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In a society currently characterized by innovation, the barriers to entry in nearly all technology driven industries are virtually non-existent. All one needs to bring a concept to life is internet access and an unwavering passion for their idea. Little capital is needed at first, and more importantly, there is no age requirement. The availability of free resources, paired with a tech-savvy generation eager to take risks, has resulted in an influx of young founders, all fighting to make their company the next big name bouncing around Silicon Valley.
In the last two decades, an influx of young entrepreneurs, many of whom are in their early 20s, have begun dominating the technology sector. Zuckerberg launched Facebook in 2004 at age 19, just four years later he was a billionaire. The founders of Tumblr, Snapchat, and Stripe were all under 25 when they founded their companies, all of which are currently valued in the billions.
Many of these young CEOs oversee millions of dollars in revenue while simultaneously facing obstacles each day that could cripple their companies. Although, before reaching such high levels of success, many of these tech tycoons started in a college dorm room, eating mounds of pre-packaged ramen and investing all of their savings into their ideas. Entrepreneurs are well acclimated to the fast-paced, highly volatile and unforgiving work environment. Many must take out large loans and go through long stretches with reduced or no salaries, making it difficult to be financially stable. Often working stressful 100+ hour weeks, when in the world do founders find the time to stop thinking about business to worry about their personal financial goals.
Financial planning is extremely important for young, ambitious entrepreneurs, and it is necessary that they begin the process well before their ideas blow up and revenue soars. Take the Walton family, for example. Sam Walton grew up in the midst of the Great Depression, and his family, like many others, struggled at times to make ends meet. As Sam reached adulthood, he understood the importance of accumulating wealth and the advantages of thinking ahead. He began his financial planning journey in the early 1950s, about a decade before the first Walmart store opened for business.
Sam Walton set up a family partnership, consisting of his wife and their four children, to own his two variety stores. He gave each of his children a 20 percent stake in his business and saved the remaining 20 percent for himself and his wife. This was his first move in planning for his estate and consolidating family wealth, and the act saved he and his family a fortune in taxes in the decades that followed as the Walmart brand dominated the retail sector.
Sam Walton later wrote in his book, “The principle behind this is simple: the best way to reduce paying estate taxes is to give your assets away before they appreciate.” Over 50 years later, and decades after Sam’s death, the Waltons remain one of the richest families in the world. While the Walton family’s case is rare, it emphasizes the importance of thinking smart and preparing early. Entrepreneurs working on breakthrough technology must be prepared well before their company valuations skyrocket. Additionally, entrepreneurs with little financial stability must do all they can to increase their financial literacy in order to keep their businesses, lifestyle and personal well-being in a healthy place.
Traditionally, adults begin some capacity of financial planning a few years after college when they land their first well-paying, salary based job. Whether they begin by hiring a CFP or calling an old-friend for some advice, seeking guidance from a professional is always helpful in the process of obtaining financial independence. However, wealth consultants are often expensive, which can provide a problem for the many 20-something-year-old college dropouts working day and night to launch the next big tech trend.
Financial planning has often been perceived as a service only provided to the wealthy, typically those with around a million dollars in assets to invest. Financial planners typically charge through an asset-based model, clients pay an annual fee which is a small percentage of the amount they invest. This approach is not very inviting or sustainable for clients who cannot afford such high rates. However, in recent years, a growing number of financial planners have begun offering payment models to accommodate those in lower-income brackets or workers with little job security, including the many young adults working tirelessly to grow their companies in the early years. A financial plan is most impactful when adopted earlier in life, so these new alternatives could prove to be very beneficial for both founders, their businesses, and young adults around the world.
More asset managers have started charging clients using a recurring billing or subscription based method, often charging a fixed, affordable amount each month. Firms that charge in this way do not usually offer an investment minimum and can take on clients that do not have hundreds of thousands worth of assets. Another method includes adopting an a la carte-style consulting, in which advisors offer individual, one-time sessions to clients that request the service, in order to point them in the right direction. This advice can be given in person, or through video call, allowing financial consultants to carry more clients and bring in more revenue, all while helping adults navigate their finances in an affordable and convenient way.
While financial planners are adapting to a changing market and working to accommodate younger individuals with fewer assets and busy schedules, there are a number of technology-based alternatives that can aid those struggling with their finances. New personal investing and budgeting tools are populating the mobile app store.
For help with portfolio management and wealth accumulation, one may turn to apps like Robinhood or Acorns. Robinhood allows users to invest in stocks, ETFs, options and cryptocurrencies all commission free. Acorns takes a more comprehensive approach, allowing users to invest their leftover change from everyday purchases, save for retirement and monitor their risk tolerance and long-term objectives. Both applications provide news updates, learning resources and even informational videos– tailored to young people with little investing experience.
Similarly, budgeting applications, like Mint, are allowing young people to save their money automatically according to their own financial goals. Mint will categorize transactions from linked bank accounts in order to track them against a budget which can be tweaked and customized. The app will give suggestions based on spending patterns, provide information and advice regarding credit scores, and tracks all bill payments.
Generation Z, the first group that has grown up in a technology-centric world, have begun leaning on these mobile financial planning services to support them in their financial journey. They are free, user-friendly, and backed by investment professionals, economists and, of course, financial planners to ensure users are getting the most accurate and personalized advice. Mobile applications are disrupting the traditional financial planning industry, and are working to provide teenagers, young adults, and aspiring entrepreneurs, with the help they need to reach financial security.
Today’s world is ever-changing, molding to new generations and different trends. Industries must continuously adapt in order to stay competitive in such fast-growing and competitive spaces. The traditional financial planning business has seen little change in the last decades, but as technology services begin targeting different markets, should firms start thinking about how they can reach new groups of clientele.
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