Join AmEx ZYNC’s QuarterLife Project: Win A $500 Gift Card

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2011-02-2816

Update: This giveaway is now closed. But please see below for updates on the winner and what we’ll have next!

Do you belong to Gen Y? Then you may want to hear about this venture by American Express called “The Quarterlife Project”, which is aimed to bring more focus and attention on the needs of those of you who are in your 20’s. A lot of people at this stage in their lives are still learning the financial ropes. So I’m glad that a lot of companies in the financial space — yes, even credit card companies — are wanting to get into the action of educating folks about finance.

Enter this new initiative by ZYNC from American Express. For a bit of a background: ZYNC from AmEx is a new charge card from this card company, which is created with the Gen Y cardmember in mind. Why is this a good choice for younger people (if you’ve decided to enter the world of plastic)? It’s a charge card (more such cards here), first of all, which means you don’t accumulate debt since you’ve got to pay off your card in full and you can’t keep a balance. Plus, it offers rewards geared towards those things that Gen Y cares about (you know, such as fashion, music, food and travel).

ZYNC from American Express: The QuarterLife Project

Amex ZYNC QuarterLife Project

But with regards to the actual project, there’s good reason that AmEx decided to bring more awareness about finance to the “quarterlifers”. They’ve conducted a survey that shows some interesting findings for those of you in this generation:

  • 96% of people in their twenties care about finance. Money is one of their top concerns.
  • Eight in ten people or around 79% are overwhelmed by their finances.
  • 57% of twenty somethings are not independent, and are still looking for monetary support.
  • 54% think that financial services focus much more on older clients. Not a surprise, given this could be where the money is?
  • 67% would love to improve their knowledge about finance and around the same number would love to learn more about managing their money.

So given these identifiable gaps, the AmEx ZYNC QuarterLife Project, together with money coach Christine Hassler would like to bring education and information to the forefront. I was actually invited to be a partner in this initiative as well, because I’ve got some great readers who are in the Gen Y demographic.

How To Join AmEx ZYNC’s QuarterLife Project

(And Maybe Win A $500 Gift Card)

So all of you twenty somethings, this is for you! Christine and ZYNC from American Express are developing a video around the topic of “Getting Fiscally Fit”. And we’d all love to get your input. If you’ve got some questions on the matter of fiscal fitness that you’d like to ask Christine, send them over in our comments. Just leave a comment with your question below. I am hoping we can get some interesting questions that are relevant to you!

Now as an incentive, AmEx is offering ONE $500 gift card to the person who offers the best question — the idea is to get one or more questions featured in this video. Topic areas of great interest would be on how to get a job or on determining your career path.

Then I’ll follow up later with the actual video from Christine! If you’d like to know more about this project, you can check out their press release, where you’ll get a lot more details about this. Here’s their facebook page too, where you can get more info about Christine.

Hope to get your questions up!

Update: Thanks once more for these comments and entries! The winner of the giveaway is Lindsay, who asked:

“Bill” is going to graduate this May. The job market is still tough and there is a lot of pressure on the first job because the salary of the first job will affect future earnings and future job offers. What can Bill do to stand out besides internships and good grades?

We will have Christine’s response for you shortly in a post I’ll publish soon (next week or so).

Thanks to all! I hope to get more responses to your great questions as well via commentary, even if Christine won’t be able to personally respond to each inquiry in the video.

Copyright © 2011 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeremy Streich March 1, 2011 at 8:04 am

I’m 30, and debt free except the house. I have about a four month emergency fund. I work for the state of Wisconsin (don’t worry, this isn’t about the politics, just the practicalities), and am working on starting my own business. The recent bill in national news increases the portion of my family group health insurance costs (from $89.00 a month to $119.00) I will pay for, as well as increase the amount withheld from my check that pays into the Wisconsin Retirement System (from $7.04 a month to $204.00). The total decrease in net pay (from $2624.32 to $2307.96) would be significant. Would it make sense to drop the group insurance and pick up high-deductible private insurance and an HSA instead? The thought would be when the business starts providing enough income it would be easier to leave the day job behind, the HSA would be another tax sheltered account which would allow our assets to grow — but I’m not sure if the net result of the change make financial sense or not.

