6 things we learned from a 14-year old banker

Recently, Moka hosted a very special visitor at our Montreal headquarters: José Adolfo Quisocala. José is the founder of the Bartselana Student Bank, a bank in Arequipa, Peru that teaches children to save and allows them to earn money by collecting and recycling plastic and paper waste.

What’s most impressive about the founder of this innovative financial institution, beyond the social mission behind his creation? 

José started the bank when he was just 7 years old.

He is now 14 years old. 7 years ago, he noticed that some of his classmates were missing lunch at school, and that there were other kids in his community who weren’t financially able to go to school at all. So he created a solution to help them learn to save money, gain financial independence and benefit the planet, all at once.

Since opening in 2012, the bank now has over 2,000 clients and offers loans, microinsurance and other financial services. José’s work has earned him numerous national and international awards, such as Unicef’s Child and Youth Finance International Award in 2014 and the Children’s Climate Prize in 2018.

He was most recently in Montréal for the Desjardins Cooperathon, and stopped by the Moka office for an afternoon of inspiration.

Here’s what we learned.

1. The best ideas are solutions to real problems

José didn’t start out with the idea to open a bank. Instead, he simply began by writing down the problems he saw around him and brainstorming ways to solve them. When he realized how many of the problems stemmed from financial issues, he knew what he had to do. If the problem was that his peers and their families did not have enough money to achieve their financial goals, then the solution had to give them access to an easy way to earn and save money. 

This entrepreneurial problem-solving drive also led him to the groundbreaking recycling component of his bank. He thought about how kids were struggling to earn money and the waste issues in Peru (18,000 tonnes of solid waste are created each day, with at least half ending up in streets, beaches and in rivers), and found a solution that would address them both. Genius.

2. You can accomplish anything with hard work, persistence and a never give up attitude.

As you can imagine, people were a little skeptical about a 7 year old trying to open a bank, and throughout his journey, José faced consistent rejection as he sought support for his project. He told us how he had dreamed of giving his clients their own bank cards, but that all his letters to VISA and Mastercard were simply ignored.

So you can imagine our surprise when he pulled out the bank card he’d recently designed at the VISA office in Florida! Thanks to his persistence and refusal to take no for answer, VISA had finally heard about all the good José was doing, and was more than happy to help him realize his dream.

It was hard, plastic evidence that great things can happen if you just keep working towards your goals.

3. Every small action has the potential to make a big impact

The little things we do each day may not seem like much, but they can sometimes have a big impact on the people around us. José noticed that when his customers began recycling, they were able to change the habits of entire families and communities simply through leading by example. 

And if a 14-year old boy from a low-income family in Peru can create financial opportunity for thousands of families, then it’s clear that all of us have the power to make a difference. 

4. (Financial) knowledge is power

When he opened his bank, José knew it wasn’t just about saving money. It was about teaching kids good money habits and financial literacy so they’d be able to better manage their money and make better choices about the financial services and products they used.

And it was about empowerment. Giving kids control over their own money and a way to actively earn more allowed them to pursue dreams that their families were perhaps unable to support. 

5. Keep your eye on the prize

Just like Moka users, every Bartselana client starts out by setting a savings goal.

According to Jose, the best way to get kids to save and earn money is by encouraging them to work towards something tangible—a goal to keep in mind every time they are tempted to buy another toy or piece of candy.

In fact, he feels so strongly about the power of goal setting that the design on his new client bank card features a bicycle and a pair of soccer shoes, in honour of two of the earliest Bartselana client goals. 

6. Passion is everything

The reason for José’s success became immediately apparent as soon as he started speaking—he is incredibly passionate about everything he does to help his community and planet. 

From the way he spoke about his clients to his genuine excitement when listening to Phil, our CEO, explain ETFs and micro-investing, all signs pointed to the fact that helping people achieve their financial goals is his true calling.

And for that, he’ll always be a friend of Moka’s.

Thanks for the visit, José. It was a pleasure to meet you and we’re excited to see what comes next in your mission to make saving and investing accessible to all!


Why estate planning is important for young adults (yes, that means you).

Making smart choices about your financial life can often mean thinking about and talking about things that make us uncomfortable. The same is true when it comes to estate planning.

No one in their twenties and thirties wants to think about their own mortality since death feels decades away – YOLO! But research shows 87% of millennials don’t have a will – and 65% of parents with minor children don’t have one. Like life insurance, an estate plan doesn’t benefit you – it helps your family after you’re gone. Not having one means that your loved ones have to guess at what you would have wanted.

