12th July 2023

Honest Stories with Nina Mohanty

Founder of Bloom Money


I was so ashamed of myself because actually the one thing that my parents had taught me was not to use credit cards.

I grew up in an immigrant household. My father is Indian and my mother is Taiwanese, and they immigrated to the US in the late eighties, early nineties time to Silicon Valley. So I paradoxically had a very privileged upbringing, but also had the immigrant mindset in our household. So what I mean by that is we made money stretch and it was always an exciting thing to go shopping, but we would always go to the bargain bins first.

And it was things like reusing the plastic from ice cream tubs right as Tupperware. Again, as many times as we could until that thing broke. We were very fortunate in that we never, you know, wanted for anything. And my parents gave my brother and I a very, very privileged and wonderful upbringing. But there were just some quirky things that I grew up with that I’ve come to find as I’ve grown older, is very common in immigrant households.

So this actually, we should probably take a quick detour because I, I racked up a lot of debt. It’s the daunting big word. And now it’s going to be recorded for posterity. I’m pretty open about the fact that I racked up quite a bit of debt during uni, specifically when I was in uni in the States. I applied for a credit card and kind of went oh 0% APR.

Perfect. Like free money, right? Of course I neglected to read the small print which said that after 18 months it will switch over to something like 30% plus APR fee. And so having neglected to read the small print, I racked up so much debt and it started compounding because that’s what debt is often ought to do. And I also was buying things that just far outpaced my standard of living or income.

And it was actually bizarre and in hindsight, just completely ludicrous, the things that I was buying. It wasn’t even Louboutin’s or anything. It was like I’d be living in a dorm room and I was buying full sets of like cutlery, like gorgeous, like placemats and table sets. And it’s like, you don’t even have a dining table. Like, what are you doing?

But I was buying this stuff, and I think it very much I had an idea of who I thought I was and was buying in line with that idea, which I think sadly is something that still persists over a decade later. And I racked up a lot of debt. I used it when I was studying abroad and just kind of was like, Oh, I’ll figure it out.

And for the longest time, I just kept putting it off until one day I couldn’t outrun it anymore. And there comes a day when you can’t outrun it anymore. And it’s funny because I’ve spoken to my parents about it, my family about it after the fact, but it’s not something I spoke to them about during it because I was ashamed.

I was so ashamed of myself, because actually the one thing that my parents had taught me was not to use credit cards or not to rack up debt or use money that I didn’t have. And so I was definitely ashamed of that financial behavior that I had been recklessly spending for so long. So I racked up quite a bit of debt.

And so when I became financially independent, I was making decisions that weren’t necessarily the smartest longer term, perhaps, but made sense for me at the time. So I actually opted out of my pension when I first started working because I just thought, right, well, this can’t be growing as fast as my debt is compounding, so I’m going to just use that to pay down my debt.

And it took a while. I think it was only a few years ago that I completely paid it all off. One thing that really did help is that I got a debt consolidation loan and obviously this is not financial advice or anything, but it really helps me to get on top of it and to feel more confident about paying it down.

But it was something that the emotions of being followed around by this like dark cloud, like I was Eyore it was really scary. And it and it affected my mood and it affected my decision making. And so I was really happy to pay it off a few years ago. But when I was financially independent, I started trying to squirrel away little bits and pieces to save where I could.

I actually would take part in these saving circles, which is something that we’ve now digitized at Bloom Money, which is basically a group of people coming together and pulling their money. And it’s kind of like it’s called a rotating savings and credit association, but a savings club for short. And that was really helpful to keep myself accountable. I used a lot of apps kind of, you know, round up tools and that sort of thing.

But I think the reason that I share this is because I think a lot of people think, oh, you know, people who work in finance or work in fintech have it all figured out and they know exactly what they’re doing. And the truth of the matter is I learned everything that I know today by going through it myself and having a really tough time.

So my step into financial independence was it was actually quite difficult. It wasn’t hearts and flowers. It wasn’t like, let’s go buy, you know, Louboutins. It wasn’t, oh, I’ve magically saved up, you know, a house deposit or anything. I still don’t have my own home and it’s something that I aspire to. But, you know, it’s one of those things that was a setback for me and something that has motivated me for the future.

But as I continue to be financially independent, it’s something that I have in mind as a goal. So buying a house and having that emergency fund that we all love to talk about, having my fun money and all those great things so that I can live the life that I want to live. So I have a plethora of financial vehicles.

My mother is actually probably my financial coach. I would call her. She is actually a certified financial advisor, but she mostly manages my money. And I’m in a very interesting situation because I’m an American citizen living in the UK, so I’m in this weird limbo where for those of you that are in a similar situation, you often are liable for tax in both places, which is something we don’t talk about as much when it comes to investment.

I do have savings accounts which are kind of where I keep my emergency funds and all that stuff. I think after I had taken out that debt consolidation loan, I was able to get on top of that debt. And because it was a set amount each month that needed to be paid off, I finally felt, okay, I’ve got on top of this now I can start contributing to my pension again.

And so I also incidently around the same time, had a pay rise and I maxed out my pension. So it was like, we’re doing this. I want to be a rich grandma. We’re doing it now. And since then I have. I still, even as a startup founder, contribute to my pension. So that is one. And I think a lot of people don’t think of their pension as an investment.

And then I started playing around. So as an American citizen, I use apps like Robinhood or Public here, maybe Free Trade or, you know, any of the number, Shares.io, Circa 5000 or whatever. There’s so many, you know, investment platforms. And so I started playing around and I would put like £50 in and have a look and research different companies and start putting money into them and see how they would do.

I invested a few hundred pounds into some cryptocurrencies just to kind of figure out what that was about. One thing that I have found is I am terrible at picking stocks and I am the worst possible person at picking stocks. So like if I think a stock looks interesting, you should probably short it because universally my chosen stock portfolio is abysmal.

In fact, I bought Twitter stock I think when it was around $60 a share. And then Elon Musk obviously went and bought the company for like 42 – around something like that. So I actually lost quite a bit on that investment. I think I bought Stitch Fix at its height of I think it went almost near $100 a share, but I probably bought in at like 50.

And right now it’s sitting like in the eights or nine, like single digits. So I think one of the things that I’ve learned and the good thing about it was I had put aside money that I was prepared to lose. It was never going to be like, you know, I need this money for something. And what’s that? What that has taught me is just individual stocks are not for me.

Now. I’m all about index funds because I don’t have to make the decisions and people far smarter than I am who have far more time on their hands can research the companies that they want to invest the money in. But that’s been one of the things that I have some investments in. And then I’ve made before I was, you know, full fledged founder.

I made two small angel investments in two separate female founded businesses because I very much believe that women are incredible business leaders and these two in particular are as well. And so I thought I might as well put my money where my mouth is and just put a really tiny angel ticket into their companies. And again, it’s in this case, it was kind of money that I could afford to lose because obviously investing as an angel investor is highly, highly risky.

But it was something that I felt comfortable doing, and so I did that as well. So I have a whole range of different products and the ultimate goal is still to be a rich grandma. I am someone who loves to celebrate, you know, weddings and babies and everything, but recently I’ve very much been that friend who’s like anyone who gets a raise, like, we’re going out for prosecco because you deserve it, or you bought your first house, like, let’s throw a party, because these are all huge steps that I feel like we don’t celebrate enough.

And I had a friend just make their first investment, like outside of a pension, full stop, make their first investment on an investment platform. And I was like, All right, we need Prosecco, this is this is cause for celebration. Because it is. And I think there’s just so many people who should be in this seat.