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Millennial-geared financial adviser expanding nationwide

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. will expand its financial services startup geared toward millennials with a $100 million investment to bring the initiative to 10 more cities in the next three years.

The Springfield insurer, which launched its Society of Grownups in Brookline a year ago, said it plans to open offices in New York and Philadelphia next year, then in southern and western US cities. Society of Grownups holds financial planning classes, supper clubs, and discussions about how to save for a home or afford rent aimed at adults under 40 years old, charging fees that range from $10 for group chats about finances to $100 for a one-on-one, 90-minute sessions with a certified financial planner.

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“We are trying to do something very different, have started from scratch, and have seen real progress,” toward providing millennials with financial services, said Gareth Ross, a senior vice president at MassMutual.

While the initiative is not yet profitable, it has shown signs of success, said Nondini Naqui, the chief executive officer of Society of Grownups. She declined to disclose financial figures, but said the supper clubs, which cost $40 per person, are usually sold out and more than 1,000 people have come to the Brookline office over the past year. So far, 350 people have attended sessions with financial planners, Naqui said. “We’ve been resonating with people,” she said.

MassMutual started Society of Grownups with a $10 million investment in the hope of better understanding the financial needs of millennials so it could design products for them. Like retailers and banks, MassMutual is trying to appeal to consumers who are in their 20s and 30s, an 80-million-strong generation that companies anticipate will have sizeable assets and purchasing power.

Naqui said this first year was a trial period to determine what works. For example, young adults didn’t sign up for classes on homeowners, auto, and life insurance, even with catchy names such as “Wills and Thrills.” But investing classes sold out and customers were eager to sign up for sessions about buying a house and preparing financially to have a baby, Naqui said.

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What this generation wants is information that “relates to their immediate needs,” she said.

Society of Grownups anticipates offering similar classes at other locations. Society of Grownups is also trying to expand partnerships with universities to offer financial planning sessions to graduating students and boost its online offerings with financial calculators and recommendations of products, such as low-interest credit cards, that the startup’s customers can use, Naqui said.


Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.