#65 - Money doesn't buy happiness, but connection does with NYT Bestselling Author, Alexa von Tobel

April 16, 2024
Alexa von Tobel

Episode Summary

This week on The Aro Podcast, Joey is joined by Alexa von Tobel, Founder and Managing Partner of Inspired Capital, and New York Times-Bestselling Author. Alexa shares her journey of building LearnVest, a groundbreaking financial planning company - from leaving Harvard Business School to the company's eventual acquisition. Joey and Alexa dive into the age-old question of whether money can buy happiness, with Alexa drawing from her experience researching happiness at Harvard to highlight the importance of community and connectedness. Alexa shares her household's happiness routines and discusses her latest book with Rebel Girls, Money Matters, aimed at empowering the next generation of women with financial literacy. She also emphasizes the significance of "money memories" and offers practical tips for making money enjoyable for kids while redefining the purpose of allowance. You don't want to miss this conversation packed with insights on money, happiness, and parenting.

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Episode Transcript

Alexa von Tobel (00:00):

Money does not buy happiness at all. If you make over the latest stats are about a hundred thousand dollars a year as a household, your basic needs are met. Money does not move the dial. Happiness is very, very different. Money's a tool. It helps you move through your life and you want to have control so that you can make choices that you need to. That could be really important to changing your happiness, but it is very, very clear that every day money can actually be a big distraction.

Joey Odom (00:33):

Welcome back to The Aro Podcast. Hey, it's your good friend Joey Odom, Co-Founder of Aro. I feel like I have this really amazing opportunity to sit in conversations with people who really just inspire me. And you get these moments in doing this where you just feel hopeful, where you just feel like, okay, with all the stuff you're reading out there with all the divisiveness, and as much as we talk about the divisiveness, which seems to make it more divided, then you get a little glimmer of hope and a little glimmer of what the future could look like. And I feel like I just got that with Alexa Von Tobel. Alexa was our guest. And the very specific reason that I feel that with Alexa is I think about my daughter, Gianna, who's 14, and I think about female role models who are out there, who are leading the way so that other girls can believe that there's a bright future for me, that I am powerful.

And I think in seeing that in others, it just normalizes it and it makes you think that maybe I could do that or I know I can do that. So on one hand you have the hopefulness of seeing this role model, but then we need some tools and Alexa has given us the tools. So Alexa, just as quick background and we'll talk about this on the show, Alexa founded a company called Learn Vest. And this was in the financial crisis and was really designed for millennials to feel amazing about their money. She sold it several years later and you can read how much it sold for, I think it sold for about $375 million. And here Alexa was in her early thirties having founded and sold that kind of company and she didn't stop there. And when she talks about money, and I love this so much, she said that money is not to be worshiped or ignored.

So money is just a tool. Money doesn't get happiness. We talk about the correlation with happiness and money, but Alexa has written a book and it's called Growing Up Powerful Money Matters and it's through Rebel Girls and it goes through the matters of money. It goes through very detailed what may feel like complex concepts that maybe we don't even understand as parents, but she breaks it down with the belief that our girls can understand it. And so she's given us tools and our daughter's tools, and by the way, I say this in the show, my son's also going to read it. I've read it, my wife's going to read it. This is for everybody, but it gives us the tools for women to feel confident in their money for little girls to feel confident in money, understanding what it is, and then feel confident in going after it so that they can grow up powerful.

And that's what she wants us to do is grow up powerful. There are a couple things we talked about in there that are worth note. One of them is on happiness and I referenced this a second ago. Alexa says, we're bad at knowing what would make us happy. We as humans don't really know what would make us happy. And I'd like to just challenge you as you're projecting at it in the future on what you think might make you happy. I'd encourage you to be really careful and guard really, really carefully to make sure that that doesn't get in the way of the present. It's the present. That's the stuff right there. That's the good stuff. These little mundane moments. And she even says that happiness is found in the routines and the daily rituals that we have. So what are those routines and daily rituals?

What's going to make you happy? It's not the projection out in the future that will take you out of the present. The second thing I asked Alexa at the end, I didn't prepare for this, but I asked her what the future is that she wanted to see for our daughters and she gave a beautiful answer off the cuff. So stick around for that, but I really do. It's financial literacy month in April and there's no greater gift you can give to your daughters than getting a copy of this book Growing up. Powerful Money Matters. We're going to link it in the show notes. Please go get a copy. I'm telling you it's great. I'm telling you it's worth it. Make it fun. Go through it with your daughters for now, sit back, relax, and enjoy this great hopeful, optimistic, empowering conversation with Alexa Von Tobel

Gang. Today we have on the show a gambler, a diver, a hunter, and a rebel. As a gambler, she bet that millennials would learn best with learn best and a few hundred million dollars later that bet paid off as a diver. She traded in competitive diving for Cliff diving when she met her husband, and now they have a Toby, a Rosie Posey, and a Lego man as a hunter. She's part of an inspired pack of unicorn hunters who have tracked down nine and counting. And as a rebel, she's teaching our daughters to grow up powerful in the matters of money. She's barked with the bulls bulldogs, struck a pose in vogue and taught us all how to be financially fearless and forward. Forbes says she's 30 under 30. Fortune says she's 40, under 40, but I say she's one in a million. She might've dropped out of Harvard, but I'm excited she's dropped in on us today. Please join me in giving a hardy doval to our guest on The Aro Podcast. Alexa von Tobel.

