Q&A: Senior Ilana Seidl launches newsletter to educate women about money

Courtesy of Ilana Seidl

Courtesy of Ilana Seidl

Mia Edelson, Contributing Reporter

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Ilana Seidl is shocked that 61% of women would rather talk about their own death than about money. So, she is doing something about it. Seidl, a Tulane senior studying computer science and psychology, decided to reach outside of her comfort zone into a different realm, that of finance and money. Her newsletter, newly dubbed The Root, is a big part of this journey.

 

Where did you get the idea to start the newsletter? Why did you start it?

Inspired by our own experiences, Eve and I created a newsletter to teach women about money. I personally noticed that my brother knew a lot more about finance, the stock market and investing than I did and would talk about it casually. I began asking how he knew these kinds of things and how he was making money. I wanted to also. Really, that was how this all started. At this point, I decided to talk to people about my interest. First, I started talking to my friends specifically about an app I downloaded called Robinhood. It’s an app for investing in the stock market. It turns out all my guy friends had this app, but none of my girlfriends had it or even knew what it is. This surprised me, especially considering the importance and simplicity of investing nowadays.

Then, I talked to my friend Eve who was working on getting more women involved in cryptocurrency. We both want to help women because we both have a passion for equality. We believe the way to form an even playing field is through money and financial independence. There’s already a gender pay gap affecting women, especially women of color, and part of the work towards equality requires that women do things they aren’t necessarily all doing right now, including learning about money and investing.

So that’s how I got into this. I’m not in the business school and was never particularly interested in finance. What really incited my interest was the fact that my girlfriends weren’t confident in talking about money and investing. Eve and I figure a newsletter is a good way to introduce people, especially our female friends, to this world.

 

What can someone expect to learn from the newsletter?

Eve and I send out the newsletter every Monday morning, and the overall idea is to provide a summary of news people should be paying attention to and a note on why it’s relevant. We’re aware that everyone receives a million emails, so we made it quick and easy to read. Right now the newsletter includes the three top news stories of the week and then a section or two explaining a term or concept. For example, we’ve explained compound interest and diversification. We try to include how these things actually affect our readers’ lives and we try to break things down and make them as approachable as possible. I was always intimidated about finance, so what we’re trying to do with the newsletter is make it accessible — not scary — to everyone.

What about the newsletter has made you proud?

There are two things. I’m proud because I’m making my journey public, hoping that people will join me. So, I’m proud of the vulnerability. Really, I’m learning too, but just telling others to start learning with me. Eve and I aren’t telling people what to do; we’re all just exploring and learning together.

I’m also really proud of the consistency. We’ve been doing this for eight weeks and, even though life gets in the way, Eve and I have made sure to get the newsletter out every Monday morning by 7 a.m. because we know that consistency is an important part of learning something new.

What kind of reactions and feedback have you received?

I’ve gotten really amazing feedback from people who are learning and are excited to know about these topics that I think everyone should know about. I’ve noticed that many people have the information and they have the tools — they have links for an app or investment platform, but there’s a gap separating knowledge and action. What I’ve noticed from the feedback is this gap in confidence — people don’t trust themselves, that stops people from taking the step past learning to doing. So, now one of my goals with the newsletter is to empower people to take the step to really doing something.

What are you looking forward to in the future with the newsletter?

One of my goals is to build a community; I really want to get a group together. Yeah, at Tulane, having a community is really my goal because I think learning something new can feel scary. Some people don’t like to project that they don’t know things and are hesitant to reach out to others. In the community I’m trying to create, we’re all in the same boat. We’re all just trying to somehow manage money and that requires asking questions and the support of a community.

Another goal is expanding the newsletter beyond my personal circle. I’d really like people to send it to friends. If someone finds it important, then she can send it to her sister and then the newsletter can have a greater effect. Imagine how many women are in college in the nation. If that many women started investing, there would be a great impact. So, there’s an individual aspect of empowerment and independence, but part of something bigger.

What would you suggest to a Tulane student reading this who wants to be more knowledgeable about her finances? 

Don’t be afraid of talking about money or be afraid of someone who seems like they know more. The more we talk about things the more comfortable we become with them, so sit down and have a conversation with your friends about money. And it doesn’t have to be serious at all, just get the ball rolling. And, if you know someone you think has valuable information, just ask questions. People love sharing what they know.