the next goal – to find a decent job with good training. Prior to graduation, we had mock interviews and real interviews from companies who visited the campus to do their recruitment. I also remember preparing copies of my resume together with my friends and we really walked along Ayala Avenue to drop our application forms.

I was hired by Far East Bank & Trust Co., one of the companies who visited our campus to recruit, as a Credit Analyst. I was officially employed on, what can you say, May 1, 1985 right smack on Labor Day. It was a good job because it was rich in training. Not every fresh graduate had the chance to interview CFOs, sometimes CEOs and business owners of companies we did credit studies on, and present recommendation to senior bank officers. But I must confess that on my first day of work I almost quit because my first assignment was to do the cashflow of a company. I hated balancing cashflows on those columnar yellow pads! We had to do them on the pads because we only had two computers (the ones with green screen). What an ancient person I am!

I clearly remember my starting salary at P2,000 per month! And that already had an itsy bitsy premium for being an honor graduate, another exhibit of my Jurassic generation. Of course, it was not the best paying job but somehow the mantra ”It’s not how much you earn but how much you save.” worked for me.

I remember just continuing my habit of saving from each cash inflow that I started back in kindergarten. Somehow, despite the low salary and not receiving additional allowance from my parents, I managed to continue the habit.  The saving part, I got from my parents’ simple way of living. But the investing part was acquired due to my early exposure to available investment instruments, and I’m thankful for that. I learned that within the bank there are several options to choose from depending on your needs.

This is why it’s misleading to say, “Don’t leave your money in the bank for it will only make the bank earn and not you!” Excuse me, it should be, “Don’t leave all your money in CASA (current account, savings account). And we hear a lot of financial gurus and agents say this. So the next time you hear them say this, correct them. There is a part of our money which should be in CASA (working capital fund or the equivalent of monthly expenses) and the rest you invest. Your emergency fund should be in short term easy to liquidate fixed income instruments like time deposit or money market placements. The rest – i.e. your dream fund, retirement fund, etc. should be invested in higher yielding instruments like bond, fixed income and equity instruments. You may also buy foreclosed assets, or fund your business through your friendly bank. Of course, you don’t forget your protection funds like life and medical insurance.

The problem is proper education on the use of each instrument to help fulfill our different goals. And the sad part is that some branch bank personnel are also ill-equipped to explain this to their customers. Sometimes, it may be a mere conflict of interest. They still want you to keep your money in CASA because it’s more profitable for them. So the only solution to this is to educate yourself – know your goals and understand the options and pick what’s most suitable for each goal.

The Challenge of this Generation

I believe that this generation of kids are more well equipped to map out their career and life goals. They have an incredible access to unlimited information at the click of their mouse. They have the ability to learn from the success stories (and also failures) of their predecessors from all over the world, but the challenge is in sifting through the information. They have more distractions and probably want everything right away. They spend a lot of time on their gadgets but despite the increased efficiencies, they still have the same number of hours in a day. In this era of instant gratification, they should remember that great achievements still need long gestations periods.

Patience is a big challenge. I’m a little challenged in this department as well but I’m alarmed to see a lot of kids jump from one job to another in short intervals. I don’t know if they’re able to figure out right away that there’s a mismatch or they’re just succumbing to sheer impatience.

The need for cash is also there, maybe more than my need when I was in their age. Right now, they are able to compare what they have and what the rest of the world has. They see all these luxury goods paraded on Facebook and Instagram. They hear all the lovely vacations and overflowing parties of their friends (and even non friends) tweet about 24/7. And again, this is why it’s important for them to know how to handle money right from the start. If they have not been taught straight out of their diapers, then at least before they receive their first paycheck.

It’s an exciting milestone for them despite the challenges. I’m quite excited myself because our second son is also a senior right now. Come March 2015, our score would be two done, one last to go!

I figure, despite the gap of three decades between my batch in 1985 and this school year’s Class of 2015, the basic principles are still fundamentally the same. We figure out what our role is in this world, we set our goals, we strive hard, we succeed, we fail, we get off-track, we try again, we find meaning along the way. And our journey would be more enjoyable if money is not a big problem every step of the way.

Cheers to the graduating batch of 2015!


Mini Contest: I will give a free autographed copy of The Retelling of The Richest Man in Babylon to the first three readers who will correctly spot me on the photo of Batch 1985! Please tweet your answer to (My way of encouraging myself to use this platform I just signed up with!)

Cute Trivia: Remember my article last week entitled The Psychology of Pricing? I mentioned there that my husband ordered this charol shoes from Marikina. Well, he got the shoes yesterday, thank God the shop was not flooded. They look great! Very comparable to the Salvatore Ferragamo in the article photo. My son even said while holding one shoe, “Wow! this looks like a sleek brand new car!”