One Airport Place,
Today, we visit with Richard Oring's former intern (and nephew) Aaron Kravitz. Aaron is about to graduate a 5-year program at Penn State University with a bachelor's and masters degree in accounting.Not only did Aaron have to navigate the usual challenges of college life - time management, accountability, and budgeting - but he is also finishing his university career in the middle of a pandemic. This of course brings a new set of challenges.Classes are virtual with different preferences of different professors, and even the social life is very different on campus - from bars and restaurants to not being able to go to Nittany Lions football games.While Aaron was in school, he did two very different internships - one with Deloitte & Touche in New York, and the other with Rich at New Century. Both were great learning experiences, but we look at the comparison between interning at large and small companies. Incidentally, Rich speaks very highly of the work that Aaron did on marketing materials for NCFG.The advice that Aaron provides is relevant for all college students - not just during COVID. He talks about budgeting, spending the necessary time on coursework, and finding a way to stand out among your peers (and not just with grades).And of course, we share a funny story about Rich's sister, who happens to be Aaron's Mom.
Welcome to Financial Matters with Richard Oring. I am John Jag Gay, joined again by Richard Oring, and we have a special guest today, Aaron Kravitz. He is in his fifth year at Penn State, earning his dual degree for bachelor's and masters in accounting. Grew up right outside Philly, 22, he's done two internships with Richard's firm, New Century Financial Group, and at Deloitte Touche. Rich, why is Aaron with us today?
Well, first off Jag, this is our second guest now in a row. So it's a new format, working out pretty well. I got a lot of good comments on the first episode we did with the guest. That was great. And I also want to comment that Aaron's on his fifth year, not because he failed a year, but because he's going for a special degree. Aaron, real quick, do you want to talk about what you're going for, why you're there for five years?
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So, the program I am in, it's an integrated Master of Accounting program. And so basically in four and a half years, you get a master's and a bachelor's in accounting. And in that five-year span, you also take a semester off to complete an internship. So, my summer going into my fourth year, my first senior year, I did an internship with you, of course. And then that winter of my senior year, I did an internship with Deloitte in New York City doing auditing.
Get a lot of bang for your buck, two degrees in five years. All right. I like it.
Hey Jag, the reason why I wanted to do this podcast, it's really amazing. All these kids who are going to colleges right now, even before COVID, you hear about some of these kids coming home from the stress they have from leaving home first time on their own, which is so different than when you and I went to college. We couldn't wait to get out and be on our own. But add the COVID situation, and it just adds another level of complication and more stress and other issues for some of these students. And then you have kids who are graduating and not knowing what to do. And I figured I know Aaron really well. He's actually my nephew. He did an internship with me last year, very impressive. He did a lot of the tax projections and wrote a lot of the marketing materials and research. It was a great experience.
I've only had two interns ever working for me, and I've been very fortunate that they were both very highly intelligent, self-sufficient people who can do their own work with very little guidance. So that was very fortunate there. Maybe I'll continue taking interns now, I have Aaron here, so he can give some insight into what it was like for him as a freshman being dropped off at the dorms and mom and dad saying goodbye, to dealing with COVID and dealing with how do you become different than everyone else? Because it's such a competitive workforce out there right now. And how do you position yourself to be employable?
It's interesting you said Rich, about the college experience. I think about when I was a freshman at college and when mom and dad dropped me off, I'd never been away from home. I was five hours from home. I grew up in Boston, went to school at Syracuse and I was homesick. I was the kid who was homesick for the first couple of months. And it took me probably until October, November until I joined the radio station and started making friends there before I really felt comfortable being away at school.
I know Aaron you weren't freshmen for COVID, but I can't imagine someone going away to school for the first time or being away at school and missing out on that social interaction, because you're doing your classes over Zoom or you're quarantined or whatever it might be. So I got to ask you, Aaron, college is pretty stressful without dealing with COVID and there are all these studies as Rich was alluding to, anxiety, stress, and depression that students are dealing with, with all the social distancing. Take me into your world, Aaron. What is it like as a college student dealing with all this?
