Jose Galindo had money on his mind even as a young boy. Since he wasn’t getting an allowance, he started his own origami business. The 9-year-old quickly found a market among his peers on the playground. Fascinated, they dug out their lunch money to buy paper stars.
“When the kids at school saw them, they wanted them because they didn’t know how to make them,” says Galindo, who grew up in Colombia. “Once I sold out of my paper stars, I saved the money and opened my first savings account. Back then, $30 was enough to open a savings account.”
That was Galindo’s entry into the finance world. About 20 years later, he would start MoneyMio, the “only bilingual website dedicated to empowering Latinos with personal finance education.”
Galindo went on to study economics and finance in the U.S. His aunt, who was a professor at UCLA, took him in so that he could get an American education. Ready for his first internship, he landed an interview at Merrill Lynch. There he was asked a hard-hitting question: “Are you ready to work as hard as we work?”
Galindo began to doubt his abilities, assuming his colleagues would come from privileged backgrounds and have Ivy League educations. But he decided not to let that stop him.
“They gave me the internship,” says the WeWork Irving Place member. “When I got hired, they said they were impressed by my work ethic. A year later, they gave me a full-time offer, so I joined them for one year, building all the business models as an analyst and learning about the technical aspects of banking.”
Galindo’s idea to launch a finance-focused startup came from his years as an investment banker on Wall Street. He wanted to make the information he learned there more readily available. He remembers helping one friend cut her monthly student loan payments.
“I walked her to the bank and got the loan processed in less than an hour,” Galindo says. “She saw how her monthly payment dropped by 30 percent, and she started to cry, asking, ‘How can I thank you?’”
Galindo realized he was onto something.
“There’s a huge market in the U.S. that is vastly underserved,” Galindo says. “That’s when I thought, ‘This is it. I can combine finance, tech, and my cultural background and help my community.’ It was a nice way to connect the dots and create something that has value and purpose.”
MoneyMio helps people learn about their personal finances and teaches them the importance of opening savings accounts and building their credit.
“One problem in the Latino community is they don’t have any credit history or they have made some mistakes,” Galindo says. “Only 26 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. have savings in a retirement account. It’s a matter of making a lot of the information available in their language. This is the place they can trust and find help for things they need.”
Photos: Katelyn Perry