Some easier next-gen finance tools
I’ve written several AGBeat columns about entrepreneurship, usually sharing my philosophy that hard work, sound strategic planning, and an intense focus on customers are paramount for success. We’ve discussed leadership, management and financing, and I’ve written about the importance of data and analytics. I still believe all of this – and every day I spend in and around start-ups emboldens my belief in these tenets. They are essential for success.
BUT… there are many things that an entrepreneur can do that aren’t so intense, that aren’t so difficult. There are new apps, websites, and tools in the market today that we can utilize to help out along the way. The good ones are easy to use, have no downside risk, and are effective. Please allow me to introduce two of these next-generation helpers. Both will positively impact your financial environment.
1. The interest-free line of credit tool
Raising capital is a unique challenge that most all entrepreneurs face. There are limitless articles about the topic, and an equally uncountable number of opinions on the best ways to secure investors. There is another category of small business finance that gets a lot less attention, though: operational capital and credit.
Start-ups don’t have the financial history, assets or p&l metrics to establish their own credit to work with banks or other low-interest capital options. As a result, most entrepreneurs put business expenses on a personally guaranteed, high-interest credit card. Most carry balances of five to ten thousand dollars, or more, to pay for monthly expenses like office supplies, telecommunications and travel. This costs companies thousands in interest annually – and more if payments are missed and fees kick in.
Enter Float Money. Float eliminates interest and fees – forever. The company lets entrepreneurs establish a ten-month line of credit, interest free, and without any fees or financial penalties even for missed payments. How can Float do this?
Float Money will lend you up to $10,000 based on your monthly spending. When you purchase supplies through Float’s shopping network, the vendors pay Float. This means that the vendors you shop with effectively pay your interest. You can shop online or purchase gift cards to shop at you local retail locations. You don’t need to change your spending or vendor selections. Float works with office supply companies like Office Max and Staples, Supermarkets like Kroger, Pharmacies like CVS and of course major online retailers like Amazon.
My first thought was that there was a catch. Well – there isn’t. Ever. Additionally, you can utilize your current credit cards (to earn points) and take advantage of coupons and specials that you normally would. Float has one more powerful benefit too: using Float will boost your credit score, even if you aren’t utilizing your credit line (provided you make you payments on time when you do).
Float is a powerful tool that every entrepreneur can use to pay down high interest debt, or simply boost credit and build up an emergency capital reserve.
2. A free money tool
The average person in the United States accesses their mobile phone more than 150 times a day. Putting aside any interpretation on our social environment, that’s just a lot of screen time. There is a new app available for Android devices called Locket that pays you for this screen time. They pay you for accessing your phone just like you already do.
Locket displays high-concept, high-production value advertising on a phone’s lock screen. When users access their mobile device they see the ads. You swipe right to access your phone normally or you swipe left to interact with the advertisement – either way you get paid a penny each time you look at your phone.
Locket promises to bring you relevant advertising based on your preferences, location, etc. The company doesn’t want its value proposition to simply be cash payments to users, but let’s be honest that that’s the primary reason you’re interested. Locket users can earn up to around $300 annually for simply using their phone normally. That’s free money.
Business is hard. Start-ups are harder. Not everything has to be difficult, though. Utilizing tools like Float Money and Locket will help your finances without adding to your already busy days. You’ll have more time for the hard stuff – and more money to help with it. I’ll keep my eye out for more finance and business tools like these. Please let me know if you find some, too.
India bans cryptocurrency prior to releasing their own
(BUSINESS FINANCE) India is potentially planning to ban cryptocurrency — and instead, they’re planning to introduce their own version of it for purchase.
Owning mainstream cryptocurrency these days is a bit like owning a pair of Crocs: Potentially lucrative (especially if you’re Post Malone), but mostly just weird. A recent report shows that India is planning on adding “illegal” to that list, possibly ahead of launching their own cryptocurrency in place of the banned ones.
The proposed law would also fine anyone found trading—or even simply owning—banned cryptocurrencies in India. Mining and transferring ownership of cryptocurrency would similarly warrant punitive measures.
CNBC notes that this law would be “one of the world’s strictest policies against cryptocurrencies” to date. While some countries have imposed strict laws regarding things like mining and trading cryptocurrency, India would be the first country to make owning it illegal.
Some talk of jail time—including sentences of up to 10 years—for cryptocurrency owners and users was floated by Indian lawmakers back in 2019, but there is no explicit indication that those terms would be present in this rendition of the bill.
