Providing services for Generation Z is increasingly on the minds of both banks and fintechs alike.
One such fintech, EarlyBird, is making it easy for a child’s community to invest in their future. We spoke with the company’s CEO Jordan Wexler on the current childhood investing environment and what it takes to compete.
Talk to us about the current state of financial literacy in the U.S.
Jordan Wexler: The numbers tell us that most American families aren’t doing a great job at teaching financial literacy. According to a recent survey, 19% of Americans reported that their household spent more than their income over the past year. Add in the fact that 43% of adults say they haven’t got a rainy day fund, and that means huge chunks of our society simply aren’t prepared to face financial hurdles. This shows that good financial habits and knowledge aren’t being effectively passed down either.
Research suggests there isn’t much time to sow the seeds of financial literacy into a kid’s headspace. Children generally have their financial habits set by the age of seven. That means to set kids up for financial independence, they have to be taught the basics of financial literacy sooner rather than later. Not only will you instill good habits early, but you’ll also be setting them up to make smart investment and financial choices throughout their lives.
Most wealthtech tools target high net worth individuals. What benefits are there to having a young client base that typically has no income?
Wexler: The benefit of helping the youth is that we’re trying to set them up for financial success in the future. We aren’t encouraging spending – we’re instilling good financial habits early on that will help kids flourish in their adult lives.
With EarlyBird, our vision is to have parents start investing in their children from day one. That way, in 18 years, they will have a solid financial foundation for their child to give them the freedom to pursue their aspirations – traveling the world, going to college, starting a business, whatever it may be.
EarlyBird was built for more than the children with their name on the custodial account. It’s for parents, family, and friends that want to give meaningful and purposeful gifts to the children in their lives to help support them financially. We’re making it accessible to all because it doesn’t matter which household income bracket a family falls under, investing just a little bit each month for your child can go a long way.
What elements do you use to cater EarlyBird to such a young audience?
Wexler: We’re catering EarlyBird to parents, their children, and also the community around them that wants to see them succeed. For parents, we’ve simplified the process to kickstart their child’s future by opening a custodial investment account. It doesn’t matter if the parent is a beginner, novice, or expert in investing in the stock market, we’re allowing families to gift meaningful and sustainable financial contributions for all life’s milestones.
For children, we’re creating a platform that allows them to learn about finances. They can better understand investing/saving, watch their money grow, and then one day have a bank account with accumulated funds to use as they please. Our hope is that from being a lifelong EarlyBird user, they’ll know how to manage those assets responsibly.
We’ve also created a great user experience for the ‘givers.’ They are able to record a video memory with their contribution and can use it as an opportunity to pass down stories and knowledge from the world of money. Video memories are placed into an archive on the EarlyBird app for the children to look back on and learn from forever.
EarlyBird was founded in 2019. How have you seen the childhood financial services space grow since then?
Wexler: Being in the weeds in the childhood financial services space, it’s apparent that there’s been massive growth and that it’s on an upward trajectory, especially with latest funding news from services like Greenlight, Current, Step, and Till Financial.
One thing we are noticing right now is that “kids” and “children” are being somewhat generalized into one category of fintech. The reality is – there are different offerings in the space that make sense for different ages and parental comfort levels. I feel that we’re at the point where parents need to start to consider their “ideal mix” when it comes to the fintech tools and apps they use to save for their children, teach them financial literacy, and also get them started with spending when it’s time.
For example, parents can get started with EarlyBird when their child is born and then later on incorporate an app with teen-focused debit card to begin digital banking. This is similar to the “old school” trajectory of starting off with a 529 account then adding a standard savings account and later a checking account.
It’s great to see so much growth, innovation, and potential happening in childhood financial services. We’re beyond excited to be a part of this movement and to set the next generation up for financial freedom!