These 21 sketches make complicated financial concepts simple enough to fit on a napkin

Napkin FinanceThe sketches explain everything from interest to insurance.

Tina Hay doesn’t think in numbers.

In 2002, enrolled in a finance class while pursuing her MBA from Harvard Business School, she realised that her classmates who came from the world of banking and consulting were acing the coursework without a problem, while she struggled to master the concepts foreign to her liberal-arts background.

So, she started to draw.

“I think more visually,” Hay told Business Insider. “I’ve always put numbers into illustrations and understood them that way, especially finances and money.”

Hay didn’t stop sketching, and today, her business-school drawings have turned into something bigger: Napkin Finance, a multimedia company that aims to introduce people to complicated financial concepts through videos, text, and of course … napkins.

We’re not talking about bar napkins with a few pen strokes on the back but rather digital illustrations that go through months of development between former bankers, financial advisers, and an illustrator to nail the perfect visual intro to nuanced concepts such as compound interest, student loans, and credit scores. The Napkin Finance team has even collaborated with Michelle Obama’s Better Make Room initiative to create a course on navigating the financial side of college admissions.

Below are 21 of the most popular and beloved explainers from the Napkin Finance team:

Emergency fund

Compound interest


Credit Cards

Building credit

IRA vs. 401(k)

Social Security

Estate planning



Tax returns

1099 vs. W-2


Bull and bear markets

Risk versus reward


Paying for college


Student loans


Long-term care insurance

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