To be fair to the lawmakers involved here, the bill wouldn’t be as cut-and-dry as “has bitcoin, gets fined.” According to the CNBC report, people who own cryptocurrency would be able to “liquidate” their earnings for up to six months preceding the bill going into effect. This would theoretically allow investors to hold onto their portfolios for a bit longer before having to cash out.
But that leniency might not matter anyway. It doesn’t take a genius to see that this move could do two dramatic things to the cryptocurrency market: Add yet another niche option for investors, and destabilize every other pre-existing cryptocurrency option—or, at least, make them less stable than they already were.
In fact, the simple introduction and threat of this bill could be enough for the cryptocurrency market to take a nosedive—something that can’t be discounted as a factor in making this decision. Current reports put Indian-owned bitcoin values at roughly $1.4 billion, though, so it’s clear that the bill hasn’t had a deleterious effect at this point.
The fact that India’s central bank has plans to introduce a government-sponsored cryptocurrency of their own cannot be separated from this bill, either. While the official government position is that blockchain is to be trusted while existing cryptocurrencies are eschewed and dismissed as “Ponzi schemes”, it’s clear that at least part of this bill is motivated by a desire to thin out the competition.
Which generation has cried the most over money?
(BUSINESS FINANCE) Financial stress is tough on everyone. Here’s who has cried the most about money woes, and a few tips on how to alleviate some of that stress.
There’s been serious critique in the last several years about the educational system and what basic knowledge young people should be taught in the United States. Home Economics (Home Ec) comes to mind (everyone should probably know how to cook or sew a button), as well as financial literacy.
There are many young Americans who grow up not really having a deep understanding of budgeting and fixed and variable expenses… But it may not be their fault. Perhaps, Mom and Dad (or other guardians) have always been paying for all of their expenses, making sure they had a roof over their head, clothes on their backs, and food in their fridge. Because, that is what you’re supposed to do as a parent, correct?
So, while there’s no reason to blame anyone, often the process of learning what it costs to live and pay your bills is a rite of passage.
The current state of debt and financial fears also doesn’t mean that Millennials and Gen Zers weren’t educated around savings or working. Many young people have had part-time jobs (although much less in comparison to Gen X or Baby Boomers) but they may also be able to use the majority of that income for discretionary spending – which never created room for feelings of lack when they didn’t have to pay rent or a mortgage.
This scenario can ultimately create a challenge when you are finally out on your own and now have student loan debt, credit card debt, utility bills, and required car insurance. Especially if you are young person moving to a big city for exploration and/or new opportunities, where the cost of living can be quite high.
If you are feeling nervous or sad around finances, you are not alone. If you have cried over your personal balance sheet or your bank statements, you are also not alone. According to yahoo!money, a recent online survey of 1,004 Americans by CompareCards.com found that “7 in 10 Americans said they have cried about money in their lifetimes. Many cited worries over their job or making ends meet. Younger Americans appear the most vulnerable to financial tears. About half of millennials and half of Gen Zers said they cried at least once in the past month over money.”
So how can you cry LESS about money? Well, the first thing is to not be too hard on yourself. But you will also want to create a plan that works for you. Each person deserves financial freedom and not a bank statement that makes them cry on the regular.
Here are some financial literacy resources that may help you figure out how to navigate your way out of crippling debt.
Dave Ramsey Books – The Total Money Makeover – A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness
Bravely Go with Kara Perez – Feminist economics + inclusive personal finance
Debt Relief Programs – you’ll have to do your research but there may be a program that is right for you and an agency that can help you set up a realistic payment program for you
Student Loan Forgiveness – it is worth looking in to your options if you are feeling overwhelmed with student loan debt and there may be ways for your loans to be forgiven
Financial Advisor – consider working with a professional that can help you with your budgeting, investing and retirement savings/funds
And you may still cry because this is big adult stuff… But hopefully you trust yourself to do the research, explore, ask, and find options that work for you to gain a little more control over your financial situation.
If you are not already doing so, it may be as simple as starting with a budget to better understand your income and outgoing expenses. Being informed can help you to plan better for the future and make you feel less like crying.
Lauren Ford explains how you can support women in fintech all year
(BUSINESS FINANCE) Interview with Lauren Ford: Celebrate International Women’s Day beyond just the day by including more women in your finance company.
A bit delayed, but happy International Women’s Day! It’s been a hard year, but this is one day I can always look to for inspiration. To celebrate this year, I interviewed Lauren Ford – the Customer and Content Marketing Manager at OneStream Software, a corporate performance management solutions provider. Not only is Ford a total powerhouse in her industry, but she is also a firm believer in female empowerment in the world of tech.
