Aaron is both the visionary and technical mind behind Mint, the first free, automatic and secure way to manage and save money online. He designed Mint to meet his own needs and those of people like him who value the immediacy of the Web, simplicity and their free time. With 10 patents filed or pending, Aaron brings strong innovation skills to Mint. Prior to founding Mint, Aaron was an architect and technical lead for the San Jose division of Nascentric. Before Nascentric, Aaron worked for IBM and founded two web development and online marketing companies: PWeb and International. Aaron holds an MSEE from Princeton University and a BS in computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering from Duke University.
Question: What are the psychological barriers to saving?
Aaron Patzer: You know, it’s funny. When I look at the biggest areas where people have been cutting back, 40 percent of Mint users say they spend less on restaurants and cook more at home and a full, I think, 90 percent of people say they’ve actually changed their spending habits. So, I think at least for people in their 20’s and early 30’s the biggest problem area is probably restaurants, coffee shops and sort of your going out budget. Getting lunch every day, getting coffee in the morning or the afternoon every day, those sort of daily habits that maybe you don’t realize.
So, sometimes I wonder from a psychological perspective if people have a food and beverage addiction. I’m typically a just drink water kind of guy. I was a bodybuilder in high school, so I used to - food to me was, there are this many grams of carbohydrates and proteins and I need these micronutrients in order to grow and be fit and I ate in order to live and not live in order to eat and I think most people are the opposite.
And so, I know it sounds weird, but the food that I eat, it doesn’t make a big difference and it never has. So, I’ve saved a ton of money not buying a lot of alcohol, not going out to restaurants too much. So, I think it’s part of our culture and it’s part of a social activity more than anything else.
The other thing is I think we’re in a very consumer focused culture where you’re almost taught that in order to be happy or satisfied you have to spend on the latest clothes, gadgets, whatever and I think half the time it’s in order to impress other people. You know, the way you dress or the car you drive or what you spend is to impress other people with how, I guess, successful and rich you are. But, you're not and you shouldn’t and who gives a damn what other people think anyway. So, that mentality, I think, is very destructive. It’s the mentality of being a secondhander; of caring too much what other people think. I know that’s an odd thing to say, maybe, when we’re talking about, like, psychology of saving, but I think it - that has more to do with it than anyone imagines.
Recorded on November 2, 2009