Alexa von Tobel is the founder and Managing Partner of Inspired Capital. Her passion for entrepreneurship began in 2008 when she started LearnVest, seeking to make financial planning affordable and accessible for everyone. Now, she’s furthering her work in the financial field by supporting the next generation of founders. We recently had the chance to chat with her about her career, investing in your home, and more!
Founder, CEO, New York Times Best Seller - your resume is quite impressive! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My mom always said, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I think the opposite is true - do what you love, and you’ll work 24/7 with no boundaries!
I would sum up my career so far by saying I love what I do. For the past decade, I was fully focused on LearnVest and helping families across the country take control of their personal finances. I built LearnVest from the ground up and the company was acquired by Northwestern Mutual in 2015. Along the way, I wrote two books, Financially Fearless and Financially Forward, to make financial advice accessible. Now, I’m the founder of Inspired Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm in NYC, where I get to spend all of my time helping the founders of tomorrow build businesses. It’s a mission that gets me wildly excited to go to work every day.
What inspired you to start LearnVest during the recession of 2008?
Personal finance is not taught in most schools across the country. When I graduated from college, I realized that I was not alone in wanting to understand how to make smart financial decisions. I started formulating the business plan for LearnVest, and in 2008, when the recession hit, I realized that then—more than ever—Americans were in need of help with their money.
My vision was to provide advice, tools, and support. We built comprehensive financial planning software and gave LearnVest users access to trusted, unbiased advice from financial planners.
You just finished up the second season of your podcast, The Founders Project. As a small business ourselves, we love listening and learning from others. How valuable is collaboration and connecting with other entrepreneurs?
It is critical to have a strong advice network around you. I always say, if you were going to hike Kilimanjaro, you would ask people who had been-there, done-that. When did they go? What did they pack? What would they do differently next time?
The same is true for building a business. I’ve been so fortunate to get advice from people I trust implicitly. My best friend Lucy Deland was one of those peer advisors — she was building Paperless Post when I was building LearnVest. Now, she’s my Partner at Inspired Capital.
On The Founders Project, I’m constantly learning new things from my guests. They have such tremendous experiences and lessons to share—from Jessica Rolph of Lovevery to Bobbi Brown to Carolyn Childers and Lindsay Kaplan of Chief.
What advice do you have for people looking to invest in their home?
When you build a financial plan, you need to make sure it aligns with your goals and values. Right now, I think we value our homes more than ever before. With so much uncertainty in the world around us, we want our homes to feel special.
One of the best pieces of financial advice I’ve gotten is to underspend on your home itself — your mortgage or rent expense is a huge part of your budget. If you can keep it low (aim for under 30% of your take-home pay), it gives you room throughout the rest of your financial life. You’ll have more cash on hand not only to put toward your goals, but also to invest in your lifestyle and the things that bring you joy (like fresh flowers or colorful wallpaper).
What does your home say about you?
I want my home to be a place where people feel at ease. I’m incredibly social and love opening my home to friends and family. The walls and bookshelves are full of items that hold special memories from the last three decades of our lives, so it’s a personal, low-fuss space. I want it to feel as joyful to guests as it does for my family.
Walk us through how you styled the Emma Sky Tablecloth and Frida Blue Napkins.
We have a house outside of the city, and when we’re there, we spend all of our time outdoors—breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m extremely visual, so I love to set the scene. I am obsessed with the Emma Sky Tablecloth and Frida Blue Napkins. They make for a fun, elevated moment (even al fresco).
What tips do you have for entertaining with three little ones running around?
You have to just go for it! Life is messy (especially with three children under age 5!), but I love nothing more than family get-togethers. There’s always at least one meltdown, but I wouldn’t trade those times for the world.
WFH is creating all sorts of challenges for families. How are you finding time to separate work from family life?
Working from home has definitely blurred the line between work time and family time. In so many ways, Covid has reset a lot of time I spent running around the city between meetings, commuting to the office, the list goes on. It’s given me so much quality time with my family and means that I never miss bedtime. On the flip side, there are of course the Zoom interruptions we’ve all become accustomed to! I think work and family life being blended together is authentic to any working parent. This year has reset our expectations and allowed us to bring our full selves to work.