Ask a Millennial what first comes to mind when you say, “financial planning.” The phrase invokes the image of a large corporate office, a gray-haired, impeccably dressed man behind a large desk, and a range of confusing acronyms and phrases.
A new company is aiming to flip that stereotype on its head. Society of Grownups is pioneering a new way for people to think about their finances, removing the stigma behind talking to a financial planner.
As the name suggests, Society of Grownups is taking a very different approach than most financial planners, aiming to shatter the barriers of formality and intimidation. The “Grownups,” as the company calls its clients, are part of a community.
“We call them Grownups because they’re the behavioral and attitudinal segment that is really primed to take action,” said Nondini Naqui, Society of Grownups’ president and CEO. “They know that there’s something that they should be doing, they’re just not sure what that thing is.”
The first Society of Grownups office in the Boston suburb of Brookline sets the tone. “We wanted to build a space that was going to help to build a community around a taboo topic like money,” said Naqui. Sponsored by MassMutual, a life insurance company, and Ideo, a global design firm, Society of Grownups aims to transform the way people get financial advice.
Society of Grownups tries to provide the tools that allow people to manage their finances and plan for the future in a low-pressure environment. Think of a university lounge or a modern office café and add a dash of mint green everywhere you look. With free coffee, magazines, and books for visitors to enjoy, an open area with a large table encourages interaction between Grownups.
Anyone can walk in for a free financial checkup — a 20-minute session with one of the certified financial planners that work full-time for Society of Grownups. After that initial session, checkups are only $20 each. It’s a great way to get a glimpse of what Society of Grownups can offer.
If you want to go more in depth, Society of Grownups offers 90-minute one-on-one sessions with a financial planner for $100. These are great opportunities to create a budget or plan for a major life change such as buying a house or looking for a new job. The “office” is casual and friendly, offering a convenient and fun place to get financial advice.
In addition, Society of Grownups holds classes for small groups, allowing Grownups to learn the basics of investing, saving for retirement, or negotiating for a better salary. Classes are fun, interactive, and educational — costing only $30 or $40 and often paired with a wine tasting, brunch, or dinner.
Think young people wouldn’t want to go back to class? Think again. Since October 2014, Society of Grownups has had over 1,500 unique registrants to events that include classes, chats and supper clubs. More than 400 people have already attended a one-on-one session with a financial planner.
“We found ways to integrate the strong financial core with the major life topics that people are interested in having conversations about,” said Naqui.
Naqui, who majored in anthropology and Spanish in college, said she “fell into financial services.” Through jobs in banking, nonprofits, and entrepreneurship, Naqui developed valuable experience that prepared her to define the groundbreaking vision of Society of Grownups.
Soon, you could see a Society of Grownups in a major city near you. The buzz in Boston continues to build, and now that thousands of people have created profiles on the website, the next step is deciding how best the company should expand. The company plans to open physical locations in Philadelphia and New York by the end of 2016.
Society of Grownups is reinventing the way people set and achieve their financial goals. “We’re design-led, consumer-driven, and everyone here — every single person — is totally passionate about our mission,” said Naqui.