Blog/
Podcast

Self-Driving Financial Literacy

Zach Anderson Pettet
Contributor
Date Published
(
September 28, 2021
)
Read Time
(
min
)

You can find Interchange on the Bond website, Spotify, Apple or your favorite podcast platform. 

Finances are stressful. Over 53% of adults say thinking about their financial situation makes them anxious, according to OppLoans.com; additionally, 44% percent say discussing their finances stresses them out. 

Kurtis Lin, CEO at Pinwheel, grew up understanding this. According to him, he grew up pretty normal but one of the norms in his household was the idea of hyper frugality. They saved and reused everything and even applied some of it for gardening. You heard that right: gardening. 

He grew up with the mindset of hustling as a result — not that he ever wanted for anything, but more pocket money as a young adult doesn’t go to waste. In high school, he got creative and re-sold protein powder and did everything he could to make extra cash. 

Fast forward to present day and Kurtis spends his time trying to solve America’s money problems at their root. The root being the paycheck. Where we put our paycheck, how we divide it, and when we receive it all matter for our financial health. So, Kurtis figured that payroll is the place to start. 

We’ve discussed the white-hot nature of the payroll market before with Jordan Wright and Lindsay Davis at Atomic; go check out those episodes as a primer. 

Throughout our conversation, we picked up three takeaways from Kurtis and we want to share . 

Reduce the Barriers to Financial Literacy

Financial literacy is lacking throughout the United States. We don’t teach it in schools, we often don’t talk about money in our family units, and, in many cases, it’s not an easy subject to unpack. 
“The promise of fintech in many ways is to lessen the barriers to entry to financial literacy,” Kurtis explains. He isn’t referring to a class that Americans should take or a certification we need to accomplish; he’s referring to technology taking us one step closer to the idea of self-driving money. 
Self-driving money is a concept that’s been bantered about in the world of fintech over the past year or so. The idea is about as simple as it sounds: money that makes decisions on its own. Too much debt? Automatically consolidate your loans to a single payment with a lower rate. Want to buy a house? Start a long-term savings plan with the right allocation (cash, stocks, bonds) to get you there. 

Find the Root Problem

Speaking of self-driving...Kurtis’ previous company, Luxe, was built to create a magical, self-driving experience (pun intended) in the parking market. 
Kurtis and his co-founder were making the parking process seamless in big cities. Think Uber but for parking and that’s Luxe. After the company was acquired by Volvo, Kurtis uncovered the idea for Pinwheel because of the Volvo HSA program. 
It was Kurtis’ first experience with an HSA and he noted the confusion and general lack of utilization by employees. The problem was noticeable enough that the team put together an MVP for what they called an Automated HSA.
They then delved deeper into the problem. Users needed to connect their payroll accounts to make the product work and since this technology didn’t exist yet, they started building it one brick at a time, payroll provider by payroll provider. 

As Kurtis and team started talking to more folks within the fintech space, they realized that this was a pervasive problem. Pinwheel then steered the car in the direction of financial infrastructure. 

Missionary, Not Mercenary 

The move to focus on fintech infrastructure finally gave Kurtis a feeling that he was making a difference. He knew that this was a real problem and he has resolved to solve it. 

One of the most intriguing aspects of Kurtis’ mental framework was the idea of working with “missionaries not mercenaries.” Building with a team of folks that are committed to improving the financial lives of Americans at every socioeconomic level and those who will continue to believe in the mission consistently. We love to see this at Bond!

If you’re a missionary in the financial technology space, let’s chat! If you’re building something unique or want to come help build something unique, we love to see either one. Reach out to zach@bond.tech.