When Jose Galindo, a banker in San Francisco, turned 30 years old, he began reassessing his career by reflecting on his childhood.
While he was growing up in Colombia, his parents couldn't afford to provide him with an allowance. So he came up with some inventive solutions to make money. He sold hundreds of homemade brownies and started a small business offering origami paper stars at school.
Later, he helped his parents manage their own finances. Even though they were well-educated, he realized, they were struggling. And they were not alone.
According to a 2015 National Financial Capability Study, only 30 percent of Hispanics demonstrate a basic level of financial literacy. What surprised Galindo even more was that when he searched online for a term like "tarjetas de credito," or "credit cards," looking for self-help material in his native language, the results were seldom useful.
Though U.S. Hispanics command huge purchasing power — $1.5 trillion in 2015, according to Nielsen — Galindo believes they continue to be an under-served population.
"That's when I realized I could combine technology and finance and my own background to empower the community," he says.
At 35, Galindo has traded in Wall Street for a project closer to home called MoneyMio.com, a personal finance website with free, culturally relevant content aimed at Spanish- and English-speaking audiences. He compares it to the likes of NerdWallet or Credit Karma.
The site makes money off advertising while offering comparison tools for consumers and resources to better understand how financial services work. Galindo says he could soon be searching for investors, too.
The entrepreneur is not the only one concerned about Latinos' financial literacy rates and the economic obstacles they face.
Annamaria Lusardi, professor of economics at George Washington University, who worked on the NFC Survey in 2015, suggests that some in the financial sector might consider learning Spanish, or at least utilizing bilingual materials, in order to better communicate with these populations.
College-educated Hispanics and Latinos, Lusardi says, is the group she's paying the most attention to moving forward. The U.S. Hispanic population reached 57 million in 2015, as per the Pew Research Center, and by some projections, it could reach 106 million by 2050. But even among this group, the numbers look bleak. A 2015 NFC survey found only 14 percent of college-education Hispanics or Latinos displayed advanced financial literacy. They trailed eight percentage points behind their Caucasian counterparts.
The college-educated population is one of the core groups that Galindo hopes to target with his site. Among the issues MoneyMio will cover are the best financial options for a Latino college student, how to manage parents' finances and the best way to send money to an individual's country of origin.
To the entrepreneur, what's key to helping Latinos understand their finances is creating awareness and content tailored to them.
"We are trying to fill a gap that exists out there," he said. "It's the opportunity to do something that is not only financially viable but [that] could help a lot of people."