It's definitely relatively stressful compared to years past. What I would say is my experience with COVID going on and being in Zoom university, essentially, I would say my experience is a little bit better than the average because being well acclimated to college at this point, I'm on my fifth year, well adjusted. I'm not worried about getting a job at this point because I have a job lined up. And a lot of my friends who either graduated last year or they're taking online classes and looking into getting a job, people are having a lot more stress their way. Just from my standpoint, the things that are stressful is figuring out how to navigate the interface of the online classes and whatever. I was in 18 credits this semester. Every professor did things their own way, and it took a few weeks to get that ironed out.
But then by the time you have the structure of the online classes figured out, then you had the exams rolling around. So there's another level of stress and you had to figure out how to take the exams online. And as it turned out, a lot of people didn't do too well on some of those first exams. The average in my advanced accounting exam was 30%. Right. I mean, there's that element of stress too. On the other hand, my brother's a freshman, and Uncle Rich, you were just talking about how going into your freshman year during COVID could be a lot more stressful of an ordeal. Stephen's experience, my brother, his experience is totally different. Being in my fifth year, I have my friend circle. I know all the people that I need to know. I'm not worried about making new friends at school. But being a freshman at a new university, being all on your own, it's extremely hard for people, freshmen like my brother, to just get acclimated to make new friends and to be comfortable.
I remember I think your mom talking about like, if you leave campus and then you come back, there's quarantine or testing you have to do before you can come back. Is that correct?
Yeah. At Penn State, they're doing quite a bit of testing. Earlier this semester, when I first got to Penn State, you had to quarantine essentially for two weeks, and there was no way for them to necessarily prove that you did, but that was kind of an honor system aspect of it. But beyond that, they also had everyone take a COVID test before they were allowed to even attend classes. Your online, Canvas is what they call it, which is where all of your course work is, all of your files and whatnot, that would be deactivated until you took your COVID test. So that was one way that they were able to monitor and prevent the disease from spreading and whatnot.
So, Aaron, I know that this wasn't an option for you, especially going into your fifth year at Penn State, but I know a lot of high school kids graduating or people who are already in college and they decided to take a gap year, figuring that why you start college or go back to school, pay full tuition only to have to do it over Zoom. Do you have any of your friends or do you know anyone who actually did a gap year because of COVID?
So I don't know anyone. Since I'm on the tail end of my college career, I don't know kids in high school who were taking gap years. I do know kids who struggled to get jobs, who weren't able to get a job. One of my best friends, he's looking into getting his real estate license and he figured he would advance his education during this time since he can't get a job right away. But I don't know people who have decided to go to law school or grad school who didn't previously plan to do it. But I know that is a trend, as you mentioned.
Aaron, it's interesting you mention that you don't have to deal with this, but your brother being younger, did, the adjustment and acclimation to college and the social life. And obviously, you go to college to get your degree in your classes and you learn. But obviously, social life is such a big part of college. I think about my friends from college and I've been out, gulp, 20 years and I think about I can randomly text a friend that said, "Oh, I saw this the other day. It reminded of the time that we went to this party or went out to eat at this place" or whatever it ended up being. I got to imagine that, and obviously, you're the focus, like I said, is your schoolwork, but it's got to be tricky to navigate that social balance with the world of social distancing that we're in now, right?
Yeah. That's definitely the toughest aspect of things. It's really interesting too, just the difference between the lifestyle that people are living at state college, Penn State right now, versus that of living at home in Yardley, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia. In terms of social life at state college, there aren't really real parties anymore. And the big scene for people that are over 21 is the bars. And when you go to the bar now it's more of a sit-down dinner with your friends where you're getting food. You can have your drinks, but in years past, you would go to a bar and there'd be hundreds of people there. You wouldn't be sitting down, you'd be standing.
