Good morning everyone.
Our portfolio company Stackin has released a new app focused on helping people reduce their anxiety around money.
I know this is a big problem as my friend Morgan Housel wrote a massive financial best seller titled ‘The Psychology Of Money‘.
Tom, the CEO of Stackin, wrote this piece below introducing the app and benefits. If not for you, please share with all your genz and millennial friends.
I’m absolutely thrilled to announce the launch of Stackin’s financial wellness app for iOS and Android.
Stackin’ is tackling what I believe is one of the most vexatious challenges we face in our modern world — our relationship with money.
As with any relationship it requires work. And this one is a hot mess of societal expectations, social media FOMO, banal advice and all shaken up with that classic dichotomy between the person we wish we were with who we actually are.
The driving force behind this service issue is anxiety around money. On almost every metric it’s off the charts. More than twice as many Americans suffer from money anxiety than obesity. The stress caused by money anxiety wrecks relationships, careers and our health. Financial related stress is linked to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, migraines, sleep problems, depression and more.
When we first started digging into this problem we carried the same assumptions I think of lot people do: Lack of money causes money anxiety and so the simple solution is just to get more money, right?
Well, as we got further in we ran into problems with this hypothesis. Some specific examples:
- When we looked at the impact of the US’s extraordinary direct-to-consumer stimulus payments for the COVID pandemic we’d expected to see a corresponding drop in financial anxiety. In fact we found the opposite. People who described their financial health as “Somewhat Unhealthy” and “Very Unhealthy” rose from 13% and 9% to 21% and 17% respectively.
- We started filtering our research into studies that looked at people in the top half of the income distribution to try and uncover drivers for the anxiety above and beyond just lack of money. Time and again we found research like this: One-third of Americans earning more than $250,000 feel like they live paycheck-to-paycheck.
It was at this point that it hit us: It wasn’t lack of money that was causing this anxiety. It was something far more personal and persistent for these individuals.
Performing user interviews we’d encounter people time and again who had taken years to get out of debt but within a short period of time found themselves right back in it. Or people who saved religiously and had investment accounts larger than a years worth of their salary, but would crumble at the first sign of an unexpected bill or go on punishing themselves to put aside every last cent they could.
We realized at this point that what we‘d uncovered was not a finance crisis, but a health crisis.
People’s beliefs around money are formed very early on in their lives. Research suggests that most are formed between the ages of 6–10 years old. These beliefs are then embedded deep in our limbic system. Similarly to other limbic responses they control our behaviors in ways that are outside our traditional consciousness. No matter how hard we can try and act in a rational manner, if this action goes against our natural limbic response our limbic response always wins.
If you grew up in a family with a history of money worries it’s likely that you’ll exhibit behavior that we title Money Protection, or if you experienced a negative change in your family’s financial circumstances early in your life more likely to exhibit Money Romance behaviors.
Without diagnosing and then working out how to manage and harness these limbic reactions we can never take back control.
This is why advice such as “just make a budget!” or “track your spending better!”, although well meaning, never helps fix the problem. In fact they can actually make the situation worse as to fail at what seem like such simple tasks can spur more negative emotion further increasing despondency and a lack of general confidence.
The final point I’d like to leave you with is perhaps one of the least well understood but most impactful in all of this.
Almost everyone working in finance tends to focus only on the left tail of changes to a person’s financial situation i.e. helping them weather negative financial shocks — receiving an unexpected bill or losing their paycheck.
But in our opinion the right hand side might actually be the more important. This is about ensuring that everyone has the attitude, perspective and behavior in place to maximize the positive changes to their financial situation.
One of my favorite statistics is that you’re more likely to go bankrupt if you win tens of millions on the lottery than if you don’t. If we don’t fix this right side then social mobility will continue to decay and millions of Americans are consigned to never reaching their full potential.