Alexa von Tobel (05:19):

Joey, that was the best intro I've ever heard. That was incredible. You just made my entire morning that was good bus.

Joey Odom (05:27):

I think what I was, this is just my own male nature here. I got to debrief just for a second. My favorite was the cliff diving. I mean, it's so

Alexa von Tobel (05:36):

Good. It was so good.

Joey Odom (05:40):

I told you off camera it was going to get a little bit weird, so there it is.

Alexa von Tobel (05:43):

It was so good. It's awesome.

Joey Odom (05:45):

Well, I'm so excited to have you. I am a fan of yours. I love what you've done. I am a direct beneficiary of your work in growing up. Powerful money matters with a 14-year-old, which by the way, just a little secret, I'm going to have my son read this also. I hope that's okay. I know it's for our daughters, but what a book. But to begin, I want to talk about your origin Story's just brilliant. It's so good. And I want to paint the scene. I want you to take us back. It's 2008. You have accomplished at that age what most people dream of. You are sitting in Harvard Business School. So there you've arrived, right yet, 90 days in you say, nah, I'm going to go take on a recession here. Instead of laying low, I'm going to take on a recession. I I'm going to start out on my own. What on earth were you thinking at the time?

Alexa von Tobel (06:36):

I'm so glad you asked this question because the truth was I had always been really entrepreneurial. My senior year of college I wanted to drop out and start a company and my mom was like, you're so close to graduation, please just graduate. But I was frenetic wanting to build this business that was in my head, which ultimately became Lauren Bass. And I'd gotten into Harvard Business School my senior year of college, which was rare. We were kind of pre the two plus two program. So I was a bit of a Guinea pig punchline. I finally get to HBS and I am in the school that is where business people go. And I just remember being like, oh my god, I have to attend class every single day and there's no chance. I was building my business nights and weekends and I graduated from Harvard undergrad, helped build a friend, went to Morgan Stanley, helped build a company that got acquired by Facebook and went to HBS.

So I was two years out of school. I was 24 years old and there was just no way to do both. You couldn't build a business and do HBS because if you missed class you couldn't, couldn't get high marks and so you had to be in class. But I had been trying to go to Silicon Valley every week to build my company and two things made me drop out. The first thing was I just had this little voice inside my heart saying, you're supposed to go do this other thing, you have to do other thing. And at this point it was almost like I could feel I wasn't doing what I was supposed to. And then the second thing that's really important was Lehman Brothers went under and I remember many young friends saying, oh my God, what am I going to do with my money overnight?

I'm literally left out in the cold and I have no savings. And I just was like, this problem, this is the moment when the world zigs zag and everything in my instincts was like, this is the perfect time to go do this. And so I literally went to the admissions office, kind of gathered my courage. I sat on the grass, I was in tears, gathered my courage and was like, I've got to go tell 'em I'm going to take a leave of absence. And I found a loophole where if you have good grades, you could take effectively five off. And so kind of convinced them to let me go because it wasn't one year I needed off. You can't really build something in one year. You don't know if it's working until year three, four. So I was like, I need to take five years off. And so dropped out. And it wasn't like was, I mean I knew I was making the right decision, but the courage, it was about mustering the courage to trust my instincts at age 24, 25

Joey Odom (09:25):

When it comes to money, was it something that you were deeply interested in already or was it you just saw the opportunity with the financial crisis? Like you said you zig when they zag. What was it about this that you said, okay, no, this is my lane.

Alexa von Tobel (09:38):

So I have a very personal story. I grew up, I'd lost my dad when I was younger and my mom, who's a brilliant still to this day, practicing nurse overnight, she had to manage our finances at this earth shattering time of tragically losing my dad. And she had three kids as a single mom. And I just remember I was 14 having this moment where I was like, I can't believe that my mom can be going through something which is such a crisis and now she has to go learn finances. She'd always managed the budget, but my dad managed the investments and our insurance and all of the planning. And so that just stuck with me. And I just had this very lucid clear moment where I was like, I will literally be good at my finances and independent for the rest of my life. Period, end of story.