Geoff March 1, 2011 at 8:29 am

My question has to deal with Emergency funds. In reading all the financial blogs, it seems like one of the main things that is focused on is the need for everyone to have a significant chunk of change stowed away in case of an emergency. As a guy in my early 20’s, though, I question whether I would be better suited foregoing the emergency fund in favor of investing the money for my future. I am generally very healthy, I don’t participate in any overly risky activities, I don’t own a car, and I don’t have anyone that depends on me for financial well-being. So, would you recommend an emergency fund for someone in their early 20’s, or do you think that it is a time where the focus should be on investing for the future?

Thanks for this program, by the way, it sounds great.

Silicon Valley Blogger March 1, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Thanks for your questions! Do keep ’em coming. The question about figuring out your health insurance requirements is a good one, and may take some evaluation, based on the potential costs you have for private insurance and tax savings you’ll get from an HSA.

Re emergency funds, I always prioritize on building a cash stash first. I know that a lot of folks are tempted to rely on credit as their backup fund in case something happens, but I think that it shouldn’t take much to build even a cash foundation first before going for long term investing. So the approach of going gung ho on investments as a priority is a more aggressive stance. I’m generally anti-debt though, so I personally favor the emergency fund approach first.

It would be great for Christine to see these questions. Hope there are more of you who have them. 🙂

Jeremy Streich March 3, 2011 at 8:09 am


I agree with Silicon Valley Blogger. In any given 10 year period you have a 80% chance of an financial emergency of $3,000 or more. In times when you are in financial crisis is the worst time to use credit, because you don’t know when you’ll be able to pay it back, and putting yourself in worse situation if Murphy comes calling a second time. Moreover, with the economy being what it is, if you find yourself laid off from work, the average time to new employment right now is between 6 and 9 months. Moreover, having even 3 to 6 months worth of expenses in a more liquid form will also give you a security net that allows the freedom of leaving a job if your asked by your employer to do something unreasonable or unethical.

After the emergency fund is fully funded, I would start investing 10% to 15% in tax sheltered retirement savings. Being in your 20’s means you have the benefit of time — which more powerful than amount when it comes to investing.


Yes, it is tough one. I’ve started getting quotes to try and look at the numbers, the problem is I’d also have to figure in how much I need, and can afford, to invest into the HSA. I love the concept of the HSA, but don’t know if I have the cash flow.

Wes March 4, 2011 at 4:42 pm

I am in my mid twenties but only three years into my career. It took a while to find a career I enjoy and am suited for, but quite honestly, I didn’t know it was something that held much interest for me until I just fell into it. Because of this, I’m somewhat behind my peers in both what I earn compared to them and how much I’ve managed to save. What advice can you give about making a career decision earlier to avoid the pitfalls that come with making no decision at all?

Ally March 5, 2011 at 5:34 pm

I’m in my early 20s and living in the DC area with a stable job. I believe that I have a fair knowledge about personal finance and am a saver by nature, but I’m currently uncertain of where to invest my future down payment for a house (not sure where this will be, but the purchase would probably not happen for another 6 years).

A little of my background: I have recently paid off all of my student loans and have no debt whatsoever. I currently contribute the maximum to both my Roth IRA and my TSP (401K) and have an emergency fund that would last me a year. After my retirement contributions and living expenses, I have some money left over each month, which I have split between index funds at Vanguard and my emergency fund in the past.

I’d like to know the best place to invest my future down payment. My two main concerns are liquidity and growth. I have thought of putting the funds within my Vanguard index funds because of the low interest rates of saving accounts and CDs. However, I am concerned about the difficulties of liquidating my index funds if they are suffering (i.e. like our recent economic downturn) at the time when I want to make a home purchase.

I also have another question regarding consolidating my Roth IRA accounts. How do I go about the consolidation as efficiently as possible?

Thank you!!!