But why should you think about an estate plan now, and what goes into one? 

Who needs a will?

It’s a myth that you only need a will if you’re rich, or over 40. You need one if you have children or pets (hello fur baby parents!), own assets like a home or investments, or if you’re married or in a common-law relationship. People typically create a will when they hit milestones like getting married, buying a home, or having a child – but even if you have investments through an app like Moka, having a will ensures that your money goes to the right people.

If any of these apply to you, consider adding an estate plan to your financial to-do list in 2019.

Everyone needs a POA

A Power of Attorney, or POA, outlines who makes decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated – for example, if you were in an accident. While not every millennial needs a will, everyone over the age of majority (typically age 18) should have a POA. 

There are two types – a POA for Personal Care, which outlines your medical wishes (for example whether you want to stay on life support) and assigns someone to make medical decisions on your behalf, and a POA for Property, which assigns someone to pay your bills and make financial decisions on your behalf. So even if you don’t need a will, you should consider creating a POA.

Learn from the celebs who have died without a will 

Celebrities like Prince and Aretha Franklin died without a will, and it resulted in drawn-out legal proceedings, with family and friends arguing over their massive estates. If you die without a will, you’re what the courts call “intestate” – and the court makes decisions on who cares for your children, and how your assets are distributed. Each province has different rules, but the bottom line is the courts are making decisions for you, vs. you being in the driver’s seat. Make sure you create a will if you need one – but also make sure you tell someone where it is (Aretha’s family found a handwritten will in the couch cushions a year after she died!).

What goes into getting a will? 

At their core, wills involve choosing people for a few key roles: 

  • Your executor, typically a trusted family member or friend who will put your plan into action
  • Guardians, who will care for any pets or minor children
  • Beneficiaries, the people who will receive your assets

Wills also allow you to leave specific gifts (think a memento or piece of jewelry), leave donations to charity, and to specify funeral wishes (for example whether you want to be cremated or buried) – but those are often optional elements. It can be helpful to start thinking about who you would want to fill those roles now, so it’s easier when you actually go to create your will.

Okay fine, I need an estate plan. 

Once you’ve decided to take this important step, there are a few ways to get it done:

  • You can visit an estate lawyer, who can give you advice and draft it. 
  • You can write a will yourself (called a holograph will), although they aren’t valid in all provinces, and can carry risk since it’s easy to make errors and contradict yourself. 
  • You can easily create one with an online will tool like Willful as long as you have a simple estate. Willful is like the TurboTax for estate planning – it guides you through a series of about 10 questions, and in 20 minutes you can print off your will and sign it and voila, you’re done in the time it takes to watch the latest episode of The Hills.

While it’s zero fun to think about, it’s never too early to put a plan in place to help your family in case the unexpected happens. Taking 20 minutes to create your plan can give you peace of mind. While you only live once, you only die once too, so why not make sure your family is protected.

Use promo code MOKA15 for $15 off any Willful plan. Visit to get started. 


How to take care of your future when you’ve got too much on your mind today

Women have a lot on their minds. We’re taking care of business at work and in our personal lives, and often we’re carrying the double burden of emotional work. If you have kids there’s even more to think about: swimming sign-ups, birthday presents, remembering where we put the vaccination cards. We have so much to think about that sometimes we don’t take the time to think about ourselves.

But we owe it to ourselves to take charge of our financial future. Canadian women make less than men (83 cent to their dollar) and we’ll likely live longer. We are less likely to invest and when we do, we invest lower amounts than men. These gaps don’t just add up, they actually compound over our lifetimes. We just have to get smarter about how we manage our money. Here are three easy ideas to help you get started.

Make it personal

Start by thinking about what’s most important to you. When it comes to investment we hear a lot about risks and returns and what’s happening in the market. Focusing on your own goals will help you cut out the noise and take action to achieve them.

What does money mean to you beyond rates and returns?  

  • Treating yourself: The ability to travel? More shoes?
  • Self-improvement: Money for self-care or a professional wardrobe to move ahead in your career? A second degree?
  • A place to call your own: Moving out on your own? Buying your first home?
  • A better life for your kids: More options for their education? Family adventures together?
  • Retirement: Financial independence later in life?

If it matters to you, it matters, period. And when it comes to your financial goals and what you want to get out of life, you’re the expert.

