College students today, born between 1994-1998, grew up alongside technology. They typed, clicked, and searched their way out of early schooling and into universities, where research papers are written devoid of any help from a research assistant at the library. They are a different breed of college students, what we like to call “digital natives.” It is unsurprising that college students today rely on technology to support various parts of their lives: Uber, for rowdy nights out on the town, Amazon Prime, for the oh-crap-I-forgot-to-buy-toothpaste free overnight delivery, and fintech apps to help manage their financial assets. Quite simply, fintech apps are the only way college students know how to deal with their finances.
Venmo - The Mooch Eraser
The Situation: You and a few friends decide to escape the dining hall for a Friday night splurge at the local sushi restaurant. Two sushi boats later, the waiter plops the check down. The table conversation comes to a startling halt as eyes search for the sucker - the buddy willing to pay for the table’s bill and comply to the arduous task of collecting cash and checks. As eyes are wandering looking for the next volunteer-as-tribute, your friend next to you quickly stands up, “Hey, I gotta dip early, will you cover me? I promise I’ll pay you back.” A few weeks later, you are caught staring at a wad of cash you don’t want to carry, paired with a bubbling resentment toward a friend who still owes you $23.
Insert Venmo: College roommates Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail were very aware of the “mooch” scenario and wanted to eradicate the hassle of writing checks to friends. So, they created Venmo, the free digital wallet that sends payments from one smartphone to another. Venmo was founded in 2009 and now has 197 million users.
Today: Venmo easily connects friends with social media accounts, making large dinner bills easily divisible, cabs easily sharable, and friend mooches easily erasable. There’s no such thing as an I.O.U. for college students of 2017. Instead, there is a non-negotiable push notification from a friend who says you owe them. Annnnnd they want to be paid back. Now. They can even ask for the money with a smile (emoji). Once that notification is sent, for everything ranging from a $4.50 Philz Ginger Snap coffee to $450 tickets to next year’s Coachella, it will be taken from money collected in Venmo or drawn straight from the bank account connected to a debit card. Having a Venmo account means you are accountable and can hold your friends accountable as well. Ultimately, Venmo is preemptive: stopping quarrels between friends who are sick of “covering” or “taking one for the team.” Within instants, the “sucker” at the dinner table can have his money back into his bank account. No harm, no foul. Just fintech helping friends get along.
Tilt - The “Make It Happen” Cap’nN.B. Tilt has since been acquired by Airbnb and is no longer available.
The Situation: Your fraternity wants to get party buses for your next formal. You announce the idea and everyone is pumped. But after further review, there is absolutely no wiggle room in your social budget. Devastation. Images of rolling up with the squad in a pimped-out ride are quickly replaced with divided, standard Uber Xs. There’s no way you would be able to pool that kind of money on such short notice. Mostly, you don’t want to deal with the hassle of collecting and organizing money.
Insert Tilt: Founded in 2012, Tilt has been turning every friend group’s craziest and last minute ideas into a reality. It’s Kickstarter and GoFundMe wrapped into a cheaper, more Millennial-friendly package. While other crowdfunding apps charge a 5% fee, Tilt is free when connected via debit card. Since its beginning, Tilt has helped more than 500,000 groups, most of which are college students.
Today: How does it all work? An idea is born, a minimum is set, social media accounts are blasted, money is collected securely, and contributors are tracked and charged once the goal is achieved. Using Tilt, one man crowdfunded $50,000 to build of an entire elementary school in India, a small town paid for Foo Fighters to perform, and plenty of college fraternities have successfully started the party in the right way: party busses. College students can easily organize and pool money. Many sorority and fraternity chapters turn to Tilt to reach their fundraising goals at philanthropy events. Student groups, like dance ensembles and a cappella groups, use Tilt to pay for theater space or extra costumes. Student publications rely on Tilt to host events and print written pieces. Tilt is even used in circumstances of desperation: “I cracked my computer screen and can’t afford to get it fixed” Tilt pages frequently flow between college social networks as well. I’ll throw in a few bucks, you think, it’s just a push of a button, anyway.
Mint - The Friend that You All Call “Mom”
Situation: You login to to your Chase mobile banking app, anxious to see how much your net worth has dwindled since last week. It was a BIG week. A spontaneous concert, lots of meals out, and quite a few Ubers later, your heart skips a beat as you internalize the number displayed on your screen. Within minutes, there’s an incoming call from Mom. You already know what she’s going to say: “Did you see this month’s statement?! Explain to me why you spent $43 at McDonald’s on Saturday night.” HOW did I get here? You spend hours writing down your transactions and categorizing them by hand. You’ll figure out a budget, you promise yourself.
Insert Mint: Mint, the ultimate money manager, does all of this for you. Say goodbye to handwritten budgets and long hours calculating, Mint helps individuals create budgets, set goals, manage trends, investments, and much more. Founded in 2006, Mint now boasts of around 20 million users.
Today: College students have a love-hate relationship with Mint. They love it, but sometimes it’s the devil’s advocate they want to ignore. Can I afford to visit my friend three states away? Can I afford to take this unpaid internship? Can I eat out once again? By simply connecting your bank account, Mint can tell you where and how you spend your money through personalized infographics. Mint will spell (or draw) it out for you, loud and clear. If you are over your month’s coffee budget, Mint will let you know. College students use Mint in waves. It is less of an everyday essential and more of a grounding disciplinary. When they feel their finances are getting off track, Mint is pulled in. When they are ready for a soft nudge into adulting, Mint has college student’s backs.
Acorns - The Automated Piggy Bank
Situation: You buy a coffee for $3.85. The barista hands back 15 cents of change with a smile and a slight head nod in the direction of the tip jar. You feel guilty and have no means of carrying the change anyway, so you rashly throw the 15 cents in the jar. As you are walking out, you taste what is supposed to be a non-fat soy latte and realize the barista concocted a beverage devoid of both soy. So much for tipping for good service.
Insert Acorns: Acorns is a free-for-college-students micro investing app. It’s so simple it hurts: connect your debit card, make a purchase, and Acorns will invest that spare change for you. App users can also shop through the feature “Found Money” and get major percentages back. Acorns has over 1 million users.
Today: Acorns is on the rise with college students, especially those who have an inclination to invest early. Piggy banks that usually sit on shelves, forgotten and unloved, can become productive. Acorns rounds each purchase to the nearest dollar and automatically invests that money. It tracks your market gain and loss, giving daily, monthly and yearly updates and graphics. Users can choose their level of investment risk: conservative, moderately conservative, moderate, moderately aggressive, and aggressive. Choose the conservative option and your spare change will be invested in large and small company stocks and both government and corporate bonds. Feeling risky? Choose an aggressive setting and have your pooled change invest in small companies and emerging market stocks. Say goodbye to loose change and tips surrendered out of guilt, Acorns is here to break the piggy bank.
So, what will be next? Fintech innovators need to think of solutions that cater to the “digital native” generation. Dobot, for example, is a money manager built specifically for Millennials. It’s Mint, without the self-motivation; college students do not need to seek the app out. Instead, it sends recommendations and encouragement through text messages. For college students that are present-focused and less inclined to save, fintech apps continue to be the responsible download. College students of 2017 are a less trusting portion of the population today; yet, their trust in fintech is revolutionizing the way they live their lives. By 2027, college students may have even greater trust in bitcoin banking. By then, they probably will not believe banking was done any other way.