LearnVest Founder Alexa von Tobel on Her Daily Routine and Being Financially Fearless

Alexa von Tobel, LearnVest FounderTo some, effective financial planning is one of the bigger mysteries of adult life. How much should you save? How much should you spend? And who can you ask for advice? Luckily, a former Morgan Stanley trader and Harvard graduate founded the totally accessible financial planning startup LearnVest. Alexa von Tobel left her career on Wall Street to create LearnVest after she realized even Harvard business grads had unanswered questions about how to manage their money. Here’s some insight into what makes Ms. von Tobel — and her company — tick. What’s your daily routine like? My days are pretty non-stop, and no two days are alike! I start with an early morning workout (whether a power walk with friends, barre class or spin class), which is critical to feeling energized for the whole day. My calendar is often scheduled down to 15-minute intervals, so I can (attempt to!) make time for everything — internal and external meetings, speaking events, interviews, etc. I try to put as much as possible on auto-pilot (ex: using shortcuts like eating basically the same thing for breakfast and lunch). Also, I like to tackle the hardest things first, so I think through my priorities the night before and make sure I have time for my most strategic work. Evenings are my downtime and time to refresh with my husband and friends. Do you use LearnVest? What’s your favorite feature? Of course! I was the first client! I thought about the products, tools, and resources that I would actually want to use and set out to build them. I was graduating from Harvard, headed to a job on Wall Street and realized that I had tons of questions about how to handle my money. I wanted someone trusted to tell me exactly what to do. As an entrepreneur, it’s critical to be passionate about what you’re building, and I consider myself squarely in the demographic of people LearnVest is working hard to serve. The LearnVest Program is chock-full of features that I’m admittedly addicted to! From Challenges (bite-sized to-dos issued by your dedicated LearnVest Planner) to the Doc Vault (where you can securely store any paperwork), there are a lot of things built with the aim of making financial planning more accessible. One of my personal favorites is the calendar feature on the dashboard — it captures the monthly spending recommendations from your LearnVest Planner, so you have guidelines, tailored to your specific situation, on what can be put toward each of your goals. It updates on a monthly basis so you can go in and check off your goals regularly to help make sure you’re on track for the long run. What are some of the challenges unique to running a startup? I’ve often heard the advice that if you knew what it took to run a startup, you’d never start! It’s a tremendous amount of work. It’s 24/7, and it’s a constant process of building, testing, reiterating. It takes energy and focus, but I think that if you truly care about your mission—I get out of bed excited every day to come to work—it’s all worthwhile. We’re working to fundamentally change financial planning across America, and I think that’s a goal worth fighting for. We’ve seen so much traction both from our clients and investors (we’ve now raised $72MM+) that it inspires me to put everything into LearnVest. What are some of the main differences between working in finance and working in tech? As a tech startup, one of our strongest assets is our ability to be nimble. As companies grow, I’ve seen companies, particularly in finance, that simply move more slowly. We’re all about moving quickly, so we can test, adjust and innovate as necessary. There’s a freedom to the tech world that inspires me. If you hadn’t started LearnVest, what would you be doing now? Well, first off, I’d be sleeping more! But seriously, I’ve been an entrepreneur for as long as I remember (back to lemonade stands and high school tutoring services), so I know that whatever my job, entrepreneurship would be key. I have a passion for building new things, and I’m honored to have found a mission that I believe can truly improve the lives of people across the country — people who need support in order to make progress on their money. What’s next for LearnVest, and for you? We’re focused on growing rapidly! We’re hiring top talent, refining our product suite and building strong relationships with our clients. We’re continuing to innovate in our mobile offerings, which currently include iPhone and iPad. We’re investing in platforms like LearnVest at Work, which provides access to LearnVest as a benefit at a company-wide level, and we’ve partnered with major 401k providers to do so. We’re also thinking through other channels. I was honored to have my debut book, Financially Fearless, become a New York Times-Bestseller, and I’m excited to be the host of a weekly show on SiriusXM, “Financially Fearless with Alexa von Tobel.” Ultimately, we’re working around the clock to help make financial planning more affordable, accessible and even delightful — just taking it one day at a time!