And so the idea for Learn best came and I went to Harvard undergrad and I was like, I'm going to go learn personal finance. And it wasn't taught anywhere. It wasn't taught in any school, any programs. I even took accounting at MIT, accounting is not personal. Finance doesn't help at all. How many credit cards, 401k, what can I afford? Am I living within my means? These pretty critical questions I had no answers for. And you couldn't Google 'em at the time. There was no information. It was just like, this is absolutely absurd. And it was sort of one of those problems that truly Joey gets under your skin. And the more it was under my skin, the more angry it made me. I truly was. It's an injustice that young people and people who have no money can't get access to advice. How on earth can you ever fix your finances if you're rendered not important to the existing infrastructure?

Because when you're young and you have no money, you're too expensive for a big company to serve you. If you have no money, you're too expensive for a big company to serve you. And so we were really upside down and since it wasn't going to be fixed in schools, and by way I wrote the kids book, it's still not fixed in schools. It just became clear to me that it really was an injustice. It was an injustice. It's not fair. It's like if the healthcare system only saw healthy people wild and so learn, earn, invest came out of my brain one day. It's the three pillars of money. You have to learn about it, you have to earn it, and you have to invest it and take care of it.

Joey Odom (12:01):

And do you think it was that almost in a way I was thinking about your story and taking back to that moment, it's almost like your inexperience in the world again, you were young and I just say that just by virtue of age only in my mind, it almost allowed you to see it more clearly. You were able to see it in much more simple terms versus if you were out and you'd had 30 years of working, then you tried to distill down what millennials should do with their money. It's almost like it would've been a little bit too, there would've been too much context or something like that. Do you think it took so well, it took off quick, right? I mean you were from, when you founded to sold to Northwest Mutual was six years, is that right? Yeah, which is the blink of an eye, right?

Alexa von Tobel (12:42):

Yeah. We launched on January 1st, 2010, and we were acquired March 25th, 2015. So it was five years launch acquisition, but seven years of me building it. And it's funny, it's like anything in the rear view mirror. I mean it technically took off quickly, but in my mind it did not quickly. Every single day was, oh, we got 10 users today, we got 20 users today, a thousand users. Whoa. I mean it was just, here's the thing about building anything. It's all blood, sweat and tears. No, maybe there's the Instagram where overnight you're getting millions of users and you're like, what's happening for most companies? You are working your tail off for every single user.

Joey Odom (13:32):

Yeah. Again, yeah, the overnight success, seven years in the making it sounds like, but it did, but people did latch onto what you're doing and you put it in such practical terms and you think about that time, it doesn't seem like there was anybody that was really doing that to put that, to focus on a segment, to focus on millennials and them to feel amazing about their money. It does seem like you must have had such a simple, approachable way about doing all. We were talking about Dr. Becky Kennedy off air where she takes these very complex topics and makes them very simple. I assume you did the exact same thing where people could feel amazing because you have a plan when you have a plan that inspires confidence and you walk boldly, right? Was that the basic thought behind it?

Alexa von Tobel (14:13):

That was the basic thought behind it, which is, and again, in some ways we were too soon, and in some ways we were perfectly on time, but punchline, we were trying to educate everyday individuals, starting with young people in their twenties and thirties to be a fully digital. So everything was on these devices, super simple. You can manage your money open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which at the time felt profound. It was a real push to the category, to the Schwabs and the Fidelities to say we're open all Saturday and Sunday where they were open a few hours on Saturday type thing. But the other thing is we started with women because I was creating a content site. It was the only way I knew to get users was to start with content. And I was certified financial planner and did all the things.

I was literally writing the content to start around how to teach people about money. And what started to become really interesting about Learn Best was it wasn't just 23-year-old young women. It was 70-year-old men, 65-year-old men, 55-year-old men. And we started looking at the data and we're like, oh my goodness, everybody wants this. Everybody needs it. And so we kind of quietly just transitioned once we launched our advice platform where you could buy, we became TurboTax for financial planning. You could buy a financial plan for a few hundred dollars, get connected to your own dedicated certified financial planner. And it was a big push to the industry and it was fully transparent. So that was a big key. There was no hidden fees, no hidden anything. And I felt like that was the problem is you didn't ever really trust advice because you were like, where are you getting paid in this equation? And so we said, just remove all of that friction completely at the time for me, didn't seem that profound. It's so obvious. And the rear view mirror, it almost seems not innovative, but it was really pushing the category. We became the cover of Forbes Magazine is the face of the millennial wallet. And I kept like, wow, we really are pushing a category in a way that is important.

Joey Odom (16:26):

And Cliff bought quite a few of those Forbes magazines, as I've seen on your Instagram, right?

Alexa von Tobel (16:31):

My sweetie pie husband, we had just gotten married. He bought the entire stand. It was so cute.

