In one of the last scenes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s newest movie, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” Shang-Chi says a line that left almost all of the people my age in the theater laughing. Before stepping into another dimension through a portal that appeared out of nowhere, he pauses at the entrance (for dramatic effect) and says to his friends, “I’ll Venmo you for the…” and gestures to the drinks.
How young adults spend and save stems from the fact that we grew up alongside electronic technology. It was a natural transition for us to use innovative banking tools as we ourselves are becoming more cognitive thinking individuals.
However, the management of our finances in the face of innovation has led to nuanced implications. Whether we as a generation are becoming smarter with our finances because of accessibility to information, or instead, depending on technology to manage our finances, is up for debate.
We didn’t grow up having to personally deposit money or write a check. I only know about these things because my parents had me fill out their checks for practice. I can’t say every person my age had their families teaching them that skill.
Add these missed learning opportunities to the online world and we see that writing checks, doing taxes on your own (without the help of Turbotax), and going to the bank in person has become a thing of the past — a distant memory of my childhood.
In 2019, a survey by Sallie Mae Bank and Ipsos, a marketing research company, found that 88 percent of college graduates and 86 percent of college students used mobile payment apps. Additionally, only 15 percent of graduates and 12 percent of students reported paying with checks.
Credit card companies used to be the beasts preying on disillusioned college students who thought getting a credit card was a free-for-all; however, the majority of students are not tricked anymore. In fact, according to Sallie Mae Bank and Ipsos, building credit — not free money — is the No. 1 reason all young adults give for opening a credit card.
It’s not that college students don’t care about their money. They don’t know how to manage it. Why would we need to know when our credit card will send us statements every month, when we can easily pay someone back at the tap of a button, when we have only to download an app to have the world’s stock markets at our fingertips?
Money sometimes just feels like it’s not “real” anymore.
Managing it is more like a social media experience. In Venmo, you can add a caption labeling your transfer of money. GIFs and images pop up based on what your caption is. At that moment, I’m not thinking about the $20 I am sending my friend; I’m thinking about which sushi emoji I want to use.
Bud Nelson, a finance professor at Point Loma Nazarene University, said, “There is something to say when we just use our Apple Pay or our credit card, is it really processing with you? In the old days, it was much harder for someone who is 20 years old to set up a brokerage account and start doing stock transactions. It wasn’t as likely for them to fall into this trap. Now, it’s very easy and enticing.”
This is not to say that the online world is the vice to managing our finances. In fact, the Sallie Mae Bank and Ipsos research shows that 84 percent of students say they want to improve their financial literacy. It comes down to how we use our phones.
Another finance professor at Point Loma Nazarene University, Ed Murphy, offered this advice, “I think discipline is important in managing one’s financial life, and technology has made both saving and spending easier. Discipline is even more important now.”
A large number of my peers and friends use budgeting apps such as Intuit Mint, which allows them to sync bank accounts and credit cards to compare their finances. Thanks, technology!
Although we are financing and banking in ways that are much different than how it was 20 years ago, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. My generation is poised to achieve financial freedom so long as we are doing the work to use technology for our financial elevation rather than degradation.
My generation is poised to achieve financial freedom so long as we are doing the work to use technology for our financial elevation rather than degradation.
We didn’t even discuss the new frontier of cryptocurrency, but just as Marvel’s Shang-Chi leaves the earth and enters into a whole new dimension, we in the finance world are venturing into a new period of investing, spending and saving.
This story was originally published in The San Diego Union-Tribune. It has been adapted for our platform and can be read in its entirety here.