Jorge Valdez has big dreams. He wants to launch his own nonprofit organization and retire by the age of 35.
The Cal Poly business school graduate is 22 years old, but he’s already making money moves. In September, he will start his career with Apple as a finance associate.
However, before getting that opportunity, he had to make an important decision: choosing a university.
Valdez is a first-generation college student who turned down UCLA to go to Cal Poly.
“I decided to come to Cal Poly because of the curriculum that the College of Business offered,” he said. “I think the name of the school didn’t matter much to me but more that the experience that I could gain out of my college education and I think these past four years have totally paid off.”
Valdez said his family was originally surprised he turned down UCLA, but he has no regrets.
“I think something that I realized from being here at Cal Poly is that it is kind of just a couple of words on a piece of paper and what you do with that piece of paper is really what matters more,” he said.
Valdez comes from a Hispanic household. His parents came to the United States to get a better future and to have a better life for their kids, he said.
When he started college, he decided to pursue a major in business, concentrating in finance, because he said money is a topic that wasn’t discussed in his household.
“I choose finance because I realized that there is something I can learn from finance that I didn’t learn growing up and that is something I can apply in my future and hopefully help out more people with it, which is something that can potentially line up with some career goals.”
Some of those career goals include starting a non-profit that can possibly help low-income communities manage their finances.
This goal also stems from his experiences growing up, he said.
“If you asked my parents or even aunts and uncles, ‘Oh, what’s your 401K like?’ or investments, that is something that we are not logical about, and at first it sounds scary,” Valdez said. “I remember growing up, my dad would say, ‘I’m not investing in the stock market because of the risk involved with it’ but in reality, through the classes here at Poly, I have realized that there is risk associated but there is also a lot of benefits that come with it.”
Once in school, he said he noticed that there is a large education gap between the people who do invest and minorities.
“In the minority community, when a $1,000 or $2,000 expense comes up, they don’t have the money to do that, whether it is liquid cash, or sell an investment that they have and that just kind of shows that as minorities we are not really prepared for those situations,” Valdez said. “I think if I can bridge that gap in one way or another, then people will be able to afford that cost.”
Valdez said he knows the career path he is on right now does not necessarily line up with his end goal, but what matters right now is setting up the foundation and meeting the right people that can help him accomplish these goals.
Valdez said his passion is to help people grow and he thanks Cal Poly, in part, for that.
“When I came to Poly, I think I was just really focused on getting an education and getting a job because that is what my parents came to this country for,” he said. “But then you start meeting people that are on that path as well and at the same time they are lifting people as they are also rising and when I saw that, that had a huge impact on me.”
One way he said he can help people right now is by giving them financial advice.
His three tips are:
- Create a budget and follow it
- Diversify investments. He recommends going for mutual funds rather than individual stocks to begin with
- Read the news and find education online. He said there is a lot of information out there and it is easy to find and that is a way to bridge the gap
As for his plan to retire by 35, he said he takes the term “work-life balance” very seriously, so his plan is to find a stable source of income that can allow him to retire at that age. Then, he can focus more on financial education and starting the non-profit, he said.
But for now, he is enjoying sharing this important chapter of his life with his family.
“I think this Sunday will mean so much for my family because, like I mentioned earlier, this is what my parents came to this country for, to give me an education and I think there were always a lot of things that were trying to guide me to another path and not accomplish this goal but I think for once it has come full circle,” Valdez said.