This 1871 startup wants to help millennials straighten out their finances

Andreas Rekdal
June 9, 2017

A first-generation college student, Chicago entrepreneur Joe Holberg learned a few lessons about finances the hard way.

“When I got into the working world, I had to learn every single thing by myself,” he said. “For instance, I had bought my college books with a credit card, not thinking about how I was going to pay them off. I had several experiences like that, which made me wonder why there aren’t more resources to teach people like me about finances.”

After discussing finances with some of his friends, Holberg realized that he wasn’t alone. To meet what he sees as a large unmet need in the marketplace, he decided to start Holberg Financial, a financial advisory firm that focuses specifically on helping young professionals increase their financial security.

To make delivery of those services more scalable, Holberg has built a technology platform that lets consumers gather their financial data in one place and receive a holistic assessment of how they are doing.

“What we’re trying to do is to help people understand where they’re at, from a financial health perspective,” said Holberg. “Most of the financial industry has written our users off, but our platform lets them set, track and meet financial goals while maintaining a personal relationship with an advisor.”

Upon joining the service, new users take a survey that lets HF generate a financial wellness score between 0 and 100. Then, along with an advisor, the user creates financial goals that are trackable through an online dashboard.

While there are plenty of millennial-centered investment startups out there, Holberg said his company doesn’t actually invest money for its clients. Instead, its advisors point users toward investment products from other providers. They also teach users how to make better use of third-party products like Mint and Credit Karma to track spending and improve credit scores.

Instead of integrating with those types of services to gather customer financial information, Holberg said his company made an early decision to have users enter their own data into the platform. His hope is that the continuous process of adding credit scores, balances and spending reports will cause customers to think harder about how their decisions affect their financial health.

“You don’t meet a lot of people who say their finances are awesome because they signed up for,” he said. “Behavioral economics show that people need to interact with the data if you really want to have an impact.”

Available as a monthly subscription service, Holberg said his company primarily sells to companies who provide HF as a benefit to employees. His goal is to maintain a strictly subscription-based business model in order to ensure that his company’s interests are aligned with those of its customers.

The 1871-based company has not raised any outside funding, and Holberg prefers to keep it that way.

“We don’t sell any products and we don’t want to advertise,” he said. “If you have investors, they usually get a say in how you raise revenue and we want to make sure that we are completely unbiased.”


Image via Greg Rothstein/1871.

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