Startups are booming like never before. New apps help with both grocery delivery and online gaming. Amid the startup insanity, Kelly Peeler wanted to create a company that made a real social difference. Her target audience: you – the tech-savvy, younger generation. This is also the generation that leaves college with an average debt of $37,000.
NextGenVest.com, founded by Kelly in 2014, aims to combat the problem of student loan debt by partnering students with a “Money Mentor,” a trained college student, over text message, available 24/7. Money Mentors help students apply for federal aid, submit key forms like the FAFSA, search for scholarships, and basically save time throughout the whole process of paying for college. Last year alone NextGenVest saved students $256,000 in tuition costs and facilitated access to an approximate $164,000,000 in federal aid and scholarships.
For Kelly Peeler, NextGenVest is the intersection of her two passions. The first is her desire to empower young people to live their fullest lives. Kelly argues that it is “almost impossible to pursue your true ambitions such as starting a company, working at an art gallery, or working in Africa when you have a huge financial burden after college.” The second, is her knowledge of financial crises, which she studied with experts at Harvard University. She feels that the student loan market could very well be the next financial crisis. Kelly cites that if that happens, “it is the students that will end up getting hurt.”
After college, Kelly began to work at JP Morgan as a financial analyst. However, she quickly began to see that the old way of handling money needed a makeover. For the millennial generation, text messages are chosen over phone calls and Venmo beats walking to the bank when transferring money to a friend. Noting this, Kelly opted to reach out to young people through their phones.
For many high school students, getting into college is the first priority – paying for it is just an afterthought. This is the type of thinking that Kelly Peeler hopes to reverse. The main resource that NextGenVest makes available is its text-based financial aid service – acting as the “cool older brother or sister” that students can text when they have questions about paying for college or figuring out student loans.
Students might have questions that they do not feel comfortable asking in front of other high school students and can get personalized help with a simple text. “We want to be the number one trusted source for students when making money decisions. And we want to guide them through their biggest decision: paying for college,” Kelly explains. Student questions range from “which college is more cost-effective?” to “can you find me scholarships?” to “my parents don’t think we would qualify for aid, is this true?”
While NextGenVest provides personalized support through text and Snapchat, it also promotes financial education throughout the country. NextGenVest trains and certifies college students to hold workshops on paying for college, working with ‘student impact leaders’ in high schools across the country. Kelly explains that “there should be a driver’s license for your money,” so that young people are prepared and informed when they have to make tough decisions.
Kelly Peeler’s goal is to save students time and money so that they are able to do what they are passionate about. When asked what advice she has for young entrepreneurs, her tip is to be self-aware. Once the biggest financial decisions have been made, it is good to take a step back and evaluate what actually makes you happy. “Pick projects that you care about, but don’t overextend yourself,” Kelly advises.
For more information about paying for college or figuring out college loans text NextGenVest’s free service by saying “I want help paying for college” at 646-798-1745.
NextGenVest also offers paid internships to high school and college students. Check them out by clicking here!
Contributor: Olivia Witting