Financial Planning for the 90%

A few weeks ago as I was walking down Beacon Street in Brookline, I happened upon something amazing: The Society of Grownups.

The Society of Grownups is a self-proclaimed “grad school for adulthood”, the idea is to give people the tools they need to manage their grown up lives.  The primary focus is on financial literacy and counseling, but it also includes other kinds of classes and programs.

This is something I’ve wanted for a long time.  I am dumbfounded that we don’t have more financial / grownup education early in our lives. I graduated high school without as much as a word about earning / saving money, what credit cards mean, etc.  I suppose, like sex ed, financial ed is one of those subjects that people are just supposed to figure out on their own, or maybe learn from their parents.  It’s just that it’s so important — if you think about it it is preposterous that this is not more of a focus at all levels of learning.

Of course, there is no shortage of financial services for people who are well off — and I’d argue that the prevailing mindset is that you need to have money to talk to someone about money.  Which makes sense, in a way, but is also fundamentally wrong, and a contributing factor to why it’s expensive to be poor.

Point is, I’ve been hoping to see services like this crop up. Not only is it an important social issue, but I suspect it can be a really good business in its own right.

The Society of Grownups is one attempt — at the moment, it’s not attempting to be a web-scale effort, but rather is small and personal.  In-person coaching, classes, and community.  Ranging from $20 for a 20 minute session with a financial coach, to $100 for a 90 minute session, to a range of pricing for classes and events.

I signed up for a 20 minute financial coaching session (first one is free), just to get a feel for it.  My coach came in with a big “Don’t Panic” sticker on her notebook — this is one of their slogans.  We talked through our situation, concerns and goals.  It was really helpful and refreshing.  I wish I had done this 15 years ago when I was in college (and every month since).

Another player in this space that I’ve been curious about it LearnVest — they are going with the web-based approach; the yin to TSOG’s yang.  I got a little stuck in the LearnVest onboarding — there’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s just the standard email back-and-forth plus phone calls.  There is something nice about just being able to walk into a place and talk face-to-face.  But I suspect that I’ll like LearnVest as well.  They do direct integration with your bank accounts (a la mint), and use the coaching to help you come up with a strategy and a plan.

Anyway, this is all very encouraging, and I hope both of these efforts and others can get traction.  So much of the country, and the world, is so fucked and adrift in terms of money. And while there are clearly macro forces at play causing much of that, there’s also the potential for everyone to get smarter and better about how they manage on a month-to-month basis, and I hope we see more and more companies finding a business model that serves them.

12 comments on “Financial Planning for the 90%”

Great post, I also hope to see more one-on-one services like this.. And depending on where your secondary education took place, some public schools offer the Academy of Finance/DECA programs, which gives some of this foundational support (CCs, loans, basic budgeting.) It is still largely out of reach for most students, for a plethora of reasons. -@robdotd

Interesting you mention this. I’ve had similar thoughts wondering why basic accounting isn’t taught in high-schools. it’s something one learns later, sometimes after a hard lesson (unless you’re studying accounting or business administration of course)
Same goes to a) nutrition/proper eating b) social skills.

in other words, what I am particularly interested in is tools for people with net worth of -$500k to +$50k, with a particular focus on those w a net worth of -$100k to +$10k (most americans, I think)

Ah yes. Wealthfront at the moment doesn’t focus on the lower class. I would agree mostly middle class. As someone still in college, traditional education doesn’t teach you basic financial skills such as filing taxes or setting up a bank account.

Great business models. I used to advise people with millions of dollars to invest and a couple billionaires. I retired to found a healthcare startup. But that’s not the point of my post!
The problem with advising anyone with 10k-100k in the traditional model is the risk v. reward for the advisor. It’s all risk! Lawsuits. Complaints. The SEC and FINRA. All are stacked against a willing broker if they had / wanted to advise someone with that kind of money. It’s just not worth the risk under the established fee as a % of AUM.
But if someone were to make it a more “club” type model, where you could pay $20 per month for classes like this and engage in investing seminars, then you have something pretty cool!

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