Benjamin | 29 | Portland, Ore.

Benjamin talking about his personal money philosophy

Photo credit: Cara Hopkins

What is your personal money philosophy?
That would be a very long conversation. Don’t spend money you don’t have; I think that’s the best thing you can tell anyone else out there—unless you want to go into computational economics.

Is that a lesson you learned from your parents?
No, my parents learned from me. I became the accountant for the family business. My parents are functionally illiterate, and I became responsible because I am a math prodigy.

Where are you from?
I’m from Tillamook, Ore. You know, the Tillamook Cheese Factory. My great-grandfather started the cheese factory 100 years ago with two other guys.

So, you’ve just always been a math prodigy?
Yeah, I’ve always been really good at math. Math applies to law and other areas of thinking. I like to teach science and math to young kids. I’ve seen some great experiments with using happy and sad faces to try to coach or prime a person into a certain financial behavior, by asking a bunch of money questions and then giving them a simulation of how it’s going to make you feel when you’re old. And it’s not just what you do with your money—it’s ‘should I smoke cigarettes?’ or ‘should I do blah, blah, blah?’ and it will give you kind of a pseudo-generated image of what your life is going to be like.

Like emoticons?
Actually, more like a 3-D video game. I think it was at MIT.

So this is something you actually heard about?
Oh, I research constantly. I taught a math class where each kid got 100 shares and each share was worth $1, and then the kids could trade their shares with other kids. And there was a strategy I let them know; I said, ‘If you think there is a kid who’s not going to get a great grade—like he got a C, and you trade your shares with him evenly and you help him get an A—then both you and him make money.’ We practiced on the Yahoo stock exchange with funny money and stuff. So, yeah, don’t spend money on things you don’t have. Don’t get overleveraged. Spend your money on productive capital and not conspicuous consumption.