When discussing trailblazers in the fintech space, Tanya Van Court is a name that is expected to come up in conversation.
The Goalsetter founder has been working tirelessly as a leader to not only spread knowledge of the importance of financial literacy but also backing initiatives that directly support Black and brown communities. As previously reported by AfroTech, Goalsetter and Robert F. Smith launched One Stock. One Future. — an initiative to spearhead financial freedom for the next generation of Black and LatinX Americans.
With the success behind her platform, Van Court is also no stranger to the whirlwind of a journey that attaining financial wellness can bring. After seeing her own fair share of how the lack of financial education can leave a devastating impact, she’s a believer that there’s still room to turn in the right direction toward the ultimate goal of financial freedom.
“There is no shame in realizing that perhaps you aren’t as well equipped as you thought you were, and it is never too late to start applying new knowledge and developing new habits, not just for yourself, but for the financial well-being of your children and their children as well,” Van Court said.
In AfroTech’s latest chat with the entrepreneur, she openly shared her own personal financial journey, the highs and lows of building her platform, and key advice for building generational wealth.
AfroTech: I would like to learn more about your journey before creating Goalsetter and all of the success and testimonials that have come from it. Before you became a founder and CEO, how was your relationship with your own finances?
Tanya Van Court: I love this question because people are always surprised when I tell them the story. I graduated from Stanford with a double major in engineering and when I was 28-years-old, had a job in Silicon Valley at a tech company that gave me a lot of stock options. I didn’t really know what to do with them, but I saw them growing at a rate that could have me at retirement by 40, so it was exciting.
Then, in 2001, the dot com bubble burst, and I went from having one million dollars to $20,000 in a span of 24 hours. It was devastating. It was also a very expensive lesson to learn, and the reason people are always surprised is because we all make the assumption that just because someone is educated or is really good at their own job, this isn’t something that could happen to them. The truth is, the vast majority of people in this country do not know the basics of personal finance and establishing financial wellness or the heavy cost that simple things like their credit score can have on their finances.
Like any other issue that has a social or economic impact, the lack of financial education in the United States is something that affects communities of color at a much higher rate. And that’s a large part of why my 28-year-old self decided on that day that I would not let the same thing happen to my own children — which has now become a commitment beyond my own children to every Black child in our country.
AfroTech: In a previous interview with AfroTech, you stated that “never before in the history of America has there been a Black woman-owned tech and financial education company that is targeted at our children.” When it comes to being the first to do something, there are always highs and lows. What have been a few of your own with building Goalsetter?
Tanya Van Court: I think all entrepreneurs go through the same process where they start with a dream and an idea and as it develops, it becomes bigger and bigger because the possibilities start to become limitless.
My low: Realizing the profound injustice of the VC ecosystem in funding Black entrepreneurs in America.
My high: Having a woman-led VC fund (Astia) lead my Seed round and a Black-led VC fund (Seae Ventures) lead my Series A round. Having investors and a Board who not only back me but who clear entire forests to make sure that we have a runway to launch our plane.
My high: Seeing so many individual instances of kids like 13-year-old Tseday who said that Goalsetter teaches her things about money that she never thought she was supposed to know. She said that she thought money was all about saving some and spending some, but now know
that it’s about frugality, compound interest, and the Rule of 72.
My high: Seeing enough Tsedays to realize that we are now at a point where we truly have the potential to change the lives of millions of Black kids across the country so that they collectively wake up 30 years from now and are talking to their friends about their portfolios and their investments.
My high: Being recognized by the Fintech Breakthrough Awards as the best personal finance app of 2022. I always told people that we had the best app in the industry, but not enough VC funding to market it, and it was great to have an independent and objective perspective to validate that it wasn’t us — it was them.
AfroTech: While the Internet has provided access to a lot of essential information regarding financial wellness, a lot of misinformation exists as well. Are there any myths that you feel like you and your platform work to dispel?
Tanya Van Court: We really need to dispel the myth that saving your money is the key to achieving financial wellness or wealth. No one ever saved or spent their way to wealth. Wealth is created through investment and diversification of assets, and people shouldn’t be learning how to work for
money but rather, how to make money work for them. Part of that is understanding simple terms like compound interest and the rule of 72. The more people understand how they can multiply their wealth, the better off they will be in the long run.
AfroTech: The main mission behind Goalsetter is to spread financial knowledge to our community and especially starting young with the youth. But, as you’ve been building out your platform since its launch, what’s something that you yourself have learned that you initially didn’t know and you believe others should know too?
Tanya Van Court: As I mentioned previously, the lack of financial education in this country is vast and runs across all demographics of education, age, race and gender, with some groups being more affected than
others, but overall, it is a problem. One of the key moments that I witnessed was when I started to hear from parents that their kids were coming to the dinner table with financial knowledge that was foreign even to them. This realization is what led us to start offering employers the opportunity to provide our app to every member of the family – parents and their kids, too. We did a rollout of our employee benefits program with employees of US Bank, and 92 percent of employees said they prefer learning about financial education through Goalsetter than through classroom learning.
So, I guess what people should know is that America has not provided financial education to anyone in our country for the past 100 years, and now is the time for us to right the ship for every American — kids, young adults, and older adults, alike. There is no shame in realizing that perhaps you aren’t as well equipped as you thought you were, and it is never too late to start applying new knowledge and developing new habits, not just for yourself, but for the financial well-being of your children and their children as well.
AfroTech: The words generational wealth comes up a lot in Black and brown communities, but I feel like there’s a lot of people who may only know the surface level definition of what it entails. In your perspective, what does the term mean to you, as well as what are a few key tips you would be able to offer when it comes to obtaining it?
Tanya Van Court: There is a startling statistic that not enough people know: 70 percent of middle-class African-Americans are projected to have a child that falls out of the middle class. There’s a famous saying that goes, “The first generation makes it, the second generation enjoys it, and the third generation squanders it.” Building generational wealth means ensuring that regardless of where your family is in its lifecycle of upward mobility, you should be instilling in them the skills, tools and behaviors that will ensure they will pass this knowledge on to future generations so that they are able to build wealth and legacy.
When we learn to do that, we are freeing our communities from the shackles of debt and scarcity and giving them the financial freedom to secure their education, their health and their ability to prosper for decades to come, all of which are critical to achieving the racial justice we are seeking.
For many, that means getting real about your financial situation and not burying your head in the sand. Take a good look at where you stand and then build a plan to move toward those goals. If you are not sure where to start, get a financial adviser.
Many people believe that financial advisers are only for the wealthy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Financial advisers are available to anyone and they are a great resource for getting a plan together and keeping you on track. Half the battle is seeing a path forward; from there it gets much easier.