So no more quarter night draft nights, for a draft?
Well, people are still going to the bars and drinking, doing what they can to enjoy themselves, but it's just a different element. It's a more intimate scene. It's like you think of a big party, a classic college party, there are hundreds of people, you can't move anywhere. Nobody's really having conversations. It's almost mindless in that sense where you're just drinking and dancing and just making yourself seen. And what it is now, it's totally different. It's super conversational. If you're going to a bar, you're sitting down at a table with four or five of your close friends who you see every day. It could be roommates or maybe it's your roommates plus a group that you hang out with frequently, and you're just conversating. It's more intimate in that matter. For me, I like that. But at Penn State, it's a school. Everyone wants to party.
You guys have no football games to go to, right?
Yeah. That's a bummer.
I went to Syracuse when they had a legitimate football team and I live here not too far for the University of Michigan, which football is obviously huge too, with the big 10 as you know, and I can't imagine what it'd be like to be in school and not being able to go to the games. So Aaron we've hit on the social aspect and I can't imagine how hard it is to be going to Penn State and not being able to go to football games. But COVID or not, going to college and now being responsible for your own schedule and nobody's going to make you get out of bed and go to class, whether that class is in-person or during COVID over Zoom, whichever it is. How have you been able to navigate owning that responsibility of having to go to class and only have yourself to answer to?
Yeah. Great question. The beauty of, at least my experience in college, comparing that to high school and just starting from high school. When you're in high school, it's a regimen much like going to your office job is, you wake up at 6:30, you catch the bus, you drive to school. You got science A period, social studies, B period, math C period. It's the same thing every day. You come home and you get your work done, then you can do whatever you want. The difference with college is the amount of freedom that you have. You want to have one class for 50 minutes, three times a week, another class, twice a week for an hour and a half. And besides that, you have all the free time in the world to either get ahead in those classes or you can fall behind.
And when I compare myself to my peers, and I don't like to compare myself to people in general, but just in this example, I would always focus more on ensuring that not only I went to the classes, but I would get ahead outside of the class. So I focused more on understanding material, understanding concepts, and then using the lectures to back whatever I've been doing more so than blindly attending classes, then being done and having all the free time to just play X-Box or do whatever.
Now, on the other hand, I had a lot of friends who would be like, "Oh, the lecture is enough. I'll go to my lecture and then I'm just going to play Dark Souls all day or Call of Duty all day." And these are the guys that don't have jobs now and they're struggling, figuring out what to do. But going to class isn't everything. You might not need to go to class, but you should go to class to understand the material, but it's more what you do outside of class than in the classroom, which is the biggest difference between high school and college.
And for all those kids who are going into college now, I would tell them to make sure that you understand the material because if you just show up to class, you're not going to actually learn everything you need to learn. The environment is cultivated for you to understand concepts on a deep level and not to just show up and then cop-out in. That's the situation that a lot of people get wrapped into.
I wish, Aaron, I could record that answer and play it back to 18 years old me, and my college experience might've looked a little bit different. So that's really good advice.
What's the difference in playing it back when you were 18 or 40?
Paid more attention in my communications classes, I don't know.
So last summer when Aaron was home for the summer and he was doing the internship here, he was spending a lot of time with my son, Ethan, my older one. And he was 16, plays a lot of video games and they were going to the gym together. I remember overhearing Aaron give him the speech about video games are fun for now, but it's not going to help you in the future. You got to sacrifice now with your time, you might give up some freedom and fun time, but it'll pay off in the long run. Because I don't think you were really that big into video games growing up. You played them, but you played instruments and socialized with your friends and so forth.
Yeah. There'd be periods where I'd get into it with the video games. It was more of a middle school thing, which is millions and millions of years ago at this point, but it was always something that would come in phases. And I realized to myself, man, I'm not seeing my friends as much as I want in person or I don't know, I always found the more video games I play, the more out of touch with my friends and like actually being on top of my game I would be. So in college, I almost cut video games out completely. This year, I played a little bit just because I'm home so much. Our roommates are playing, but for the most part, I would always try and avoid that. There was always something more productive I could be doing, whether it was reading or I play guitar, I play the piano. I would do those as distractions. I would do anything where I could gain some sort of benefit.
