Julie Hyunjoo Lee is the inventor of Pinkfolio, a new personalized wealth-training app for women. Pinkfolio takes the jargon out of finances and acts as a personal trainer; helping you manage your money and tackle investments to get your finances in shape. We spoke with Julie about Pinkfolio this week.
SDTC: Can you walk me through a typical day?
As soon as I wake up, I email myself new ideas or forgotten tasks from the night before. My day begins with a homemade latte and my laptop from home, and I (try to) arrive at my office by 9 am. While spending most of my time on collaborative tasks for Pinkfolio development or other e-Learning projects, I make sure to spare at least a couple of hours on creative activities such as storyboarding or data visualizations.
Dinner is essential to my day. My husband and I like to talk about our daily achievements and challenges over dinner, which is a great source of motivations for us. Going out with friends and meeting up with other entrepreneurs is also a part of my evening activities since other people inspire me so much. Before going to bed, my everyday ritual is doing yoga to balance my energy.
How did you come up with the idea for Pinkfolio?
After the 2008 financial crisis my bank advisor asked if I can take the risk of losing money and I simply said ‘no’, without clearly assessing my risk tolerance. We then decided to “temporarily” transfer that money into a saving account. Temporarily? It actually sat there for years… so it was quite painful to compare my 6% saving growth with my back-then boyfriend’s 32% investment growth several years later. Due to inflation, I burned out my money even with my good intention to “save more for the future”. I thought others should not make the same mistake and regret it later like I did, and Pinkfolio was born.
When I started asking around, a lot of people (especially women) had similar approaches, often with low confidence on handling investment. I envisioned that learning about personal finance with more engaging and reliable tools can boost our confidence and behavioural changes. My 10 years of career is all about e-Learning and visual communications for knowledge-based industry, so why not something about money?
You note that many women struggle with jargon, complex numbers, and contradictory advice surrounding finances. How can your app make things clearer?
Financial education content is scattered with multiple providers and it is hard to assess credibility. As well, the majority of content is not goal-oriented nor targeted enough, in my opinion. It is difficult to take actions from generic wisdom-type of content, or something too technical and overwhelming.
We’d like to tackle this challenge by using personalized content, visual communication, and interactive learning tools.
Since financial education should be relevant to a woman’s life events and the level of knowledge, our assessment process will provide a personalized training path for each user.
Most content will be explained in plain English with women-oriented examples (such as maternity leave or career advances). Appealing visuals such as infographics and animations will support the practical content.
Finally, users will have a chance to practice what they’ve learned with engaging quizzes and games. Learning outcomes significantly increase with relevant and timely practices.
Through collaboration with behavioral economists and psychology researchers, we offer nudges (like timely notifications, triggers, and visualized goals), data-driven insights (that reflect training outcomes), and visual guidance to set up financial goals.
Once a user starts her training, the nudges and insights will motivate her to get the tasks done and show how close she is to the goal. Just like a reliable personal trainer, Pinkfolio will support users to be more financially fit in the long run, with guidance and data.
What advice would you give to other women beginning their own startups?
Understand the nature of your business and your objectives first. There is a lot of buzz about startups, but I think it’s important to build up real knowledge and focus for your realistic growth. For example, it’s vital to clarify if your business is about scaling up quickly (usually) with technology, or a profitable sole proprietorship offering customized services. Then, you can seek for the right resources for you. Not everyone needs to learn how to raise venture capital money from the beginning, for example.
Spread the word about what you offer, and get numbers: sales revenue, funding, investment, partnership, or any meaningful traction to prove your idea is tangible and can sell. Startups do not grow with ideas only. They do with numbers.
What is the most rewarding part of your career?
I feel rewarded when my users and clients get value from my projects. In my 10 years of work experience, I have established many recurring clients since they have been very happy with my problem solving process and the quality of work delivered. I am grateful for the trust they put in me.
Now I am facing a new challenge with my startup, Pinkfolio. I feel proud the fact that I am pushing Pinkfolio forward by collaborating with many talented people. So far, it is great to see the results from our surveys revealed Pinkfolio’s branding, content and technology really speak to our target audiences.
I also feel fulfilled when I can offer a piece of advice for those who are starting their career. I work with new graduates a lot. They are so brilliant, but don’t always see the bigger picture. I enjoy having conversation with them as long as they are willing to listen.
What is your number one tip for women who want to start investing, but don’t know where to start?
I’d recommend investing a small amount to a lower-risk and familiar asset NOW. It’s easy to do it either at the bank or online. You can learn and earn a lot more from taking actions rather than researching and debating forever. For example, if it takes too long to save up for a house downpayment in Toronto, what about making a small monthly contribution to index funds under your TFSA or RRSP? Usually minimum initial investment amount is about $500, and it’s possible to automatic monthly contributions as small as $25. Once you start investing even a small portion, you can track it, and your interest and confidence will grow. Then, you can expand your portfolio over time.
The truth is, no one cares about your finance more than you, and personal investing does not require any PhD level qualification. So, take actions now.
You can sign up for Pinkfolio here.