Nightly News   |  March 23, 2014

LearnVest Aims to Make Personal Finance More Accessible

One company is trying to bring wealth management to the masses.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

we´re back with the start of a new series that takes a look at folks who are venturing out on their own and starting businesses in this country. we´re calling it "built for success." and in tonight´s report, we´ll see how one woman is building her business around the idea that just about everyone can benefit from some financial planning . her story tonight from cnbc´s carl quintanilla .

>> man: he has used only one investment formula.

>> quintanilla: if wealth management always sounded like something for the rich...

>> man: they make money the old-fashioned way. they earn it.

>> quintanilla: ...there´s a start-up in new york looking to bring it to the masses.

>> von tobel: financial planning should not be a luxury. it just shouldn´t.

>> quintanilla: it´s called learnvest, and its founder, alexa von tobel, hopes to turn it into the weight watchers of personal finance , where those even those who live paycheck to paycheck have access to a certified financial planner .

>> von tobel: what we´ve done is really focus on this audience that not a lot of people have focused on, and i would argue it´s 99% of the country.

>> quintanilla: the cost? $399 up front and $19 a month. clients get a personalized financial plan , software to track every expense, and their own adviser. but there´s a catch. the advisers often handle hundreds of clients at once, and you can only talk to them by phone or e-mail. the company insists that doesn´t make it any less personal.

>> kirkpatrick: i had a client e-mail me the other day, and she said she and her husband are 8 weeks pregnant. and only the two of them know. they know this is going to be huge for their finances, and --

>> quintanilla: wait. you were the third person to know?

>> kirkpatrick: yeah.

>> quintanilla: learnvest planners don´t sell stocks or mutual funds . that appealed to pia bennett, deep in debt after a wedding and a new house. since signing up with learnvest three years ago, the 39-year-old has started contributing to her 401(k). she puts $500 a month in emergency savings. her nest egg so far -- $13,000.

>> bennett: it really does open your eyes to see how much you spend on groceries and fast food and restaurants and those kinds of -- you don´t even realize it while you´re doing it. and then when you look at the total and how it hits your budget, it´s amazing.

>> quintanilla: how often do they say, "you know what? i´m in deep trouble , and i do not know where to begin?"

>> van tobel: every single time.

>> quintanilla: a reminder, says von tobel, that those with the least money are the folks who need a financial plan the most. carl quintanilla , nbc news, new york.