“Miss, thanks for teaching us this,” commented a student of mine as I explained what all the little acronyms mean on a pay stub. “It’s really practical, not like History or English,” she continued. I ignored the itch to mention that those subjects are also important, but I was just happy that someone notorious for skipping class saw the value of learning about financial literacy. It is only now that financial literacy is being included as part of school curricula in Ontario, a move that will hopefully prevent Gen Zers from incurring as much debt as millennials have.As a millennial, unless you were fortunate enough that your parents passed on some nuggets of financial know-how, your financial education was reduced to figuring it out on our own, or maybe asking that buddy at work a few years your senior, who may or may not have understood finances himself. Millennials were not taught how to manage money in school, which explains the high amounts of debt amongst them.

Before millennials can even think of investing, many of them are still wrestling with paying off loans, living in an expensive condo, driving a nice car, going on an annual vacation and keeping up to date with the latest trends of their peers. Trying to achieve all of these financial goals is almost impossible without a budget. That is why millennials need the help of Octavia Ramirez, Founder of Paper & Coin. “Paper & Coin is a financial coaching company for millennials…we are very simple in our mission: we help people eliminate debt, build wealth and live the life of their dreams,” she explains.

“Everything has been a challenge. …You don’t know what you don’t know until you try to do it.”

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Photo by Alex Banman

“From her experience with Paper & Coin, one central message Octavia shares with many millennials is “give a damn, and pay attention.” Most people don’t have any idea how much disposable income they have available (not on credit!) versus how much they actually spend. They do not take the time to find out where their money is going. People worry so much about their finances because they just don’t know about them. The longer these financial burdens stay with them, the heavier they get, and the stress of living with them can affect mental health and overall happiness. So the simple acknowledgement of having financial problems and the realization that they need to be fixed is already a big first step.

Sometimes a new business isn’t the result of a decade of planning; sometimes it starts purely from doing something we love and one day envisioning how we can turn it into a business. We may not really know what we’re doing, but like flying a kite, we learn as we go. Octavia didn’t plan on starting Paper & Coin, it just happened through her own learning. After her own financial struggles, she took an interest in learning how to properly manage money. She wanted to educate herself to improve her financial situation and started a blog to share her learning. After a while people started asking her for financial advice and she realized there was a real need for financial literacy amongst millennials. Today Paper & Coin provides one-on-one consultations, runs workshops and offers financial guidance.

“So I cried, and let myself have a moment, and then I got over it. And I’m ready for more, I know it’s going to come.”

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Photo by Alex Banman

A kite can fly in the air, its dance looking effortless and smooth to the observers below, but we know it’s not easy to get it to reach the clouds. Octavia has faced many challenges but she is a tough go-getter so she doesn’t let them bother her. “Everything has been a challenge,” she admits. “You don’t know what you don’t know until you try to do it.” As a solopreneur, you just start and you go with it. With a tiny budget to spend on starting up, Octavia was lucky to have knowledge of SEO, and then she taught herself how to do her own web development, and about a million other little things as they popped up. “I think that having those multiple challenges especially early on is …good for you as an entrepreneur,” she explains. For the first year Octavia did everything on her own, and this experience is what makes her a very understanding boss. Today Paper & Coin has grown to a team of four people. Since Octavia knows what every role entails, it’s easier to hire the right people. She also has empathy for her employees when things don’t go as well as planned, because she has experienced some of these difficulties first-hand and she can predict pitfalls.

Businesses go through seasons, the kite rising high and floating low. During those low moments, it is important to have a support system that energizes us and reminds us to remain resilient, gripping and steering the string even when our arms get tired. A few months ago, Octavia had a troll on social media. Frustrated and upset, she was ready to quit, but her friends and supporters helped her get through it. She said to herself, “Hey, this is part of the journey, when you expose yourself and …put yourself out there, there [are] going to be times where stupid people come out of the woodwork. …So I cried, and let myself have a moment, and then I got over it. And I’m ready for more, I know it’s going to come.”

“I’m not speaking in front of hundreds and hundreds of people, right now I’m speaking in front of tens of people, and that’s fine,” she asserts.

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Photo by Alex Banman

Every business has competition and Octavia admits that at times it can be hard not to compare yourself to the big players in your field, but she has a healthy outlook on it; “I never let anyone make me feel that I’m not as good as them, or not good enough,” she states. “I know that the journey is not [an] overnight success. …I just have to continue to tell myself, ‘Ok no, I’m just at that stage…I’m not speaking in front of hundreds and hundreds of people, right now I’m speaking in front of tens of people, and that’s fine,” she asserts. She believes if someone is already out there doing what you do and they have proven to be successful, that’s a great compliment; it’s validation that there is a need, it strongly supports the likelihood of your success, and motivates you to work harder. “There’s a place for everyone. …People are going to connect with you for a different reason than they’re going to connect with someone else,” she says.

We look to others to help our kite fly high and we are lucky to live in a world where information is so accessible. We can easily educate ourselves on any topic by reading books, watching videos, attending workshops and listening to podcasts. We can follow the top players in our field on social media and get advice from people we look up to. Octavia proclaims her own mentors are personalities that put themselves out there, inspirational writers or speakers that she hasn’t ever met. She particularly likes to follow Dave Ramsey, Donald Miller, and Jenna Kutcher. As Dr. Seuss says, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

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Photo by Alex Banman

Paper & Coin makes a meaningful impact in the lives of millennials and is centered around educating them on exactly what was missed years ago. While on the search for answers to financial problems, Octavia’s journey brought her to solutions for herself, but also sparked a noble business idea that she did not plan. “If [starting a business] was easy, everyone would do it, right? It’s not easy, that’s why I say it’s all a challenge, but if you’re up for it, then it’s like the best thing ever, you love it,” Octavia says. If we have a talent for something and we think it may have potential, we should release it into the world and give it a try. When we accept where we are at, continue to run with it, it will just glide.

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