How to Learn to Save Money with Priya Malani of Stash Wealth

Over the past few years I’ve become increasingly interested about people’s relationship to money.  My real estate clients have saved for years towards a downpayment.  My bankruptcy clients couldn’t make ends meet.  The common denominator is that people feel a certain way about money.  We’ve been taught (endlessly) that if we save x number of dollars a year for x years that we’ll be able to retire and enjoy the rest of (what’s left of) our lives.  I don’t think that’s right.  Times have changed.  While the advice to save is, of course, still sound, people’s views about what money can bring them (experiences instead of things) has changed dramatically.  I wanted to talk to someone about this and I turned to my friend Priya Malani.

I love talking to Priya.  She just gets it.  Her and her partner Rob set up Stash Wealth in an effort to help millennials think of saving for everything from retirement to a sabbatical in a radical different way.  It’s worked wonders so far.  Their business is booming, and Priya was kind enough to spend a few minutes and answer some questions I had about what the new face of investing looks like, and some of the best ways to save.

What is the number one most important thing people can do on a daily basis to increase their net worth or savings?

Automation is the most important thing you can do to see progress. I sometimes joke that 10 years on Wall Street and my most valuable tip is to automate your financial life – it’s not rocket science. If you automate your savings first and spend whatever’s left over rather than the reverse, you’re guaranteed to see a difference. But most people have it backwards.

The tips that goes hand in hand with this are:

1- to keep your savings segregated at a different bank than your main checking account. We like online banks like CapitalOne360 or Ally, because they pay a higher rate of interest as well as keep the money “out of site, out of mind” so you don’t get tempted to touch it for an impulse purchase. Try to forget that it exists once you set up the automation (i.e. $250/mo to the travel account).

2- create a different savings account for each short term goal (vacation, holiday gifts, buying a new couch, etc.)

3- nickname the account according to the goal (“Emergency Fund”, “New Couch”, “Amalfi Coast Vacation”, etc.). Studies show that when an account is nicknamed, you are much less tempted to use the money for anything other than it’s intended purpose.

Prices are insanely expensive in NY.  What are your thoughts on the new “buying a second home first” craze?

This is a personal decision and dependent on multiple variables including: whether you see the home as your “forever 2nd home”, an investment property or future passive income stream, etc.

NYTimes recently released an article with some interesting stats. In the past 126 years, home prices outside of major markets have increased only 0.37% (after inflation)…which is really hard to believe but if you are purchasing the 2nd home, expecting to pull equity out in a few years to put towards your primary home, it’s not necessarily a surefire strategy. It might be better to look into creative lending strategies (e.x. some banks are doing 10% down up to $1M property with no PMI) to see if you can get into your primary residence first, especially if you live in a hot real estate market – you’ll likely see appreciation sooner.


People know that they should save for retirement, but most don’t.  Why is that and what’s the fix?

First of all, our generation of H.E.N.R.Y.s™ doesn’t view retirement the same way as previous generations. Many of us are in business for ourselves, and to that end, we are investing any available cash into our businesses expecting to see a return that will either allow us to catch-up on retirement contributions later on or directly provide for us in our golden years. When we work with entrepreneurs, this is often the dance we do – how to make sure you’re saving enough incase the business goes belly-up while simultaneously not tying up too much money in retirement accounts which you can’t touch for many years.

For the rest of us, we’ve never been taught the value of time. We call compound the 8th wonder of the world. We’ve found that simply learning about the effects of compounding is a very powerful motivator. So here’s an example of the power of starting early.

Using round numbers: Let’s say you want $1,000,000 saved up by age 65…

If you start saving at age 25, you need to put away $5,050/yr for 40 years (total out of pocket: $202,000)

If you start saving at age 35, you need to put away $10,650/yr for 30 years (total out of pocket: $319,500)

Starting 10 years earlier, you put away $117,500 less but end up with the exact same amount! I know a lot of other things I’d rather spend $117,500 on than catching up on retirement savings.

*example uses a 7% annualized rate of return.

The Fix: make building wealth more accessible and relevant. Build financial game plans that incorporate people’s current lifestyles so they don’t have to give-up or compromise what they love to do in order to be on track for their goals. That’s our mission at Stash in working with H.E.N.R.Y.s™ [High Earners, Not Rich Yet]

Do most people want things or do they want experiences?

The number one non-negotiable goal we come across is travel. Our generation prioritizes that above more traditional goals like buying a home, car, etc. Also, because of the emergence of the “sharing economy” we feel less need to own things that could become financial burdens. We are a transient generation. The typical 20-30something stays in their job less than 3 years. We like to move around and flexibility is very important to us. We want a variety of experiences, many of our clients have worked for both corporations and start-ups. We want to do it all – who can blame us, the world is a very interesting place right now.


Want to hear more from Priya?  Check out my interview with her below.