Trust your ability

Women are more educated than men (40% of women and 29% of men aged 24-35 have a bachelor’s degree or higher), and some research has actually shown that women are better investors. And yet, we’re still more likely to underrate our own financial knowledge.

When we analyzed Moka user data to understand how women and men approach goals and investing, we found that women set lower financial goals and are less likely to say that they are knowledgeable about investing.

We’re also still delegating the job of investing to others. In fact, one study found that  61% of married millennial women leave investment decisions to their partners, which makes them even more likely to delegate than their married baby boomers counterparts.

What can you do to take charge of your finances?

  • If you have a partner, talk about your money, budget and goals. Ask questions so you can be involved and share responsibility for key decisions.
  • If you’re single, you don’t have to go it alone. Turn to your friends or roommates and help each other stay on track of your spending and saving.

Automate your savings

Yes, you can manage your finances, and it doesn’t have to take over your free time or even take up much brain power. With so many competing demands on our attention span and on our wallets, the good news is that there are tools that help you set it and forget it.

At Moka, we automatically round up your purchases and invest the spare change. With roundups alone, you’ll save around $40 a month. That’s enough to make a difference over time, but not enough to feel like you’re missing the money.

If you’re ready to save more, we recommend you pay yourself first by automatically putting away 10-20% of your income. Just set up a weekly deposit in your Moka account, and watch your investments grow.

However you decide to automate your savings, start saving and investing as soon as you can. The earlier you start, the longer your money will have to grow and compound over your lifetime.


How to ask for a raise and get it

If you’re reading this, you already know you’re worth more than your current salary. Good.

Asking your boss for a raise can be stressful, so it’s important to go in believing you deserve one, because you do. Wages in Canada have been stagnant for the last 10 years, so you’re not alone in wanting more. In fact, 52 per cent of Canadians plan to ask for a raise in 2018.

Here are some best practices to improve your chances of securing a bigger paycheque this year.

Timing is everything

One of the best moments to ask for a raise is during your annual review, but it’s not the only time you can broach the subject. Consider another event that could warrant the conversation. Did you just deliver on a huge project or secure a big client? Ask for a raise when your success is top of mind at work, just remember to pay attention to the mood around the office. If several people were just laid off, it’s probably not the best time to ask for more money.  

Do your homework

Check out sites like or to gauge what other people are being paid at jobs like yours. Next, compare your salary with colleagues in similar roles. Use this information to inform your ask. If you’ve done the research about what’s standard in your industry, you can be confident that the raise you’re asking for aligns with your work experience and skills.

Practice your ask

Run through the conversation with a friend or trusted mentor. Your request will be stronger if you can also remind your boss why you deserve a wage increase, so rehearse that part, too. Practicing what you want to say ahead of time will help you handle the pressure and stick to the plan on the day.

Read your boss

Everyone’s relationship with their manager is different. If you and your boss talk often, it may be easy to ask for a raise without scheduling a meeting. If you have a more serious relationship, it may be best to send them a Google calendar invite before you start the conversation.

Prepare to negotiate

No matter how much you prepare, you may still be turned down. If your boss says no, ask why. You may learn there is something you can do differently to increase your chances of a raise down the road, or you may be able to negotiate an alternative, like a performance-related bonus. Sometimes, it comes down to budget. Hopefully, your request will inform how your boss plans for the coming quarter or year. If your employer simply can’t offer more money, try bargaining for more paid vacation.

Map out a path

You don’t always get what you want, but that doesn’t mean you should just walk away. Ask your boss what you can do to get to your goal. What new skills should you acquire? Maybe your employer can even subsidize a class to learn these skills? Discuss the milestones they expect you to achieve before you start earning the salary you’re requesting. If you involve your boss in your career strategy, they’ll become more invested in your success.

Move forward

Sometimes your current job simply can’t offer you what you want. That doesn’t mean you’ve miscalculated what you should be earning.  If you’re ready to move on, ask for a higher salary from a potential new employer. Moving into a higher paying position elsewhere is just another way of securing a raise. But before you make a move, remember that every job comes with advantages and disadvantages. Be sure that you weigh all the pros and cons when comparing new opportunities with your current position, and remember that a higher salary is only one way to measure the value of a job.

Ultimately, you deserve to be paid what you’re worth. It can be easy to get comfortable at a job, but you shouldn’t settle. Your work becomes more valuable the longer you’ve been in a position. Your paycheque should reflect that.


