A Startup Turning Financial Planning on its Head

Alexa von Tobel believes that having access to financial experts should be as easy as joining a gym.

“This is a massive market and a massive problem,” said von Tobel. “Financial planning shouldn’t be a luxury. It should be accessible to everyone.”

Accessibility is at the core of von Tobel’s three-year-old startup LearnVest, that offers affordable and direct access to certified financial planners and a free tool that allows members to track their spending.

“We found that 76% of the country feels out of control when it comes to their money, and it’s not just people scraping to get by.”

- Alexa von Tobel, founder of LearnVest

“We’re helping everyone,” said the 29-year-old entrepreneur. “We found that 76% of the country feels out of control when it comes to their money, and it’s not just people scraping to get by.”

Saving seems to be a problem many Americans are grappling with in these recessionary times. According to a recent survey by the American Payroll Association, more than two-thirds of Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck – and 68% said it would be somewhat difficult or very difficult if their paychecks were delayed a week.

Von Tobel said the survey raises serious concern about the lack of financial planning in the U.S.

“It’s not just people who are in extremely low-earning household incomes,” she said. “It’s people who may earn well but maybe just overspent, so we are really going through a big reset when people are trying to make sure they have their feet on solid ground when it comes to their finances.

So far, LearnVest has received over $24 million in funding and is adding between 1,000 and 5,000 new members a day.

"All of us are struggling somehow some way,” she said. “And to be able to give people answers and clarity and make them feel like they know what they’re doing when it comes to their finances is so powerful.”

Six Shooter with Alexa von Tobel

What is your favorite quote and why? "When everyone zigs, zag." Life is all about trying to get somewhere first!

Describe yourself in three words. Energetic, optimistic and passionate.

LearnVest has received over $20 million in funding. What’s your advice to get the attention of investors? LearnVest is a big idea -- we are changing the way people get answers for their money. If you look at the market opportunity, it's huge. Plus, this is a problem that won't go away as money affects every single day of our lives. My advice for getting investors excited about an idea is to combine these two points -- a big market opportunity with a constant problem.

You founded this on your own. Did you ever think to bring on a partner? Why not? During the first year of LearnVest I did bring on a partner -- my genius first cousin John Gardner. Today he is our CFO and COO!

What is the biggest mistake you’ve made since starting up? Not moving fast enough! Every day I think about how we can go faster.

Why is LearnVest different from other financial planning sites? Through LearnVest Planning Services, we provide direct access to Certified Financial Planners who are able to answer all of our clients' money questions quickly and easily. Having an expert on hand for this kind of support is an incredibly valuable service. Plus, LearnVest's free money center tool is phenomenally well designed and easy to use. It's a great way for users to track their spending, and they really love it.  Almost 30% log in over 19 times a month!

If you know of a young entrepreneur you think we should be covering, e-mail us at youngguns@foxbusiness.com