Nicole Bennett March 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm

I am 25 years old. I never took on a credit card because I saw everyone around me in debt or swiftly heading there. I decided that I would wait until 25 when I had assumed I would be more financially savvy. I have paid for everything over the last five years by cash; school, car, car insurance, rent, phone bill, utilities. I had been keeping a savings but wiped it out to pay for car and education. I now still have no debt but what I also have is no credit history. Now a credit card is not only not offered to me but I am being denied. I went from being a twenty year old living with roommates, supporting myself, no debt, seeking an education and working full time to living back with parents, laid off, taking eighteen credits I am struggling to pay for and a car that just decided to die in time for me to have no money to fix or replace. I have no parental financial support, I even will owe back rent in June. How did I get here and how do I change my financial situation before it gets worse and/or I get older?

Silicon Valley Blogger March 7, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Thank you for the entries! We’re still open to responses. Love the questions although the focus is on getting a new job and forging a career path. But these are great questions. If you’d like to enter with a question on job/career, please do. 🙂

Katie Hoffman March 7, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Hi there. I am asking this question on behalf of myself and every other twenty-something who has ever wondered about this difference between cost and worth, not necessarily in investments, but in everyday purchases. As a woman in her early twenties, I am constantly being told by older generations to SAVE EVERYTHING, and live what seems to be a very minimalist life style. On the opposite side of the equation are those people who drive their dream cars, own the latest technology, have a closet full of Jimmy Choo’s and the finest education Sallie Mae can buy, all by the age of twenty-six. Unfortunately, all those luxuries, often come with an enormous amount of debt. I am getting ready to transfer from my community college to a four year school to finish up my degree, when this situation comes to mind. I could go to a state school (I live in Oklahoma) for relatively cheap, or I could finish my education in a big city, which has always been my dream. However, I know that may require taking some loans. Are there some things that are worth going into debt for? If so, what qualifies such a purpose? I try not to be an extremist. I don’t want to max out my credit card on this season’s fashions, but I also don’t want to have to forgo life’s little luxuries, and sacrifice my opportunity to experience the connections and life in a big city. I would love some opinions on whether or not cost and worth, in everyday situations, are different. Thank you!

Lindsay March 7, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Once you have a job and an emergency savings, where should extra money go to first? 401k (beyond the employer match), pay down mortgage quicker, or student loans, assuming no other debts?

Lindsay March 7, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Question: “Bill” is going to graduate this May. The job market is still tough and there is a lot of pressure on the first job because the salary of the first job will affect future earnings and future job offers. What can Bill do to stand out besides internships and good grades?

Lee March 8, 2011 at 7:36 pm

What is the best approach for negotiating an internal job promotion. They know you want the job and they know how much you make currently. You counter their offer, but do you leave it at that if they say no?

Carmen March 9, 2011 at 1:07 am

I recently started a freelance position that pays me more than I anticipated. I want to talk to an expert on how to properly invest my money for retirement but I don’t know who to turn to for advice. I have heard that financial advisors and retirement planners often do not have a client’s best interest at heart. Who can answer my questions about retirement, then? Who are the people I should avoid?

I have done a little bit of research on personal finance (which is how I ended up here on this site), but thumbing through reading material is a slow process. Blogs are great, but they get paid to promote banks, credit cards, products, etc. which effects their credibility. Furthermore, many blog writers are not experts. Personal finance books are great, but a lot of the retirement advice is never-ending and even contradictory. I just need someone to sum it all up for me in person.

I went to a bank to talk to someone about an IRA and they just tried to sell me CD’s the entire time.

Any suggestions on who to go to?

Jeremy Streich March 9, 2011 at 9:24 am

Just my take a couple of these questions…

@Wes – Learning what you love to do sometimes takes time, and what you love to do will change with time. Your earning potential is not limited by experince, but by skill — which is tied to hours put in. There is the magic number of 100,000 hours (studies show that for most disciplines it takes 100,000 hours doing it, to become a master of it), but if you really are doing what you love, you’ll naturally reach that 100,000 hour mark faster than people who have been doing it longer but have no passion for it. What I would recommend to someone trying to figure out their passion is to read Dan Miller’s “48 Days to the Job You Love” and “No More Mondays”.

@Ally – 6 years isn’t a long investment, and you’ll want you don’t lose money over that short term (even if it would make money in the long term — 6 years isn’t that long investment wise). Your probably best with sicking the money in something more liquid with constant and known interest rate — like a high yield money market account.

