Mitchell Huynh

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After graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce in 2010, Mitchell Huynh started working in the hedge fund industry and eventually became a financial advisor at one of Canada’s largest banks.

“I noticed at the bank level there wasn’t a lot of good advice being given just because the knowledge wasn’t there,” he said.

Huynh soon left banking to pursue his MBA, specializing in Financial Management. That’s when he became passionate about the issue of wealth inequality, and decided he would make it his mission to empower everyday people with the knowledge and skills to reach financial freedom.

“I believe that most of the knowledge is concentrated on the upper 5 per cent or 1 per cent just because the pay is better up there,” he said. “People with higher levels of knowledge would naturally want to assist people with more money just because the paycheque is bigger but the knowledge isn’t available to everyone.”

In his quest to fulfill his mission Huynh is back at his alma mater, this time as a course instructor for UTM’s latest undergraduate curriculum offering, Introduction to Personal Finance. He is also the host of two financial advice television programs - Wise Guys: Finance My Life (Cogeco) and Smart Money (Rogers), and an executive director at Experior.

How do you like teaching?

With television any time I mess up we can reshoot the segment. It’s a different vibe in the classroom. I enjoy it because a lot of it is live, and a lot of it is on the fly. You never expect the questions that are coming at you and it creates an interesting environment. As well, all the students are learning from one another and everyone has a different perspective on finances, and I think that’s where most of the value comes from a classroom setting.

It's important for university students to begin building a healthy credit history. Why is that so necessary at this juncture in their lives?

It is important to keep your credit score healthy because it does affect job applications later on, especially if you’re moving into finance. A tip I give my students is you never want to use over 75 per cent of your credit limit. For instance, if you have a student Visa card that has a $1,000 limit never use over $750. Try to pay it off every month if you can. If you can’t, the trick is to make multiple payments towards it. Let’s say, for some reason, I only have $100 to pay off my $750 balance. Instead of paying $100 at the end of the month, I would split it up and pay $25 one week, $25 the following week and so on. Credit companies look at that as you actively paying down your credit. That actually gives your score a bump of about 20 to 25 points, which not a lot of people realize.

But do you need a credit card to generate credit history?

You don’t need a credit card to generate credit history. You can have it on your cellphone bill. If you’re living with roommates, put the utilities under your bill as long as your roommates are trustworthy. That way, every time you pay your bill it adds to your credit score. The more credit facilities you have, the faster it is to build your credit score.

What is your best financial advice for undergraduate students?

Get a part-time job so you can understand the value of money. When I was an undergraduate student I didn’t really understand how much a dollar was worth. I never appreciated money the way I should have. A part-time job is good because it creates cash flow; it’s not really how much you make, it’s how much you keep. From there, you can plan what to do and where you want to go. Always have a part-time job on the side just because you never know when opportunities come up and you need that cash reserve there. Working and generating an income sets the habits for you in terms of time management.

Did you have a part-time job when you were an undergrad student?

In my first year I started a breakdancing club. After a while it was recognized by the school and they hired me on to be the breakdance coordinator. The core team was made up of about nine guys. We used to do performances around the school for different clubs and eventually we decided that we should be getting paid for it so we started getting paid for performing at weddings and competitions. We even made the finals on Much Music – they had a version of America’s Best Dance Crew back when I was a student. That was my part-time job but I would have done it for free. 

* Story and photo by Sarah Jane Silva for the Department of Management.