Joey Odom (16:36):

Amazing. That's so incredible. And so then Northwestern Mutual purchases, it was a sign you'd raised a bunch of money, it was a significant windfall, it was a great win. And I want to transition into this concept of money being a source of happiness. So you were teaching the building blocks for people of money and then you get a big windfall of money. What did you learn during that time as it relates to, because you had to have a pinch me moment, but just even in talking together for 12 minutes here, I know that it was a little bit of that competitiveness. You were a diver, so you're a competitor to begin with. And so then you have this windfall. What was that moment like where hits the bank account and then all of a sudden, are you happy? Is everything great or what did that feel like? And then what did you learn in that process about how money translates into happiness in life?

Alexa von Tobel (17:29):

Well, so first of all, I think one of the things I've known my whole life, and I mean I gave a talk on money to a few nights ago, to a whole room of people and kids, money does not buy happiness at all. If you make over the latest stats are about a hundred thousand dollars a year as a household, your basic needs are met. Money does not move the dial money is not something that can, happiness is very, very different. Money's a tool. It helps you move through your life and you want to have control so that you can make choices that you need to. That could be really important to changing your happiness. But it is very, very clear that every day money can actually be a big distraction. I sold my business. I think one thing that's really important about, I sold my business to Northwestern Mutual, and this is probably the biggest pinch moment of my life actually, outside of having my wonderful little children, I sold to Northwestern Mutual and I didn't tell anybody including the board until after we signed the documents that the reason I did it was a Northwestern mutual life insurance policy actually stabilized my family.

And so I knew the brand to my very bones. And as a young person, I realized how powerful having financial stability after a crisis really is. And the CEO, John Sch Lipsky is one of the best guys ever. And he basically was like, let's team up and let's go take your software product and our brand of 165 years and let's go do more with them together. And it was just precisely my value system and how I'm wired. And I said, I think that's the right move for this thing that I've now poured my heart into. So that's why I sold. It was a really nice outcome for every investor and every shareholder or family included, but it was absolutely the right thing to do and it was the right thing to do. And so I think one thing that really matters, one of my own best friends to me said the other day, she's like, nothing about you has changed.

Literally nothing about you has changed. I love that. I am still super frugal at the grocery store. I mean, nothing about me has changed. And I think what gets me out of bed every day is I love to build businesses is obviously why I founded and stood up inspired our venture fund that invest in companies around the world, but particularly in the United States, a generalist fund. But I love to build businesses. That's what gets me excited every day. I like overcoming challenges. I love the mental feat of is this possible and people telling you it's not possible, and then you can actually prove that it is possible. And for me, that is my mental workout and I love doing it. And so I'm going to be somebody who works every day in my life no matter what, because I love working. It is just an absolute source of joy and passion for me. And building businesses is my favorite thing to do.

Joey Odom (20:43):

I love that. I read, there was an article that you wrote in op-ed in cnbc, cnbc.com that I love. This line really jumped out. I'd love for you to expound on it a little bit, and it relates to happiness. When it comes to happiness, you said what actually drives happiness are the simple routines and the daily rituals in our lives that create community and connectedness. Will you tell me a little bit about that when it comes to the simple routines and the daily rituals, and for you, those are aims towards community and connectedness. Will you talk a little about that, how that plays out in Alexa's life, maybe how that plays in your family's life, those rituals and those simple daily routines that you have?

Alexa von Tobel (21:22):

I love. So my senior thesis at Harvard was on happiness. I worked in a happiness lab at Harvard. I studied psychology and my senior thesis, I learned this amazing study, which was, and I'm going to sort of botch it, but I'll paraphrase it just to keep it simple. If you could have anything that your heart desires and your top three list, you can just ask for it. Versus if I'm a coffee drinker, if you get a perfect cup of coffee every day permanently, exactly as you like it for the rest of your life, which would make you happier. And for the most part, our minds assume, oh no, my three lists, I'm going to make a hundred million dollars. I'm going to whatever. I'm going to finally look the way I always wanted to look. Whatever it may be, whatever the crazy things are, run through all of the back of our heads.

This does not make you happy. The punchline, we're actually as humans, very, very bad at knowing what makes us happier. And there's tons of things around this, which is we dream of making more money so we can get the bigger home in the suburbs, but the suburbs means your commute's three x long and that means it's more stress every day. Or you want to buy the fancy fan, I'm making this up the Ferrari, but you buy the Ferrari and then you're actually daily anxious in it. And what if they spill their coffee? And what if coffee, the carrying costs of goods and items and services is actually a burden. And often the things that we think we want when you actually get them, they're not better. What makes us really happy, outside of incredibly important relationships, best friends, family, relationships is routine stability every day routine.

