Tina Hay Talks With The Penny Hoarder About Money and ‘Napkin Finance’

Tina Hay, a financial author poses for a photo inside a room,
Tina Hay is the author of “Napkin Finance: Build Your Wealth in 30 Seconds or Less,” a book that offers visual money guides. Photo courtesy of Tina Hay


Many of us weren’t taught personal finance at school, and money wasn’t discussed at the dinner table.

We’ve developed our financial education by browsing articles online, reading books and through a lot of trial and error.

“There’s a big difference between those people who are educated and understand how they can make their money work for them versus the rest who never [had] the basic understanding and then [got] into debt and [paid] for their decisions later,” said Tina Hay, CEO of Napkin Finance.

The Penny Hoarder recently invited Hay to join us for a discussion about her book “Napkin Finance: Build Your Wealth in 30 Seconds or Less” and all things money-related. We hosted a live chat on Facebook where audience members were able to submit questions and hear from Hay directly.

The following is an abridged version of that conversation, edited for length and clarity.

The Penny Hoarder’s Q&A With Tina Hay of “Napkin Finance”

The Penny Hoarder: Can you tell us about Napkin Finance?

Tina Hay: Napkin Finance is a visual guide to money and finance. We help people understand complex topics in a simplified, more digestible way with snackable content — everything from Napkins (our branded infographics) to videos to articles, storyboards, charts and tables. We also add humor and some fun to the content to make it more engaging and interesting.

TPH: What role do visuals play in grasping financial concepts?

Hay: Visual learning is a classic concept. Mozart, DaVinci and Freud all used visual images and graphics to solve their biggest problems. Human beings are visual learners and they process images 60,000 times faster than they process text. Also, 90% of the information that we process to the brain is visual. The visual graphics and assets that we create have been really powerful because it makes the subject matter less intimidating and creates higher comprehension, better retention of the content and also enhanced retrieval.

TPH: Can you walk us through how you go about creating a Napkin?

Hay: We have a team that’s a mix of creatives and financial experts. We start with an article or blog and then we pull out the elements that are the most interesting or important to distill into a Napkin. The Napkin comes to life with our designers and then we create a video or other content based on that. At the end of the day, the ultimate test is: If you’re new to this topic, would you be able to look at this and understand the topic in 30 seconds or less?

Audience Question: How can I convince my young adult kids to start saving for retirement now?

Hay: One thing is to automate so a certain percentage is taken out from their allowance or income every month and transferred automatically into a retirement account. The second thing is to show the power of time and how money compounds. The most powerful asset people have when they’re young is time. It can be extremely powerful to see the impact of how much money can grow if people start saving and investing in their 20s versus their 30s and 40s.

Audience Question: As a single parent going through the pandemic, how can you rebuild credit and rebuild savings successfully and effectively?

Hay: Traditionally, we always say you need three to six months of emergency savings. The pandemic has shown that people really need to have a year’s worth of savings for emergencies, which is considerable and not an easy thing to do. But I think what is important is to always follow a budget to start putting money aside — even if it’s a small amount — and to understand where your money’s coming in and where it’s going out. We have a section on budgeting on our website and in the book. Having a plan in place is the best way to reach your goals.

Pro Tip

Hay suggests a 50/30/20 budget, where you spend half your income on essentials, set aside 30% as fun money and dedicate the remaining 20% to your financial goals.

Audience Question: How do I start a fund for my child? Can my child invest in the stock market? How old does a person have to be to invest?

Hay: Many brokerages allow you to have a custodial account to have your children start investing, which I think is a great idea because you can manage what they’re doing and then help teach them along the way. You can also start saving for their education through a 529 plan. One of the things I think is great is to empower them to learn and then show them how the markets work. There are a lot of fun ways to get them engaged. They can invest in companies that they care about or that they’re interested in or that they use.

Pro Tip

Read our ultimate guide to saving for college and beyond with a 529 Plan.

TPH: What is the best piece of personal financial advice you’ve ever received?

Hay: I have three pieces of advice I believe are really the most impactful. The first one is diversify — so don’t have all your eggs in one basket. The second is: Keep costs low. Many people don’t realize all the fees that we pay for, whether it’s for advisers or financial products. The third piece of advice is buy and hold. I’m a big believer in investing for the long run. One of the things that’s been proven over and over is the most solid and most reliable strategy is really to buy and hold. Most people shouldn’t be day traders and aren’t trained to be.

Audience Question: Do you have advice for transitioning from full-time employment to retirement?

Hay: It depends on what your time horizon is, what your investments are and what you have saved up for retirement. Most people have not saved up adequate money for their retirement and are depending on Social Security, which no one even knows if it’ll be there in the next 20 or 30 years. You want to be secure that you’ll have — from your retirement savings — enough to have the same lifestyle that you’ve had while working full time. If your company provides matching retirement contributions, make sure you take advantage of that. You’d be surprised at how many people don’t. Even if you’re saving later in life or investing later, it’s okay. Don’t worry about what’s happened in the past, but be proactive in the future.

TPH: What do you hope that people get out of reading “Napkin Finance?”

Hay: The beauty of the book is that I think it’s really comprehensive. It covers so many areas within money and finances — everything from taxes to retirement to credit. What we hope is that this book is a way for people to engage and get more interested in learning about money and use it as an opportunity to have discussions with their loved ones.

To listen to the conversation in its entirety, watch the Facebook Live replay.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.