Here are her top 5 tips on how finance companies in particular can strengthen their gender diversity efforts – and a little bit about Ford too:
Tell me a little about your background and how you came to be the Customer & Content Marketing Manager at OneStream.
I have an extensive background working with enterprise software, specific to digital transformation, and I came to OneStream with a decade’s worth of experience in the Marketing Communications field. After earning my degree in Public Communications and Applied Economics from the University of Vermont, I was intrigued by the state of technology: What it had brought us, what it was doing for us now, and where it was taking us next. I was determined to get involved and landed a role at a start-up software development firm, specializing in enterprise content management and capture automation solutions specific to the office of finance. At the time, there were 30 employees – and I was 1 of only 5 women in that fintech space.
Overtime I achieved more prominent roles in the organizations and built customer-centric marketing teams, driving strategies for customer engagement and advocacy. The small start-up I knew had grown immensely but after 8 years it was time to take on a new challenge in a larger, well-known company – which brought me to OneStream.
What is it like to be a high-powered women in this industry at OneStream?
It’s no surprise that there is a shortfall of women in finance-leading roles. But, OneStream has really taken the time to focus on engaging, nurturing and retaining the best professionals throughout the industry. And over time the company has created a culture where women in high-powered positions are more prominent and well-respected. There are many women who have made it to the top – and what’s great about that is they’re open to sharing their journeys, challenges, and wisdom to the greater OneStream community. So much so, that the company recently introduced the Women of OneStream group, which has been developed to support the business success of OneStream and the women within. This group works to inspire and transform the landscape of women in fintech and in technology to achieve personal growth and company success. It’s inspiring to have this type of support within our industry, and I commend OneStream for taking the necessary steps forward to ensure a welcoming workplace.
We both know that there is a great lack of women in finance and fintech industries – what do you make of this disparity?
Obviously, the statistics about women in finance and fintech are quite grim – and sadly this is all too clear when looking at high-level leadership positions. Demanding hours can take away from home life, which could be a main reason why more women aren’t entering finance roles. But in my opinion, the biggest obstacle to women entering the finance field is an unsupportive or biased corporate culture. Even when a company looks to implement change to close the gender gap, people in senior roles are often privier to what’s happening whereas entry-level employees don’t have as much visibility to changes in policy or behavior – and therefore don’t believe it exists.
I think it’s important to communicate messages of change to all levels of the workforce hierarchy, and something as simple as creating more opportunities for mentorship and sponsorship can help make women feel more supported in their finance careers. The good news is we are lifting a veil on a problem that has always been there, but wasn’t always discussed, and now we are paving the way for change.
How can we help to combat this disparity moving forward?
I think there are some strategies that women can use to achieve a more prominent role in their organizations. Standing up, making their voices heard and cultivating relationships with people they respect and admire is important. Creating a support network is key to success. On the other hand, there are several things an organization can do to support diversity, equality, and inclusion to transform the perception of women in fintech:
- Create internal support groups dedicated to diversity (ex. mentorship programs that empower women to improve and advance)
- Offer consistent support from the top
- Develop leadership training to help all get a seat at the table
- Reevaluate company benefits (ex. paid family leave)
- Expand internship/apprentice programs to train young and upcoming females (ex. teach them about finance and technology)
How do we make this push for women in finance as intersectional as possible? Why is this important?
There has been a lot of time and effort spent on segmented groups to promote diversity, but many people fall into multiple minority groups. Women and ethnic minorities are often disadvantaged when seeking roles in the finance field. Business leaders must adopt an intersectional lens and pay more attention to the interplay between the characteristics of ethnicity/race, gender, and social class in their onboarding. To help address this, organizations can:
- Develop a Diversity and Inclusion Policy and create a strategy with quantitative data to meet diverse onboarding goals.
- Expand internship/apprentice programs to train young women in high school and college to teach them about finance and technology and recruit for entry-level positions.
- Encourage employees to invest time (volunteering, speaking, and tutoring) in youth STEM programs to help educate and interact with young people who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you? How does this day tie into your career goals?
International Women’s Day is a day to reflect on the challenges and accomplishments of women throughout history and those who have fought for the equality of so many things I often take for granted. It’s a day filled with pride! I have gratitude for the women I am surrounded by, from my family to my friends and colleagues. This day also is a reminder that although we have come so far, there is still a long way to go.
There is definitely still a long way to go. If you own, manage, or work at a tech or finance company, Ford’s tips are definitely worth trying to implement. There is an amazing generation of young women coming into the workforce, and you won’t want to miss out – this boss knows what she’s talking about.
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