You played rugby for a while, wrestling.
It's funny hearing you say this, Aaron because I draw a comparison to social media too. So what you're saying is if you're living your entire life in the fantasy world of a video game, you're living less in the real world. I think the same is probably true for social media. People get lost on Instagram and Facebook forever. They lose touch with reality if they're spending more time on those apps and less time in reality. So I definitely see the comparison there.
Yeah. My favorite quote of all time, this is me trying to be intellectual, but one of my favorite books of all time, and one of my favorite historical figures is Voltaire. And in Voltaire's book, Candide, all these awful things happen to the main character Candide. He goes to Eldorado and loses all the gold. He loses family, loses friends, everyone gets killed or whatnot. And at the end of the book, someone says, "Oh, but all this had to happen so that we could get to where we are now." And he says, "Yeah, this might be true. And we could focus on all these things going on or we can cultivate our garden," I think the quote is. But we must cultivate our garden.
And what he's saying is, and the way I would apply this to life today is you can be looking at all the awful things going on in social media or you can be wrapped up in X-Box games, computer games, and whatnot. But at the end of the day, what you need to do is focus on cultivating your garden and building skills, and being the best version of yourself that you can be. That's my philosophical advice.
Aaron, I got to say I'm impressed because I don't think I knew who Voltaire was for the first 30 years of my life. So well done. But I have to transition back to the financial piece of this because of course, the podcast is about money. You've talked about managing your time efficiently, when you go from living at home, being in high school, to going away to Penn State and living at college. What about the financial piece of it? How do you deal with having to live on a budget as a college student?
I would say my first few years, I wasn't as focused on budgeting and being money-oriented and focusing on being cost-efficient and not wasting money on stuff. I think it was actually after living in New York City, my internship at Deloitte, where I learned the importance of budgeting.
Living in New York will teach you that real fast.
So yeah, we would go out for drinks in New York City and one beer would be $10. I felt like I was at a Phillies game or an Eagles game or something.
And when you're at state college, nothing is expensive. You don't have that many expenditures. But living in New York City, realizing how expensive rent is, realizing how expensive just the cost of living in general is, I realized then that I needed to start learning more financial management skills or learning how to budget myself so that when I graduate from school and I'm living on my own, I don't hemorrhage through all my money and end up having it take money out of my savings or you're taking money out of my investments. And what I did is I did a project where I tracked all my expenses. I used mint.com, classically.
I realized that I was throwing away so much money on coffee, on just going out to eat, and just frivolous things like that. And so what I've been doing throughout quarantine in 2020 is just focusing more on moderating the frivolous expenses and not being too focused on consumer items and expensive clothing and stuff like that. It's like that whole trend of minimalism, but I'm not too far gone into it. But just realizing that there are ways that you can always improve your money management, is a big thing that I've gone into this year.
Aaron, I want to come back to how you landed your job for when you graduate in just a moment. I know a lot of people listening are going to ask about that. But before we do that, you mentioned your internship. You had two very different internship experiences at Deloitte and with Rich. Can you talk about what it was like to go into that work environment as an intern, and then working at a small firm compared to obviously the giant farm at Deloitte, what were some of the similarities and differences between the two?
So I'll start with the biggest differences first. I interned with Uncle Rich first, obviously, and then my second internship was with Deloitte. And interning here was, I'm going to say it was a more enjoyable experience and I'm not saying that because I'm your nephew or because I want to make you look good or anything.
I paid him.
