In 2009, a sharp and driven Harvard business school student named Alexa Von Tobel decided that the world of financial planning had for too long been a luxury that only the wealthy could afford and she wanted to change that. With the mission of making financial planning affordable, accessible, and even delightful, Learnvest was born.
Learnvest quickly grew from an unknown financial blog to a platform that helped thousands of people with their personal finances. It later went on to be acquired by Northwestern Mutual, one of the largest insurance companies in the world.
I was lucky enough to be a part of that journey. So with the recent announcement that Learnvest will be discontinuing their online tools and financial planning offering, I wanted to share my thoughts about what it meant to be a part of that journey, what I learned, and the future of financial planning.
My Learnvest Journey
Abraham Lincoln once said, “give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Although Learnvest always had an innovative approach, there was always a respect for conventional wisdom. Build something that helps people. Listen to your customers. Have integrity in what you do.
Still, a desire for innovation requires true exploration. It requires constant attempts (and failures) to move your ideas forward with a new tool, a new technique, a new insight. During my time at Learnvest, I realized that lifelong learning is where it’s at. To push your ideas forward requires conviction and humility, a rare combination, and the willingness and ability to say “I don’t know”. This is something I am still learning and striving for today.
The Future of Financial Planning
So does this mean that financial planning will go back to being a luxury for just the wealthy? Not at all. When we set out to build Zoe, we wanted to innovate, but we knew that conventional wisdom still had its place. Millions of Americans still need access to great financial planners to help them reach their goals. Customers still want excellent service. People still want honesty.
We are still learning, but what we have learned is that investing in disruptive innovation doesn’t ferment misunderstanding, it necessitates it. Jeff Bezos put it this way: “There are a few prerequisites to inventing…you have to be willing to fail and you have to be willing to think long-term.”
Thankfully, we can stand on the shoulders of mission-driven companies like Learnvest.
If you enjoyed this post, check out the first post in our Wealth Is Personal blog series.