And so cup of coffee mathematically and statistically significantly better for people. And so that was the backbone of my senior thesis, and that hopefully gives you a window into my psyche, which is you asked, what routines do I love? So today's the solar eclipse. Last night I wrote my kids, we run our house like a train station. It's like plates are all out, the cups are all ready. And I put little notes on them. And this morning because of this outer space in the solar system, I made star or star waffles and literally in the shapes of stars and that morning ritual with our kids in that moment of connection, those little routines are the things that make me incredibly happy. And they're so simple. And so in the end, routine is one of the most powerful assets that we all have, and routine and connection,

Joey Odom (24:17):

We call those. So the term ro, which is our business name, the ro, is a Maori term that means to notice. And so we think about those little moments of aro, those little moments of notice. I had this vivid picture in my mind, this is not necessarily routine, but leaving an Atlanta Braves baseball game with my family. It's raining, I'm grumpy. And my daughter at the time, she's seven at the time, she reaches up her hand to hold my hand. And it was like that little moment of notice and you think about that little moment that you're creating. And I love that idea that we just don't know what's going to make us happy. That even in when I read Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, I dunno if you've read that book, but he has a line at the end, which I just love because Shoe Dog is all about just the origin of Nike.

And he says at the end he goes, if I have one regret, it's that I can't do it all over again. And it's the beginning of the building versus he wasn't soaking in the billions of dollars that he had made. It was just, gosh, those were the good old days. And so sometimes it feels like us projecting out into the future and what could be, that's the biggest enemy of right now, right? That's the biggest enemy you can imagine Toby and Rosie and being old and getting married and someday, but then you think like, well, what about Toby's only going to be nine for this year? That's it. And so it's such an easy thing to think that that thing in the future is going to get us happy versus what are the things today. And that's so interesting. No one would've guessed it's those routines, but what a beautiful way to put it.

Alexa von Tobel (25:40):

Yeah, and I think this is sort of one of the beautiful things is happiness is free. Actually, it is perspective shifting. It's being able to, and people who know me, Joey, no. I'm an abundantly a positive person. I do. I believe in good in the world. I believe people are good. I believe the world is good. I believe karma is a good thing. And don't get me wrong, none of us are perfect. I'm not a positive person every minute of my life, but for the most part, I get out of bed every day thinking that we have a whole 24 hours to make magic happen. Let's do it. And I think, again, routine and it's the little things that are the big things and we all know that. And I think just bringing that practice. The last thing I'll quickly add that we brought into our household every single morning we do a round of gratitude where every day it is like there's no way you can escape it. And it just resets everyone's mentality when people are, I have a normal household, I've got three little human beings, it's chaotic is all get out. And it's a good reset to be like, what are we grateful for? And I'm grateful for so much. So it's just a good reminder

Aro Member (26:58):

Really. I think what my noticing was the mini moments, it was the mini moments that the phone was interrupting my life and what I was able to do with my kids. I felt when I had that phone present on my body, I could feel it burning a hole and just asking me to pick it up, waiting to look at that next red bubble, that notification or that email or checking the ESPN app to look at what the score was, right? Even though I just checked it like 30 seconds before and I knew nothing was going to be different. Nothing changed, but it was just calling to me and I knew that was a problem. There was an addiction there that I could not break even when I was trying to stay present with my kids, I was telling myself that I was being present. I was out engaging with the world with them and playing at the park. But really I was distracted every 30 seconds by pulling out my phone and trying to check to see what the next notification was for me. So I knew I had to make a change and do something different.

Joey Odom (27:50):

We love hearing stories from the RO community. The one you just heard actually comes from our voices of RO episodes where I sit down with RO members and they share about their stories and their lives with ro. Make sure to check out the voices of RO episodes, and if you're a member who would like to share your own story with ro, please email us at stories@goro.com.

I want to transition to the book again, growing at Up Powerful Money Matters and I don't want to, I'm going to get a little emotional saying this. I think about your story and I think about losing your dad when you were 14 and that my daughter Gianna is 14, and so I couldn't help but prepare for this interview and I couldn't help read this book without superimposing her onto your story. Imagining what you've gone through was there. And I'm not trying to manufacture any kind of emotionalism here, it's just the way I viewed that as you were writing this book, did you go back to that when you were thinking about the impact you could have on little girls here and how they approach money and how they handle money, and especially in light of your story, did you go back to that and think about that little girl going through that and how that impacted you? Of

Alexa von Tobel (29:08):

Course. I mean, there's literally no way of escaping something as powerful as losing a parent. You think about it every day, every single day, and it was now 25 years ago every day. I mean, it's kind of wild. And I think for me, this will give you, so my parents named me Alexa. Alexa, the reason why Amazon picked Alexa is because it's great for helper of mankind. So that kind of gives you a sense of the value system of the family I was raised in where we very much had a value system of like God gives you talents and those talents should be used to do good in the world. And I come from a family of doctors and everyone's in medicine except me. I'm truly the least educated by a lot.