The way I look at it is I would come in and work here and it was a few people, and it was a more friendly environment. People are joking around, people are enjoying life and whatnot. And not to say that people at Deloitte aren't enjoying life, but the work environment on an audit engagement during the busy season is super intense. People are working from 9:00 AM till midnight day in and day out, and that just takes a toll on them. So it was just way more enjoyable to come into a working environment where people are refreshed and enjoying their day. And then the other difference would be the type of work I was doing. The work that I was doing at Deloitte would be just managing spreadsheets and looking at the high level, consolidated financial statements of a company and doing little tasks here and there for staff members as they needed it.
That makes sense, Aaron, because I would imagine at Deloitte, you've got a very set list of responsibilities, it's such a large company, like that they have a specific plan for the interns. But it must've been cool on the other side of it, not to say one is better than the other, but it must've been cool in your experience with Rich that you got to take on more, you had a little bit more say over the projects that you were working on. You could take on a bigger role in that way.
Yeah. The projects that I would do with Uncle Rich, I worked on a few brochures, one of them related to the different charitable donation strategies that you can employ, one of them related to taxable investments and how different investment vehicles are taxed. Long-term capital gains, short term capital gains, dividends, securities, things of that sort. And I had the opportunity to work on the entire project myself instead of being a minor piece. And it was really cool being able to do the research myself and write the marketing piece, also the opportunity to work on tax projections and different things of that sort. And I felt that I learned a lot of skills that are just great in general to have during that internship. Whereas the internship with Deloitte, both internships, I learned so much, but I was learning more specific skills for a career in auditing. That's the difference, I would say.
Aaron, I really appreciate the kind words you said about your internship. I always look at any internship position. It's my responsibility to give you value. When I did my internship in college, I had a great experience. And when I went back to college, all my friends were like, "Oh man, my internship stunk. I worked a register at Disney." And I got to do so much. So I felt that my experience from my internship was so important, for my career and development, that anyone who's ever done an internship here, like I said I had two. And the first one was a favor for someone and he was unbelievable. And when the time came, when you wanted to come here, I knew what I wanted it to teach you and give you, especially when you're a tax major. And from previous episodes, we know that I'm very tax focused on the investment side. So it was like a perfect pair, working together with you.
But I know that looking for a job today is so different. I'll give you an example. Every single job I've ever applied, I pretty much got, except for one. I was looking for a sales position at Sysco foods. And I got a form letter saying, "Sorry, because you had no sales experience, we couldn't hire you." So I picked up the phone and I called the HR director and I asked her to go out to lunch with me. And she said to me, "Why do you want to go to lunch with me?" I said, "Because I think after having an hour lunch with me, you'll realize I have some natural sales skills and maybe you might reconsider." And right there on the phone, she goes, "Not necessary, you're hired."
Today though, you don't have that opportunity though. You don't have the opportunity to talk to the HR department and make yourself different. Everything is done on the internet, go to their website, or a career website, and apply for jobs. And it's got to be very difficult. So I know that you have done certain things in college, you started up certain things, you were part of clubs, to be different, to be more competitive than your peers. Do you want to talk about some of that and if that was important to do?
Yeah. I think it's definitely important to do. What I will say is with the program that I'm in, I think every single person gets placed in a job. It's just a filter program of that sort. But some jobs that you can obtain from the program might be better than others, although all of them are still good. Without knowing that, early on in college, I realized that I needed to develop a comparative advantage of myself relative to my competition and getting your first job. And I didn't know that everyone in the program I was going into was going to get a job. So at first, I set myself apart by trying to being at the top of the class in terms of grades. And as college progressed, I realized that grades aren't everything.
And it took a while. I was so focused on being number one and having the best grades I could. It took a while to realize that just because you're the top grades doesn't mean you're going to get the job. I had an experience with another accounting firm where I went into the interview, I thought I was the man. I had great grades, I did these case competitions and won a couple of those. I had one leadership experience at the time, being on the executive board of like a small club. I thought that was enough to get me the job. And maybe I came across cocky or whatever it was, I didn't get that internship offer. And it was a slap in the face and a wake-up call of I needed to do something beyond just having the best grades I can possibly have, to set myself apart.
