Till Financial, a free family banking app that launched in 2019, is focused on making children better spenders. Tom Pincince, 57, the Boston company’s CEO and founder, said he found through his experiences with his family that the best way to teach children about finances is to let them take part. The future of the economy hinges on the next generation of entrepreneurs, Pincince said, and platforms like Till can help prepare them “to take this world to the next step.”
Anyone over the age of 18 can create a family account on Till. A user can then invite other family members ― including children, grandparents, aunts, and uncles — to join. The company works with Plaid, a tech firm that allows users to securely transfer money from a bank to a Till account. The app offers children access ― through their parents ― to a debit card setup. Parents decide how much money to allow on the card, and can also set up other features aimed at encouraging responsible saving and spending.
Till makes its money through small transaction fees, Pincince said. It also works with brands to offer discounts on products that users set goals to save for, as well as with banks for young people who transition into college and future jobs.
There’s a lot at stake: Till’s target demographic, ages 8 to 18, accounted for 49.5 million people in the US in 2020.
This interview with Pincince was edited for length and clarity.
What did you do before starting Till Financial?
I sort of separate my career into two halves. The first half was for deep technology, with companies that were part of the early Internet infrastructure like security, voice, and video. But the second half was much more mission-based. My last company [Digital Lumens] was one of the first clean tech companies in Boston. It’s clear that you can do well and do good at the same time, and Till was based [on] trying to understand how to better prepare my own children for a dynamic and ever changing economy.
How would you describe Till to someone?
Many times when people think about how to prepare young people for a dynamic and changing economy, they think it’s about teaching savings, but really, we think that financially independent kids have to be better spenders. The thesis was that very much like you can’t learn to play baseball by watching it on TV or reading the stat sheets, you need to get into the game and actually play if you want to hit the fastball. The idea is that this is a learning-by-doing experience, where you have a fee-free account and a debit card where kids can learn to spend, spend responsibly, and do that in collaboration with their family and parents.
Why do you think financial literacy for the younger generation is so important?
It’s one of the key skills to be a member of society. It gives you opportunity, it gives you sustenance and foundation. We thought there was an opportunity really to engage young people early. The economy comes rushing in the moment a screen is in front of a young person, and being able to both fend off, parry, and participate are important characteristics to a young person being an active and proficient member of society.
New businesses started by young people have sprung up during the pandemic. How does Till fit in there?
When I was young, everyone wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer, and now kids want to be an entrepreneur. When we did user and family interviews, it was amazing how many young people had already built small businesses [and were] ready to go. What we saw, of course, is that trend became accelerated during COVID. It’s what they want to do, this sort of drive for independence and meaning in someone’s life.
How are people using the app?
We’re getting siblings, two or three kids, in the family. Then this idea of community, aunts and uncles, and friends in the community that act like relatives, they’re all sort of engaged and leaning in to what the young person’s hoping to do. One of our key features is the idea of a goal and the idea of saving something where you can put your own savings in, and the community can match that or give you interest and encourage you to meet those goals.
Ramsey Khalifeh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.