So for me, this book was really simple. There's a lot happening in the world that I don't like for women a lot, and I won't get into all the politics a bit, but it's a lot. And it's not only all of the health issues that are happening right now with women around the country and choices that are being taken away, but it's also women did not get advanced through covid. They got actually women going to the top of companies, et cetera, et cetera. A lot of those stats moved backwards. And then in general, the world is still living paycheck to paycheck and actually at a higher percentage than when I started learn bests. And that's pretty disheartening to something. I've been on a mission for 20 years to wake up and be like, man, I poured my blood, sweat and tears into this and it's still moving in the wrong direction.

And so I finally had this big shift where I was like, everything that's helping empower people in their twenties for their finances is playing defense. You are fixing their credit card debt. You're fixing how much of student loans they took out. You're fixing the credit score that they didn't even know they had. That's actually been impaired already. It's defense. You get a sense of me, I'm somebody who likes to play offense. I'm an athlete. I'm somebody who truly likes to play offense. And I woke up and I was like, let's play offense. And so teaming up to write this book, rebel Girls is a great brand. We were reading the books actually one of my brothers once gave the book to my daughter when she was three about powerful women so that she could have more visuals of what great successful women could look like.

And I just said, it's time to play offense. And so writing this book was a joy. And actually what's been most amazing is two girls and one boy, Toby Cashel and Rosie, this is for everybody, by the way, boys should read this book absolutely. But under the Rebel Girls brand, I wrote this book, I did not hold back any punches. I wrote it for a 25-year-old, but it's written in the verbiage where a six to 15-year-old could easily move the meter on understanding their wallet. And it's so fun. My little girl Toby's on the cover with the little freckles and the short hair running her. She's an entrepreneur, she's running her little bracelet company, her little jewelry company. And it came out on my daughter Rosie's fifth birthday. And I think life's kind of short. If I'm going to do things that are not engaging with my and my husband, which is my favorite thing to do, then it needs to do something that really matches my value system where I feel like we're doing something. And here's the thing, I'm hoping this book makes a dent because financial literacy is still not taught in schools. And so I've been incredibly proud of just, it's been out for since March 26th. And it's selling incredibly well. And I think the thing that I'm most proud of is actually just the volumes of young girls reaching out, reading the book and I'm like, amen. Let's empower our children and our daughters. And this is you teach 'em to manage money. You're teaching them power for their life.

Joey Odom (33:20):

Will you expand on that? And I love the growing up powerful. That word really jumped out to me in looking at that. Will you just alluded to it, will you talk about the power, the power you want to instill into girls?

Alexa von Tobel (33:33):

Yes. And I'll say one thing on the word power, right? I don't love the word power. It feels like it can be very misused. I love the idea of little girls feeling powerful. I do too. So that is a place I love the word. And here's the thing. For your whole life, if you have an option because you have savings and you have choice, it allows you power, it allows you power to change a job that's making you miserable. It allows you to leave a city that isn't the right city for you to live in. It allows you to leave a relationship that is not serving you. And money is a big part of that. And the number of human beings that are trapped because of money. I think it's really important that we give people options. And that's what money is. Money is an option, is not a tool.

It is a tool. It is not meant to be worshiped or ignored completely vehicle for options. That is what money is at its core. It is a vehicle for giving you options. And so no, I just love the idea of, and actually I'll say one more thing Joey, because I think it's so important. The reason why money became very male dominant is because little girls had stay at home moms for most of our lives until basically 2000. That's when you started seeing women dramatically enter the workforce. Little girls saw their dad's work, come home, manage the money, moms manage the daily budget. And what we see is what we know. And so much of how we parent is because of what we experience. So much of how we manage money is because of what we experience. And so just really making sure that this is a topic for everybody and a topic for men and women and a topic for little girls and little boys. You're just changing their life right there, putting on the table. This is something we all have to take care of and do a good job of.

Joey Odom (35:32):

The thing I was very interested in as I read the book, Alexa, was you go into index funds and crypto. It's not just like a basic budgeting type of thing. You really go into a lot of things that I think a lot of adults don't really understand. Do you think that we don't talk to our kids about this? I have a theory, I'd be curious for you to pick it apart. One, we ourselves don't know it. As parents, we don't really understand it fully ourselves. And then the second is we don't necessarily think that our kids can handle it. Where to me, when you've written this, you've said, no, you're eight years old, you can understand this, you can handle this. And so you're talking to them, like you said, it's written for adults, but you're talking to these children like their adults assuming that they can handle the information, which I think is absolutely correct,

Alexa von Tobel (36:21):

Bullseye, no, I just don't believe any part of my life to dumb things down for anybody. I believe in teaching, in treating people and giving them the responsibility is how you teach people to be powerful. And so no, this book, it's a full financial plan. We cover every topic. It's written in a way that's really fun. You can literally, there's little quizzes and engagements because you want them to think about money and engage with money. So that's really fun. I filled it with the names of all of my nieces and best friends, little girls. I wanted little girls everywhere to feel like this book could be their, since it's real people all throughout the book. No, and it's just, again, if you can do second grade math, you can manage a household budget, you can manage money. If you can do second grade math, which is basic addition and subtraction, you can manage money.