And what I'm about to say here is probably the best piece of advice I could give. Whether you're in college or just in general, like at Penn State, I just realized that there was a hole or a need in the school, and I realized there was an opportunity to create a new organization or a new program to fill that need.
And I had learned that people in the business school at Penn State needed to be better writers because we do so much writing in business, whether it's emails or writing a report up. I realized that there wasn't that much coursework oriented on writing, and a lot of kids were struggling in that capacity. And I created a business ethics journal focused on cultivating writing skills and I was able to start this organization and recruit a good solid team of my peers to help lead it. And I'm going to graduate and this is going to be like my magnum opus, and although I have the job now, in the future, if I ever move on to something else, this is the thing that I did in school that I'm the most proud of. And I would recommend for anyone, always look for a need in a hole that you can fill. That's the best opportunity is to create something new at your school.
Aaron mentioned earlier that he did those brochures for me. When he wrote the first brochure, the first draft, I was amazed. I never knew Aaron could write so well. I mean with quotes and everything. It was beautifully written. And when I submit it to the compliance department, the head of our compliance department for marketing, she came back and said, "Wow, he's really good. He's in college? Would he want to do some work on the side, as a consultant writing pieces?" So when it was all done and ready to go to press, I sent everything to my sister, his mom, and my brother-in-law, and my sister who is in journalism and she has her master's as legal librarian, comes back with a correction.
My mom does that to me too.
And it was such a minor thing and I don't think she was right. I don't think she was right. I'm reading the email in front of my whole staff who was impressed with everything, and we were like, "She just couldn't say good job." We loved it. And I still think was wrong.
She probably was. She probably was.
Aaron, it's been great talking to you for this little bit and getting the perspective of somebody who's not only going to college and finishing up college during COVID but just finishing up college in general at this time. It's been a few years for me and maybe a few more for your uncle. Sorry, Rich, I had to get that in there. But it's been nice hearing about the stuff you've accomplished, what's ahead of you. I just met you and I'm excited for your future, and I can hear how your uncle is beaming with pride and talking about you. Rich, any closing words as we wrap this puppy up?
You know what? I think the listeners are used to listening to me. Why don't we let Aaron close this out? And then at the very end, we'll give the contact info and our mandatory disclosures.
All right. What advice do you have for your brother or anybody else headed away to school at this point, Aaron?
For anyone going to school and for Steve, it's real tough right now, getting used to being in a new place. You got more difficult work and you got to be on top of it, but not to be cliche, but focus on your mental health. And when you're feeling anxious, or when you're feeling down on yourself, be real with yourself and understand where your head is at and figure out what you can do to understand your emotions and your feelings. And learn from this experience of uncomfort, what makes you feel comfortable in these dire times? And it will help you grow up and just learning what makes you tick and being able to get outside of your comfort zone, it will pay so many dividends in the future. So just learn more about yourself now and understand how to be the best person you can be.
Hey Aaron, that's great advice. I really appreciate that. For those who want to own reach out to me to learn more about our services, or as Aaron mentioned earlier, budgeting, if you need some budgeting help, our firm can help you with that. My phone number is (609) 924-2049. My direct extension's 126. You can always send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can go to our website at www.ncfg.com. There's a place there where you can schedule a call, you can schedule a Zoom meeting if you want to continue doing those, but I'd love to talk to you.
Richard Oring's branch office is One Airport Place, Princeton, New Jersey, 08540. The branch phone number is (609) 924-2049. Securities offered through Royal Alliance Associates Inc. Remember, FINRA SIPC. Advisory services offered through New Century Financial Group, LLC, a registered investment advisor, not affiliated with Royal Alliance Associates Inc. New Century Financial Group LLC, and Royal Alliance Associates Inc. does not offer tax advice or tax services. Please consult your tax specialist for individual advice. We make no specific comments or recommendations on any tax-related details.