When Henry Symonds, his twin brother William, and older brother George got their GoHenry cards in 2012, they were unaware that they were among our first customers – or that 11 year-old Henry, as the first child to use his card, would inspire our name.
“At that time, our cards were called PKTMNY cards,” explains Louise Hill, co-founder and COO, GoHenry. “We’d already decided to use ‘Go’ as part of our name, and when we were looking through our customer base we discovered that Henry was the first child ever to use one of our cards – so we decided on GoHenry.”
Henry didn’t realise the important role he’d played in GoHenry’s history until we contacted to find out how GoHenry had helped to shape his financial education – and his future.
“I was a bit confused when I found out – I thought it must be a wind up,” says Henry, who is now 21, and working as a Unified Comms Deployment Officer at Bristol University.
“It’s been a few years since I’ve used my GoHenry card, but it definitely helped me get used to managing my money, and the app helped me to understand how much I was spending.”
As part of our 10th birthday celebrations, we caught up with Henry to find out about his experience of using GoHenry – and the money lesson that’s had the most impact on his life.
Looking back to when you first got your GoHenry card, can you remember if it changed how you managed money?
“Before I had GoHenry I used to get my pocket money in cash, and for a while I still used cash when I was out and about as contactless payments weren’t as widely used as they are now. The biggest change was that I used to have to ask my parents if I wanted to spend money online, which was usually related to FIFA points or gaming. Then I’d give them the cash and they’d pay for it for me. Once I had a GoHenry card, I could pay for it myself.
“For me, one of the best things was that GoHenry kept my money safe. I didn’t have a wallet in those days so it was easy for money to be misplaced, and I was never sure how much I had. Once I got a GoHenry card I could check my balance on the app. GoHenry was a better way to get pocket money – I got the same amount in my account every week or every month, then I could choose what to do with it and whether I wanted to spend or save.”
Can you remember how much pocket money you used to get?
“I think I got about £10 per week, and sometimes I was paid extra for doing things like tidying my room, but that wasn’t a regular thing.”
Do you think GoHenry shaped your attitude to money?
“I think, subconsciously, it put me on the right track because it taught me lessons about money without realising. GoHenry definitely improved my understanding of what it means to earn money. It always felt very easy to spend my pocket money, but I was a bit more sensible about spending money I’d earned because I knew how hard I’d worked to earn it.”
Did you save up for anything special using GoHenry?
“I don’t think I ever managed to save up more than about £100, but that was a lot when I was younger. Mostly I’d just save up £10 or £20 to buy something that I wanted, which was usually something to do with football or gaming. The best thing I bought was probably a pair of football boots.”
Can you remember any mistakes you made with money, or is there anything you regret buying?
“I was always fairly sensible, but I do regret spending money on things like FIFA points and apps where you have to pay for extra lives. Digital stuff like that doesn’t exist in the real world – and a few years on I can’t remember what I got out of that extra life I bought in a game that I played back then.”
Did you have any financial education at school?
“No, our teachers didn’t talk to us about money once. We’d have a day where we learned about life skills or whatever, but we never learned about things like saving or tax. When I started work, Mum and Dad explained all the stuff that goes along with having a job, like paying tax and National Insurance. These things should really have been taught at school – if teachers were straight with us and explained why we needed to know these things, and how they were definitely going to affect us in the future, then I think we would have paid attention, especially by the time we got to Sixth Form. After all, financial education isn’t like science, which you might not use once you’ve left school.”
When did you get your first job?
“In my first year of sixth form I worked in a local garden centre at weekends. It felt good to have money that I’d earned myself – and it was a bonus that I could keep working and earning more.”
Were you tempted by credit, or BNPL, when you turned 18?
“I’ve never had a credit card. That’s not because I have a problem with the idea of getting one, but I’ve seen friends using credit, spending too much and ending up in debt. I’m not a fan of BNPL either, especially when people use it for things that only cost £20 or £30. I’d rather save to buy the things I want.”
Are there any money skills that you learnt using GoHenry that are still useful to you today?
“I still do things like keeping an eye on my bank account, and I check my balance regularly to see what’s going in and out. At the start of the month I take a chunk of money out and put it straight into my savings, and then I’ll see what’s left and decide what to spend and if I can afford to save a bit more. I never like to have less than about £500 in my account, so I’m never in the position where I have about 20p left at the end of the month! Occasionally I over-spend, but because I check my balance and can see what’s happening I make a decision to stay in and spend less for the rest of the month to make up for it.”
What are your financial priorities now? Are you saving for anything?
“I’m saving for a car. I’ve had an old car for a while, so I’m planning to put a deposit down and lease something fresh. I want to save about 5K before I start looking around, and hope I’ll have the money saved by February, 2023. At the moment I still live at home and make a contribution towards the bills, but I’m also saving money so that I can move out. In the future I’d like to buy a flat, but first the goal is to share a rented flat with my brother or some friends. At the moment I live about 10 mins outside Bristol so I’d like to live in the city, even though it will be more expensive.”
What advice would you give to kids or teens (and parents) about learning how to manage money?
“For me, the most important lesson was learning early to put some money away as soon as you get paid, especially if you put it somewhere where you can’t touch it, so you can’t take it out when you’re a bit short. I save into a separate savings account at the start of the month – and I leave it there.”