The other thing that I'm really proud of is it's really started this movement of little money clubs where, and I've offered to zoom in for a few of them and literally just, and it's really incredible. And my 9-year-old Toby, I'm living it, right? So I truly wrote the book as somebody with the humans in my house. It's just amazing. Toby will be like, you know what mom, let's not get the water at the deli because water at home is free. And I'm like, exactly. It's like, you know what? I'd rather put that money in my college account. And I'm like, that's exactly right Toby, and I'm ready to back Toby's business

Joey Odom (38:04):


Alexa von Tobel (38:04):

I invest. Where do I start? So that's precisely, that's the shift that you want to have happen.

Joey Odom (38:12):

You talk in the book or you talk about money memories. Will you unpack that term money memories and how critical that first money memory is?

Alexa von Tobel (38:22):

So there's a new study out of University Michigan, which basically shows you that by the age of five, five years old, so all of us with all of our children by five, the way that money is talked about in a household, there's this great stat which is what do people consume? Do they consume the content or the tone? And we basically consume 90% of what we consume is tone. So in a household, if the tone around money is positive or negative, correlates to how a child in their own adulthood engages or doesn't engage with money. And so in our household, money is matter of fact, it's on the table. Mom and dad pay bills. Mom and dad go to work because we love work and it happens to be a way that we make money. And everything you see costs something. And it's a matter of fact versus a, and don't get me wrong, every parent, you and me included, everyone gets stressed about money.

Of course money takes effort. That's what's stressful about it's, it doesn't ever go away. It's there every day. You got to make choices. You're making big decisions. It's always there. But I think the tone that we bring to it needs to be matter of fact and can do, can do attitude because it really will shape whether or not your child completely avoids money. Money avoidance is really painful. It's really hard because it's the hardest one as a certified financial planner to fix is the ostrich head in the sand. I don't want to touch or look or do anything you have, don't have a choice. You have to engage with your money.

Joey Odom (40:03):

So if you're like me, people may have heard that, may have just thought, oh crap, my kids 14 and 16. And so I'm nine or 11 years late on how I was talking about the tone we were talking about. What about for people who it feels like they've maybe gone too far, how can I course correct? What would you advise to somebody who says maybe the tone has been a little bit off? How would you advise somebody to maybe within their home course correct, as it relates to talking about money,

Alexa von Tobel (40:26):

The greatest thing in life is that you can always repair. And it is the biggest gift we all have is that repair is possible. Buy the book, have your child read the book, even if they're 14, read the book and then celebrate the book together. Talk out. Money is something that is never, and by the way, one of my favorite things to say is there will always be people that have more and there will always be people that have less. The goal is not having more or having less. We have what we have. What's important is to feel like it is a source of empowerment. This money is about us making choices to get where we want to go. And every day there's going to be trade-offs. And so read the book, celebrate it if your child doesn't already have. And one of my best friends said to me, she was like, we got to rebrand the word allowance.

And I was like, you, I want to call it income. I want these kids earning income in their household early, what they earn later. But I want them to earn some income in your household by doing a bigger and above and beyond chores or getting summer jobs or babysitting or tutoring or whatever they can. But then once they have that money, work with them with it. What are we going to do? How much are we going to put away? Put into your college account? Let's put it into your future IRA that you can open as soon as a child earns some income and do it with them. Make it fun. Have a muffin, a chocolate muffin at breakfast while you do it with them. Make it something that they actually can realize they can enjoy.

Joey Odom (42:03):

I've shared the story before. My daughter again, I mentioned this 14, she did on spring break this week. This year we didn't travel. So she said, I'm going to go dog sit in our neighborhood. Alexis, she made $1,300 on spring break week. It was amazing. And she has her give save, spend envelopes. So she has her give, save, spend. It was great. And we're driving. She's so excited about all this. She does, by the way, talk about empowerment. She's a little entrepreneur. It's like scratch the itch for her. And she was sitting there driving. We were listening to Taylor Swift song as we've done nonstop for the last couple of years. Plus what you get it. She goes, dad, do you think Taylor Swift has give safe spend envelopes? And I said, I bet you her envelopes are pretty big, but I bet you she does have some form of give same spend envelopes. So I'm curious, you mentioned allowance, just real practically, do you believe that allowance in someone's home, is that for doing daily chores or is allowance more of just, Hey, here is your introduction to how to manage money? I viewed it as the latter. Someone gave me that advice years ago was it's table stakes. Doing your stuff in the house. You're supposed to do this because you live here, but here's an allowance to teach you how to manage money. How have you looked at allowance or income when it comes to your kids?

