Real Talk: Part 5, featuring CJ MacDonald

Breaking down money basics & answering all your #BurningMoneyQuestions

Real Talk: Part 5, featuring CJ MacDonald

Financial Literacy Month is in full swing and 97% of you think it’s an extremely important topic to tackle. That said, many teens are looking for more educational resources to help them achieve financial independence, and that’s exactly what Step is here to do!

This week, we’re bringing you a special edition of Real Talk featuring Step’s very own Founder and CEO, CJ MacDonald, who discusses his own journey and why he built Step to help jumpstart teens’ financial futures. Enjoy!

What’s the biggest mistake you made with money as a teen? 👀

Growing up, money wasn’t really something you “talked about” so I made quite a few mistakes. The one that still haunts me happened in college. I was just starting my freshman year at Wesleyan University and attended one of their activity fairs where you could sign up for everything from intramural sports to your first credit cards.

As an 18-year-old whose sole focus was getting as much free swag as possible, t-shirts and hats enticed me to sign up for 10 credit cards. I was completely clueless about the ramifications of what I had just done, and as a result, that decision followed me around for nearly a decade – causing me to pay higher interest rates for my car insurance, phone bills and first house purchase.

You’ve founded quite a few successful businesses over the years. What advice can you offer aspiring entrepreneurs? 📝

You know, even as a kid, I always had some sort of side hustle from my neighborhood paper route to washing cars, mowing lawns and selling baseball cards in my parents’ garage.

I’ve always been so intrigued by how various businesses work and looked for opportunities to build things that help improve or simplify people’s lives. That being said, building a business takes hard work and immense passion. It’s also really important to be resilient, seeing setbacks as learning opportunities, never giving up and taking a few calculated risks along the way.

Tell us a little bit about Step. Where did you get the idea and why teen banking? 💗💙💛

It’s always really bothered me that money management is such a critical life skill and yet so few people discuss it at home or in school. As someone who is intimately aware of how a few financial missteps can have a monumental impact on your life, I wanted to help solve this problem so my two young children can have a brighter financial future and avoid making costly mistakes.

I’m also a firm believer that both good and bad money habits are formed at an early age. So, I began looking into the teen banking space and discovered that there were very few products built specifically for the next generation. The market was saturated with outdated banking products that didn’t align with how teens spend their money today and actually capitalized on their mistakes to make a profit. I decided to build something better, something that puts the interests of teens and their families first.

In turn, we created a modern, all-in-one banking solution that includes a free, FDIC insured bank account, Step Visa Card and P2P payments platform. Additionally, we do not charge ANY fees and enable teens to start building their credit history before they turn 18, without the possibility of overspending.

As a parent, why would you recommend other families get Step? 💸

Money has long been seen as this taboo topic, and as a result, it’s put many parents at a disadvantage. It’s hard enough figuring out when to start talking to your kids about money and how much information to share, but for those without guiding principles from their own childhood to look back on, it becomes even more difficult. Step makes this a whole lot easier.

While Step gives teens more financial freedom, we also make it much easier for parents to keep an eye on their teen’s spending - looking for teachable money moments. Additionally, Step’s Money 101 section arms parents with all the tools they need to tackle these conversations.

And then there’s also a pure convenience to using Step. It takes less than two minutes to sign up (which can be done from the comfort of your couch) and parents can instantly send their teen allowance or spending money.

If you could go back in time, what’s one thing you’d want to tell your younger self? 🤔

Always read the fine print and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Chances are, it could save you a lot of money.

We hope you enjoyed our conversation with CJ and be sure to mark your calendars for next week! We’ll be sitting down with one of Step’s very own teen entrepreneurs to discuss his side hustles, how he uses Step to manage the financial aspects of his business and tips to help other teens to follow suit.