By Erin Papworth | 8 March 2020
I’m a woman, I’m a Millennial, and my financial product will build wealth for all.
Our intention has always been to create an enabled, equal world. A couple years ago, I realized “to have money is to have freedom,” but there is so much negativity around money that I decided to change the narrative. I determined the next step to truly enable a healthy, equitable world is to eliminate the fear around money.
My goal is to empower people to reject fear and embrace their money with confidence. I initially focused on women because that was the lens I knew best. It’s taken us many pitch iterations and a beta product in the market to actually get it right. Women are powerful and WILL change the world, but many of us have allies across genders and experiences. These alliances are important to our goal and our product. Now I am sure: this message is for all genders and backgrounds, especially for my generation.
Over the past two years I have dug deep into the changes that have dominated our social commentary. I’ve watched shifts for women, particularly the women under 50, who have found their voice, realized their complacency in allowing structural biases to fester, and identified places that we can push society to think and be better.
While building Nav.it, I was absolutely sure there was a demand for resources and narratives that spoke to the feminine experience and placed value on it because for so long financial services have assumed wealth would stay in the hands of men. The stats show that that’s just not true anymore.
However, over the past year, I’ve realized something else. While these social changes have pushed women into the labor market, to have their own wealth, to rise to power in corporate and entrepreneurial settings, they have also left men, policymakers, educators, and leaders aware that the world is shifting and inclusion is the way of the future. I’ve seen successful fathers support their daughters to start angel investing in start-ups. I’ve seen male managers actively question how they can create a supportive working environment where their female colleagues can thrive. I’ve had in-depth conversations with bank CEOs that realized they needed to hire women to their C-suite and increase more diversity on their board of directors to stay relevant in the future.
And then, as I also got deeper into the emerging wealth outcomes of the U.S. population, I realized inclusivity has had profound economic effects that have fundamentally altered the financial reality of the millennial generation.
It’s generally agreed Millennials are individuals born between 1981 – 1997 and range from ages 23 to 38 today. While people like to focus on their college experience and beyond, let’s just take a moment to honor their childhoods. It was only the 1960s and 70s when social constructs shifted to allow women and people of color to meaningfully participate in the financial structure, the labor market and to vote in our democracy. We were born directly thereafter and to parents who were benefiting from -and figuring out- how to live in a new reality.
Then other things happened that shaped our reality. Many Millennials came of age in an economic crisis of 2008 and watched their job opportunities smashed with the downfall of Lehman and the government’s bailout. They campaigned and voted with pride for the first Black President of our country’s history. They emerged from their higher education together, across genders and races, all burdened with the highest student loan debt in our nation’s history.
There are facts unique to the Millennial generation.
Debt is an issue; 70% of Millennials have at least one long-term debt and 30% have at least two. That’s to the tune of $1 trillion in total debt for this generation.
Gender parity in higher education was achieved, and thus we are a highly skilled workforce. Stagnant wages and rising cost of living mean that dual income households are more likely needed to support a middle class existence these days. Not only that, but 66% of millennial households have the woman as either the primary or the co-equal earner. In tandem with partnership now possible across same-sex partners and legal co-habitation protection, this alters stereotypes and the way we all contribute to earning and run the household.
Limited maternity leave and caretaking responsibilities still fall to women, with 43% of American women taking a career pause at some point for caretaking responsibilities. However, with the rise of technology and the gig economy, side hustles and small business ownership now allow flexible working hours. Nearly 50% of Millennials report some sort of side hustle.
Technology has allowed banking to appear seamlessly with Venmo and Zelle paying rent money and shared dinner costs with two clicks on a smartphone. Robo Advisors have allowed people to set up retirement accounts and trade stocks with a click of a button regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. In parallel, demand for ESG Funds (Environmental, Social and Governance) and socially responsible investing (SRI) that focus on impact and usage of investments as much as fund returns have risen with the participation of younger generations. Equally, consumer insistence for more corporate transparency and social responsibility has altered the nature of business forever.
And now, we are finally seeing wealth data for Millennials as we age into our 30s and accumulate wealth. The doomsayers had their moment, predicting we would all live with our parents till we’re 60. Yes, my generation lived at home longer than previous generations, but even Millennials don’t want to make babies under mom’s roof. Now, my generation is finally coming into its own. Recent Federal Reserve Data show Millennials actually have saved more for retirement at their current age than their Gen X counterparts.
As Ellen Zentner writes for the New York Times Opinion Section,
“This new data reveals that in 2018, Millennials’ inflation-adjusted per capita financial assets amounted to $17,366, compared with $14,015 for Generation Xers in 2002, when they were the same age. Digging deeper, we find that the bulk of the financial assets among Millennials sits in retirement savings vehicles such as 401(k)s, to the tune of $6,933 compared with just $3,970 for Generation X. So while Generation X enjoyed higher overall net worth per capita in 2002 than Millennials in 2018 (driven primarily by more real estate wealth) the younger group gets a gold star for retirement preparedness.”
So this leads me back to my realization and Nav.it. See, our mission has always been to support users to build a future of wealth. We believed women were an excellent target market as they are new(er) to the personal money game, likely to use mobile devices to manage finances, and are starting to close the wage gap and discuss the wealth gap.
It’s no longer “us vs. them” because we need each other to build wealth in the world today.
While this is true, we realized our message is actually for everyone, because it is the future for us all. The Millennial generation has a unique voice that demands inclusion of people across all genders, race, and sexual orientation to move through these crazy economic shifts as a team. Financial management is a part of every adult’s life and our worlds are so interconnected, we have to do this together. Inclusion is what this generation demands and responds to the most, because it is our truth. It’s what I want in my life for my son, my partner and myself. And most of all, I want to stop hearing the narrative around money as one of fear, anxiety and scarcity. Our generation has more access across genders, races and sexual orientation than ever before, and it’s our turn to change the narrative to one of inclusion, abundance and joy. So let’s go nav.it.
We’re changing the narrative around money but change can’t happen with a one-sided conversation. Send us an email and let us know what you think. And remember the nav.it money app offers you free tools for checking in and managing your money moves.
You can download it at Google Play and the Apple Store.