Alexa von Tobel (43:20):

So in my mind, there's sort of a bright line of, there's things that we all do because we're part of this family and we have our responsibilities. Making your bed, throwing out your own dishes and garbage and putting your dishes in the sink and helping with those things when they're really little, it's important that it's sort of age appropriate. So it's like, Hey, for making your bed, you can have a corridor type thing. So I have some little people too, five and six. Now that my daughter's nine, she's part of the family plan, right? She's got to do afford responsibilities. But it's the bigger things where it's like, Hey, mom's going to quickly take a call in the other room. Can you actually watch the kids and babysit for me while I'm in the house and keep them happy and play a game with them?

Or, Hey, I really want you to organize a closet for me and I pay you $3 to do it. So letting them, and what's amazing is how they rise to the occasion in those moments. And here's the thing, take out bills, real bills. I want them to see the money quarter, go to the bank, get a pile of quarters and dimes and nickels, and none of us have any cash anymore, ever single bills. And pay them in the physical bank. And when that bank gets a little full, go to the bank and actually digitize it and earn your 5% interest, pretty please. But let them see the money. Let them put it in their own little bank. Let them become, if they can feel it, they can see it and make it fun, make it really, really fun. And I think one hack to life is loving what you do, loving, earning, loving work. And I think that you're kind of teaching them that practice, really.

Joey Odom (45:01):

Yeah. I have one. I want to have a closing question, and it's maybe an abstract ethereal question. I'd love for you to take whatever direction you'd like, but in this book and just generally in life, what is the future? What is the world that you hope to create? What's the future hope you hope to see for our daughters?

Alexa von Tobel (45:23):

And I think of this globally, so not just in the United States. The future I hope, is that first that we only think of people as humans, and we forget all of the color, shapes and sizes. We're all human beings. We're all souls and spirits. I hope that we get to a point where we can democratize access to everything for people everywhere. So that means, and I'll use personal finance as a lens of that, but access to opening a bank account and a savings account should be free on the whole planet. Access to basic healthcare should be free on the whole planet. And then I hope for our girls that we have more and more role models who put their necks out there to do things like writing a kid's book like Money Matters because we need more of it. The world isn't always moving fully forward. Sometimes we go two steps forward, one step back, two steps forward, one step back. And so we all need to be holding the line to doing the big two steps forward. And there simply aren't enough. There are not bright lights on enough female role models here in the world to remind little girls everywhere to think of themselves as you can do anything you want on this planet and get one life. So it's not the dress rehearsal. So go for it. Dream big.

Joey Odom (46:47):

I love that. And you really are one of these role models. You're the one that people look at and say, okay, in your twenties you can do it. And here you are continuing on with this book with Inspired Capital. It is inspirational, and I'm grateful on behalf of having a daughter. I'm grateful for your leadership here and you being a role model. Alexa, I want everybody listening. Please go. Please get a copy. It's out. It's growing up. Powerful Money Matters. This is Financial Literacy Month in April. So it's prime time. Get this as a gift for your daughters. Again, I'm going to have my son read it. Who's 16? I'm going to read it. My wife's going to read it. So Alexa didn't get to talk about the podcast for starters, which is terrific. I mean, what an amazing podcast. I want everybody to go listen to the podcast. For starters, go get a book of growing up. Powerful Money Matters. Your two previous books, financially Fearless and Financially Forward Inspired Capital at Alexa von Tobel, Instagram and Twitter. What did I miss there?

Alexa von Tobel (47:51):

You nailed it. You got it all.

Joey Odom (47:53):

I think you nailed it. Ridge

Alexa von Tobel (47:54):

In a pair of tree.

Joey Odom (47:56):

Alexa, thank you. Thank you for being the role model that our daughters can look up to. Thank you for this book. I want everybody to go get a copy of it. And thank you so much for joining us today on the Art podcast.

Alexa von Tobel (48:05):

Joey, this has been the best interview. You are such a talented interviewer. This is amazing. This has been so much fun. Thank you.

Joey Odom (48:11):

Thank you very, very much. I told you at the beginning, but Alexa, she just projects light. She just projects hope and optimism. I feel hopeful. I feel optimistic, I feel empowered. I hope you feel all of those things. And I hope we can go take this and let's go translate that to our kids, for them to feel like they have choice and them to have say, and for them to feel powerful. And whether your kids are young, what a perfect time to instill this. What a perfect time to get this book when your kids are young. But even if they're a little bit older, like mine 14 and 16, it's never too late to repair. She said, it's never too late to change the way we talk about money, to change the way we approach money, to give our kids the right tools. And this is an amazing tool. Please go get a copy of Growing Up Powerful Money Matters. We're so grateful for Alexa von Tobel for joining us, and thank you for joining us this week on The Aro Podcast. We can't wait to see you again next week. The Aro Podcast is produced and edited by the team at Palm Tree Pod Co. Special thanks to Emily Miles for video and digital support, and to our executive producer Aro's own, Katelyn Farley.