Good sense about money is one of those things that most of us have to learn the hard way, and that’s also true of many of today’s top entrepreneurs in the money management and fintech space. They’ve had their share of bad investments (Enron, anyone?), waited too long to build credit and didn’t think long term about what it would take to reach their savings goals.
The tools they and their teams build address many of these issues, some involving AI to help the average person balance their financial priorities and make personalized decisions. Others automate saving so you can “set it and forget it” and your hard-earned cash starts compounding well before your retirement years. Others help you budget, invest and even acquire business loans.
Founders of 10 of today’s most prominent finance companies shared their money thoughts and tips with Entrepreneur to help you realize you’re not alone in your financial confusion, but that there is hope if you take simple steps. Apply the tips below — and learn from the cautionary tales — to shift your thinking and get your finances on track toward your goals.
Responses have been edited for length.
1. Brandon Krieg, CEO and co-founder, Stash
“Time is always on your side. Don’t lose to inflation. Let compounding work its wonder. Start small, and use investing to put a portion of your savings back to work for you. Today’s technology and automation helps make this easier than ever. Pick a recurring amount you’re comfortable with, and then let dollar-cost averaging help you accomplish your goals.”
2. Kathryn Petralia, co-founder and president, Kabbage
“There was a time when money was very tight with my family, and I learned at a young age the value of a dollar. I firmly believe financial education is a vital skill which needs to be taught sooner rather than later. When my teenager turned 12, we opened his first checking account. Since then he has been responsible for tracking his spending, teaching him the importance of saving and planning his expenses to cover both his wants and needs.”
3. Karla Friede, co-founder and CEO, Nvoicepay
“It’s not how much money you make that’s important, it’s how much you save. My grandparents lived in a small town. My grandfather was a mechanic and my grandmother worked for the county office. Growing up, every time I was in a bind financially with college costs or making ends meet, my grandparents provided me a loan. They didn’t make much money, but they always saved 10 percent of what they earned, no matter how hard that was or how little they had to spend.”
4. Andy Rachleff, co-founder and CEO, Wealthfront
“I learned very early on that when it comes to investing your money, what feels right is usually the completely wrong thing to do, and the less you do the better off you will be. A good example of this is when people sell their investments during times of market volatility. There is decades of research to show if they do nothing and keep their investments they will be much better off — yet we can’t help ourselves!”
5. Jon Stein, founder and CEO, Betterment
“Create an annual budget, but backwards. How many times have you started a budget, only to give it up two months later? That’s because the old way of budgeting is backwards. It focuses on your spending instead of focusing on your savings goals. That’s why I like to flip the script. First, start with your goals, and use technology to make saving towards those goals as easy and automated as possible.”
6. Shivani Siroya, founder and CEO, Tala
“A lot of the discussions around services that improve personal finance are centered on measurable economic outcomes — savings, debt capacity, investments. But one outcome area that’s grossly undervalued is emotional security and well-being. When people have good choices and control over their finances, they are happier — their stress is reduced, they feel more security, they have a sense of optimism about the future. These outcomes, as much as measurable improvements in their overall financial health, better position them to succeed holistically in other areas of their lives.”
7. Vlad Tenev, co-founder and co-CEO of Robinhood
“I learned a lot from making my first stock investment. I was in my early teens and I bought 3Com stock, which made the Palm Pilot. I was lucky to have been introduced to the stock market so early in life. I got familiar with daily market swings and learned what a spinoff was from this experience.”
8. Sean Collins, founder and CEO, Cinch
“People don’t understand how the deck is stacked against them and their financial health. First, we all bring cognitive biases and failures to decisions involving money and time. Second, we expect people to become the most sophisticated CFOs across a blinding array of financial topics, all of which change over time from both a product and life stage perspective. Third, the internet has become a financial bazaar with deceptive tools and content pushing people into a purchase funnel for products that are likely bad for their financial health. Fourth, the workplace has become insanely complicated to make basic decisions — HSAs, benefit plans, 401(k) plans, special benefits — there’s no way anyone can master this stuff. Fifth, trying to become educated is incredibly hard and frankly painful. Quick test: specify the mathematical difference between interest rate and APR? No one knows that, or really cares to know, but not knowing that can cost you tens of thousands of dollars on a long-term loan. Yikes.”
9. Tina Hay, founder and CEO, Napkin Finance
“I still receive paper statements for my credit cards. It forces me to actually open the envelope and read over my statement line by line. Paperless has its advantages (not to mention the environmental benefits), but it is much easier to glance over without much attention or even fail to access at all on a regular basis.”
10. Ryan Williams, co-founder and CEO, Cadre
“Technology has been an incredibly powerful leveler of playing fields in financial markets, providing individuals with access to education, information and tools to make informed decisions and control their financial destinies. Just a couple of decades ago, all of this information was closely controlled by professionals and institutional investors. Today, it belongs to everyone. And this democratization applies not just to making investment decisions, but also to accessing the tools and information to start new businesses. This all means that whether you want to invest your money in other companies and sectors, or start a business of your own, individuals have never had the potential for more personal economic empowerment.”