LearnVest.com Founder Makes Money Management Chic
We are the biggest fans of girl power, and there's nothing we admire more than a woman who's risked it all to follow her passion. One such woman is Alexa Von Tobel, the founder of LearnVest.com, our favorite resource for practical, easy-to-understand financial advice and budgeting tools. Since nothing feels better than knowing you're making a difference, we decided to reach out to Alexa to tell her how much the site has helped us get our act together. In return, she's offered up her story, given us some free financial advice, and let us in on her biggest money mistake to date!
BGG: Tell us about your inspiration for the site.
AVT: I was graduating from Harvard College and headed to Wall Street, yet I realized that I knew almost nothing about personal finance since I had never taken a class on it. I decided that women needed a resorce for everything from balancing a checkbook to understanding a credit score.
BGG: What has been your biggest financial mistake to date?
AVT: Back at Morgan Stanley, I didn't get the dental insurance they offered for $6 per month. Then, I got a cavity that cost me $500.
BGG: Do you have any favorite money-saving tips garnered from your experience at LearnVest?
AVT: People really need to have a budget. LearnVest’s method is as follows -- figure out what you take home, and less than 50% of this income should go to essentials (rent, groceries, utilities, transport to and from work). 20% should go to priorities -- paying down credit card debt, maxing out your 401k, building an emergency savings account, investing, etc. Then 30% should go to choices, like travel and shopping. Once your budget is balanced like this, you are on a strong path for the future. It’s important to us that the LearnVest method is simple and clear, sort of like the Weight Watchers points system.
BGG: Which of your bootcamp programs is the most popular?
AVT: The Take Control program.
BGG: As you’ve become more and more aware of your personal finances, is there a certain place you’ve noticed that most of your money goes?
AVT: I’m the best saver ever. I don’t spend much money on anything. I bring breakfast, lunch, and dinner to work -- I never leave the office to eat. And I always shop in my closet or borrow dresses from friends. I hardly ever buy new clothes. I had to go to a wedding recently, so I looked and found the perfect dress already in my closet.
AVT: My fiancé bought me an engagement ring few months ago. Also, I took my mom on a trip to Europe -- it was the best money I’ve spent all year.
BGG: Are there any success stories from LearnVest users that have stuck with you?
AVT: So many! I recently received an email from a woman with two kids who says she was crying herself to sleep at night, worried sick about her finances. She says that thanks to LearnVest, she feels like she has a plan -- instead of feeling lost and scared, she’s figured out a game plan that is helping her to finally gain control over her money worries.
BGG: Why do you think LearnVest has become the success that it is?
AVT: Because of this huge information gap in people’s lives, and because money’s not going to disappear -- whether you’re working to pay off debt, or saving up for a house, you need a trusted place where you can turn for support and reliable information.
BGG: What are some important lessons you’ve learned from starting your own company?
AVT: I’ve learned that it’s important to run a business that you believe in. If you don’t love it, and if you’re not proud of it, there’s no way you can jump out of bed every morning and work the kind of hours that are necessary for an entrepreneur. I’ve also learned the value of a dollar -- I want to put our money in the exact right places to improve the business so that every dollar makes a difference. As a CEO, you really learn all aspects of the business -- legal, design, tech, sales, HR, etc.
BGG: What advice do you have for other would-be entrepreneurs?
AVT: Get started! You only live once. But, it’s scary and risky, so make sure you really understand what you’re building before you jump in. You have to answer and understand all the questions before you quit your job and leave your salary -- not just for investors, but for yourself as well.
Mar 06, 2012 - 08:28 AM