As far as the Roth accounts, I see no reason to consolidate them. Some experts would argue keeping them separate would help to diversify your portfolio assuming they are invested differently and have different investment options inside of them. If you want to combine them, it shouldn’t be hard, as they are both Roth — that is to say they are post-tax money, so there should be no “tax hit” to combine them.

@Nicole – You have no income, and no emergency fund. You were wise to avoid debt, but you forgot that life happens. In any given 10 year period there is an 80% chance of a financial emergency of $3,000 or more. Murphy is out there. Some day it is going to rain, and when it does you need an umbrella. You should have saved 3 to 6 months worth of expenses in a money market account or high yield savings account for when emergencies come along. That’s how you got to where you are.

How do you get out? Increase your income. First, file a unemployment claim. Your employer paid for unemployment insurance for you, and you should qualify. Your issue is you have more going out than you have coming in — because you just lost your job and have nothing coming in. I would pause your studies after the semester is over, and work to save up an emergency fund then. In the mean time, you need to squeeze in some work. At this point, you can’t be picky: throw pizza, deliver news papers, take a job at the local Wal-Mart stocking shelves, wait tables, etc. I know it isn’t glamorous, but taking on no debt is great benefit for you right now. Imagine adding a credit card bill to the financial mess you are currently in.

@Katie – I’m am an extremist. I’d say no to taking on the student loan debt if it can be avoided. College is about what you learn and getting the degree; the pedigree doesn’t matter as much as many believe. As far as “experiencing the city,” how far are you from it? Can you get a job on the weekends in the city or plan regular trips to the city?

@Lindsay – I agree with the basic layout of Dave Ramsey’s baby steps on this question.
Kick Sallie Mae out of the house first. Then, begin investing 10-15% of your income into retirement, paying your house off early and (if applicable) saving for your children’s college.

Regarding “Bill”, read “48 Days to the Work You Love”. Moreover, I think it is a false assumption to assume that your first job pay will affect your later jobs. There is no reason to tell a potential employer what you made at your previous job, doing so would be poor negotiating. If at all possible, in an interview environment, you want the other person to say “the number” first. If you lead with number that is lower than they are thinking, you are limiting your earning potential, if say a number that is too they may balk. As far as “standing out” in is concerned:
– Care about the companies you are applying for and the work you’d be doing.
– Be punctual, polite and upbeat
– Know your potential employers and their needs
– Talk about what they want, not what you want, and tell them how you can help get them what they want

@Lee – Turning down a promotion because the pay increase isn’t enough seems silly to me, unless you have another offer with another company. It seems even silly to leave a job because the promotion they offer you isn’t a large enough one, unless you have an offer with another company.

@Carmen – Financial advisors who work for investment firms do get paid commission on financial products they sell, and that might influence the choices they point you toward. That doesn’t mean that all of them are out to get you. I would, as a general rule, avoid getting financial advice from an insurance agent; as insurance and investing, while related, are different animals.

What I would suggest is that you use financial planner who specializes in long term investment who works at a local credit union. Credit Unions are owned by the members, not a board of directors and millions of stock holders; they are smaller institutions by design. You want a planner who has the heart of teacher, who will explain the investments in simple language you can understand. If you don’t understand it, don’t buy it. If the person doesn’t satisfactory answer your questions, don’t use them for anything, ever.

Also, educating yourself is a really good idea before you go to meet a planner. That will allow you to have a better hog-wash detector.

Just my $.02.

Silicon Valley Blogger March 10, 2011 at 10:54 am

These are awesome responses. I have to thank everyone who offered their questions here and I will try to give my .02 on the matter. I will now close the giveaway and will be making an announcement on who will receive the $500 gift card shortly! I shall contact you or make the announcement here. Again, thanks for everyone’s thoughts and will provide some replies soon.

Just to let you all know that we’re still working on selecting the winner of this giveaway.

Silicon Valley Blogger March 14, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Okay the winner has been announced! See our update over at the post above! 🙂 Thanks again!!

Leave a Comment