Jake Millar is the 20-year-old entrepreneur, co-founder and publisher of Unfiltered, a digital business education website. Unfiltered provides New Zealand-specific business content to inform and upskill entrepreneurs, executives and investors. Its video interviews include insights and advice from business legends such as Sir Ralph Norris and Diane Foreman, as well as prime minister John Key. 

Unfiltered is Millars second start-up in as many years. His first business – motivational website Oompher – was founded by Millar straight out of secondary school, and was acquired last year by Careers New Zealand.

Juno speaks to Jake Millar about his own financial behaviour and how young New Zealanders could become more financially capable.

How do you define financial capability?

In a nutshell, it’s the ability to make a financial decision that increases your own personal wealth or that of a person or entity you are advising or investing in. 

What lessons have you learned in recent years about managing money?

The biggest lessons I’ve learned would be to save and to understand the law of compounding. This may sound simple, but it is so vital. If you make smart financial decisions when you’re young, your future will be so much more secure due to the flow-on effects. 

As a young person, if you save smartly, you will have no student loan. If you have no student loan, you will be able to buy a house much sooner. You’ll then pay off your mortgage when you’re younger. You’ll then buy an investment property faster. All of a sudden you’re living a privileged life, and this all starts with smart money decisions when you’re a little kid. 

Can you share how your experiences with money have helped shape your outlook on life?

Interestingly, I’ve become more frugal as I’ve made more money. When you have very little money, it is easy to spend it all, as you do not appreciate its value. 

After selling Oompher to the New Zealand government, I found it very difficult to spend money on material possessions, such as a new car. I appreciate how hard I worked to obtain that money. As a result of my upbringing, I do still spend a lot of money on experiences, like holidays and travel, and I plan to continue doing this in the future. Life is for living!

Have you set financial goals? If so, how do these intentions impact on your everyday decisions?

At a macro level these goals impact all my business dealings. Before getting into a new business, one of the questions I ask myself is: “How much money can this venture make?” This is fundamental, as there is an opportunity cost for every action – the price of committing your time to a poor business is potentially millions of dollars. I am very sensitive to opportunity cost and before every purchase, I ask myself: “How will this increase my financial wealth or improve my quality of life?” 

What did you learn at school about financial capability?

At primary school, the National Bank (now ANZ) operated a school-banking programme in Greymouth, which encouraged youngsters to save and manage money. However this programme was not offered at secondary school and overall I feel I learned very little about financial capability at school. 

I was a student of the Young Enterprise Scheme (YES), run by the Young Enterprise Trust. Although I learned many fantastic business skills, personal financial capability was not taught then. However, since I was at school, YES has changed a lot and schools involved in the scheme are running some awesome programmes that develop financial capability in a very practical way.

So developing financial capability while still at school is important?

Yes, I think it should be compulsory for young people to learn how to manage money from a very young age. I believe teaching ‘financial capability’ subjects should be compulsory in Years 9 and 10, and ‘how to invest’ should be a subject option in Years 11 to 13. I honestly don’t know how society can expect young people to make good financial decisions when they don’t have the knowledge.

Do you feel that people of your age are well equipped to make good financial decisions?

No. Young people today receive very little education to help them make sensible financial decisions. It seems my generation is often fixated with buying the latest Apple product or blowing their entire net worth on a lavish party. Education is the only way to change this.

What three things would you encourage younger people to think about in terms of their financial well-being?

1.    Start saving now. Everyone says this, but how many do it? I spent all of the money I received as a young person. Now I regret that.

2.    Money makes money, if invested smartly. 

3.    Read, read, and read. Read everything money and research the greats: from Warren Buffett, to Julian Robertson to Graeme Hart. Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to money.

What do you aspire to achieve in life?

I always half-joked that my vision was to become the most successful entrepreneur in the history of global space travel. That’s my ‘30-year plan’. 

Business is my passion. I love creating something from nothing and will continue to do that in life, hopefully building a global business empire. 

In life I want family, friends, freedom, finances, fortune, fun, fitness, love and influence! So every decision I make has to help me achieve success in one of those areas.


Photo credit: Yuuki Ogino