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Kelsey Willock: Helping Individuals Change Their Relationship with Money

Kelsey Willock: Helping Individuals Change Their Relationship with Money


Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Welcome back! Spiffy here, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs working to make this world more equitable. Today I’m super excited to speak with Kelsey Willock, co-founder and CEO of Aura Finance.

Spiffy: Hi Kelsey, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge is Aura Finance addressing?

Kelsey: Thanks for having me, Spiffy. Four out of five Americans suffer from financial anxiety. Robo-advisors’ one-size-fits-all, “set and forget” approach does little for financial anxiety. Aura is the world’s first wealth engagement platform where investors learn to manage financial anxiety and generate passive wealth.

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Kelsey: I graduated college with USD 150,000 of student debt. I had gotten a job at Goldman Sachs, which I thought was the best place to learn about money. But what I didn’t realize was getting into the game wasn't enough because I didn’t know how to play it. It wasn’t until I met Amy, my manager-turned-financial coach, that my outlook changed. She gave me the confidence and guidance I needed to start playing. With her help, I refinanced my debt, started investing, and reconciled my relationship with money. But not everyone has an Amy. It’s no wonder 88% of people under 40 are anxious about money. Two out of five Americans can’t afford to cover an unexpected USD 400 emergency expense. I am building Aura so no one has to start their journey alone.

Spiffy: That’s inspiring! What would you say is the impact of your work?

Kelsey: 88% of people under 40 are anxious about money. Two out of five Americans can’t afford to cover an unexpected USD 400 emergency expense. It’s also a problem for their employers, as they are more likely to miss work and prone to making mistakes. This is a behavioral problem. Anxiety fuels irrational decisions which leads to poor financial outcomes, and the cycle of stress repeats. The problem only worsens for individuals from lower-income communities who don’t have access to the resources that I did. Aura is the first psychology-based financial wellness platform designed to help individuals change their relationship with money by combining behavioral coaching with wealth management for a more holistic and effective experience.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent milestone/initiative by you or your org. What impact does that make?

Kelsey: We work with corporate partners with learning and development (L&D) budgets. They approve Aura as an L&D expense in exchange for us hosting a free workshop. There, we convert employees into Aura users in real time—all for just USD 249 per member. Since shifting to this model in the last two months with Techstars, we’ve already hosted four workshops, including with a public company Amplitude. The reception has been phenomenal with 100% of attendees saying they would recommend the workshop to a friend, 70% saying they felt more confident investing after just 40 minutes, and 33% of attendees already subscribing live. Additional partners include Stripe, Clari, Peloton, and more.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Kelsey: Our team consists of myself, Kelsey Willock—a former Goldman Sachs vice president and financial literacy author, and my co-founder, Courtney Cardin—a lawyer and certified money coach. Our broader team consists of a chief technology officer from Coinbase, a designer from Google, and a healthcare startup product manager. Our advisory team consists of Simon Blanchard, PhD—a leading behavioral psychologist at Georgetown University, and Christine May, PhD—the Former Head of Behavioral Psychology at Noom. While our team's previous work experience makes us well-suited to build this solution, our life experiences make us deeply and personally able to understand the problem. We’re building the product we wish we had at the beginning of our journeys.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Kelsey—it’s been an honor!

Kelsey Willock is the co-founder and CEO of Aura Financea financial wellness platform and investment platform. She is also the author of the weekly newsletter "Not Your Boyfriend's Investment Advice." Kelsey began her career at Goldman Sachs, where she was a member of the prime brokerage business as a relationship manager for the firm’s top hedge fund clients. In addition, she was an ambassador for Launch With GS, Goldman Sachs’ USD 1 billion investment strategy grounded in the belief that diverse teams drive strong returns. Kelsey is actively involved with WISE (Women Investing for a Sustainable Economy) and Women in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), and is an executive committee member of Wake NOW (the Wake Forest Network of Women). (First published on the Ladderworks website on March 2, 2024.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2024 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Sujit Kunte. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.