30 Inspirational Women in Canadian FinTech and Finance

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we curated a list of inspiring women working in Canadian finance and fintech today.

Many of these financial influencers, or finfluencers, generously took the time to share words of financial wisdom, speak about their impressive careers, and honour the other women who have inspired them on their professional journey. Browse the list below to learn more about the movers and shakers that are changing the worlds of finance and technology in Canada.


But that’s not all. Here are even more women who are are leading the way for finance and fintech.



OneYoungBoy on growing up: What the future looks like for the influencer from Saskatoon

Matthew Grella didn’t set out to become Instafamous, but he shot to influencer status when he first became one of Instagram’s Suggested Users in 2014. Today the Saskatoon native known as @oneyoungboy shares his dreamy lifestyle photographs with 70,000 followers, but he’s also reflecting on how his personal brand is changing as he approaches a major milestone: turning 30.

Grella’s Instagram is the ultimate escape: Expect striking landscapes and blue skies, pink blooms, coffee, cozy minimal interiors, and remarkable architecture, all peppered with whimsical selfies. “I’ve always tried to see light and shadows and everyday objects in an interesting way and propel the eye into a space that is unfamiliar,” Grella says.  His strong aesthetic and impressive following have led to collaborations with major brands like McDonalds, Grey Goose, Purdy’s Chocolate, Via Rail, NBA Canada and more.

But, like many millennials, Grella feels his relationship with social media changing as he gets older. “I almost feel like I need to rebrand because I’m turning 30. I’m not as young as I used to be,” he says.  The challenge for Grella will be figuring out a way to evolve on his platform without losing his impressive list of clients or his longtime followers.

Grella would prefer to be “Switzerland” but he recognizes that social media can be used for positive change. He’s feels a responsibility to speak up: “Now is the time that we all have to collectively scream and use our voices.”

One of the causes that matters to Grella is mental health awareness. It’s an issue of personal significance to the influencer: “Battling depression and anxiety have been such a thing for me to overcome.”

Although social media can facilitate conversations about mental health, Grella points out that it can also be the root of the problem. “Instagram can be very overwhelming and I just have to take a step back from it because it can be a really scary world. Sometimes it’s very competitive and artificial,” he says.

Lately, Grella has been mindful to practice self care and isn’t posting as frequently. There’s a pressure to post only monumental moments online, and Grella is striving for a healthier, more realistic balance. “I really enjoy the simple quiet moments.  I am very ‘stay at home’ club.”

@OneYoungBoy may be in flux, but Grella’s financial future is not. As a fastidious saver, he’s been contributing to mutual funds and an RRSP for the past 7 years. “I’ve always been mindful to pay myself first. It started by putting $25 into my account every month, and then I started putting in more. Over time it’s grown into a sizeable amount.”

“Moka is another way for me to save  and invest incrementally,” he adds. “I like things that happen passively. It’s invisible and I don’t have to think about it. I like the idea of a collective whole: Tiny little things that combine to be very meaningful one day.” For Grella, Moka is the digital piggy bank for his emergency fund.

Grella spends on items that make his apartment beautiful, like two Siamese fighter fish for different rooms and a fiddle leaf fig tree, but he also knows how to spend thoughtfully. On a recent shopping trip to Winners, he scored a bathing suit and $15 Levis: “The deals are always good at Winners.”

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New year, new memes. #2018

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Saskatoon is home and a great source of comfort for Grella, and living there also allows him to save more than he would in a bigger city like Toronto or Vancouver. He rounds out his income from brand collaborations by teaching French to civil servants and serving at an upscale restaurant. Plus, he gets a great deal on rent by living in his grandma’s basement suite. His grandparents are a big part of why he loves Saskatoon so much. He had very close relationships with both grandfathers—one passed on a love of photography, the other taught him to always be kind—and today considers his grandmothers to be a part of his friend group.)

Despite how much he enjoys his life there today, he has dreams of spreading his wings eventually. His ultimate goal is to move somewhere like Paris and maybe launch is own creative agency.

Grella never thought he would become a brand, and he knows he’s lucky. “I strongly believe in getting paid to do what you love and especially getting paid for your art.”

He also feels lucky that he has the freedom to navigate the future on his own terms: He isn’t tethered to a traditional career, any property or a relationship. That means he can pick up and go whenever opportunity comes knocking. This March, he’s taking off on a 5-week trip to Mexico, inspired by invitations to two weddings in the country, and he’s looking for collaborations between celebrations. We can’t wait to see the pictures.