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Ask the Financial Expert: Taylor Burton

Mar 21, 2024

John Hupalo, host of MyCollegeCorner’s podcast, recently sat down with Taylor Burton, co-founder and CEO of Till Financial, who explores his company’s concept of “growing smart spenders”, a unique take on financial advice that prioritizes teaching children the value of learning how to spend over knowing how to save.

To see the full interview: Insert link

JH:         This is My College Corner’s “Ask the Expert series”. I’m your host, John Hupalo. Today, we’re turning the corner a little bit to intersect with a very cool fintech company. They’re on a mission to help kids make better money choices. The company is Till Financial. My guest is the co-founder and CEO Taylor Burton.

TB:         Thanks so much for having me, John.

JH:         I saw a description of Till that said that Till is a collaborative family banking platform that helps create smarter spenders. That makes a great marketing thing. But what does it mean? And what is Till all about?

TB:         It’s a great question and I’m glad you’re kind of pressing us on it, because sometimes it’s tough to get that message out in a one second ad or a quick passing by of two parents chatting.

At its core, Till is an app and debit card family banking platform. We’re intending to be a kid’s first debit card experience. But specifically, creating smarter spenders through collaborative family banking goes back to the core of why my co-founder Tom and I started this company. We are on a mission to help families navigate the perils of introducing their young people to the financial system.

And through the research that we’ve done talking to families, interviews, the threads that started to pull forward were that it actually takes a village to create a successful financial young person at launch. And specifically that some of the old ways that we were doing things, you know, three jars, socking money under a mattress, being afraid of credit cards, was actually not going to service kids in the economy that they’re entering. I think that the reality is is that the economy that you and I grew up with was a savings economy, right? Much higher homeownership and things of that nature. But the one that our kids are entering is a spending economy.

So it’s about managing that expense, having control and power over what your monthly operating expense looks like. And that’s why we really put spending at the forefront. What we’re trying to do is have the nuclear family and the broader communities – grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, businesses that a young person might engage with – all collaborate on that financial journey with a young person, and that Till’s the platform that they ultimately do that with.

JH:         It’s very cool that I think the most successful fintechs and edtech companies are trying to change the paradigm a little bit. But you’re not changing a little bit. You’re putting it on its head. We used to talk a lot about savings. You’re talking about being a smart spender. I think that’s really just brilliant. Before we go too much further, where’d the name Till come from?

TB:         It’s one of these founders’ dilemmas, right? You’ve spent so much time thinking about the idea. You’ve talked about it to your family to the point where they’re like I don’t want to hear about this anymore. You’ve talked about it with investors, like should I do this? Should I start this? And then when you make the decision to jump and to go do it, then you’re like I gotta name this thing. And that’s really the challenge. How do you have this one word or one phrase to do as much work as possible.

And so we started thinking about what is it that we’re doing. And if I’m being totally honest here, I am not a marketer. But I knew that I would hire a good one at some point. I wanted to give them the opportunity to have something short, direct, that both parents and kids could associate with. I don’t know if you remember walking into a soda shop and seeing the till or the register, but that’s kind of the jumping off point. And then we thought that there were different ways that we could play with the word, preparing you “till launch”, getting you ready to save “till you leave” the household, things like that down the line.

JH:         One of the other connections that I made, I love the way you talked about growing smart spenders. So I thought, well, it could be a “tilling the soil” kind of thing, you know. Does that actually make sense?

TB:         100%.

JH:         You’re laying the groundwork, the seeds. It’s just brilliant. I always love to know how these names are generated.

Hey, before we go any further, I’m also always interested in the sort of founder’s story. You have a great background with work at Drizly and eBay, PayPal and all that. How did you find your way with Tom to start Till?

TB:         So I’m not sure if you know this, but Tom and I are related. So you’ve actually got a family banking platform started by a family. Tom taught me how to shave way back when. He’s my uncle. And he’s someone that I’ve looked up to my entire life. You know, you can’t pick your family, but you can certainly get lucky with some of the individuals and Tom was mine. He was someone that I watched from early in his entrepreneurial career spanning to where it ended up. And I always thought, man, I wanted to work for that guy someday.

But as I grew in my career and skillset, and as Tom went down his path, we actually kind of came back together, and it became more of how can we work together. And finding the right type of thing to do together that made sense. And Tom’s product-minded, “been there, done that” skill set with my partnership, growth revenue-driving skill set were really a good match on this one. I worked in ad tech, I built in-launch platforms there, I’ve worked in fintech, and then I’ve done the large scale direct-to-customer businesses. It became like a “right time, right place” scenario where we both had interest in a similar topic. We both thought that we could bring differing skillsets to the table. So it was a conversation that happened pretty quick over a three-month period.

JH:         That’s really cool. For the record, I met Tom riding a bicycle. I too have followed his career and admire a lot of what he’s done over a career. And I think for you and for Tom, kudos to both of you for recognizing the need for complementary skills. But I also think as businesses, we’re in the same boat. We have mission-driven companies. Our mission-driven companies want to help people do the right thing. But there are always barriers involved with trying to do that. When you talk about the business aspect of this, and we want to look at it from that perspective, you start thinking about, well, who’s the target market? Who’s my consumer and what are the challenges of getting at that consumer? For Till, who is the consumer and how are you accessing them?

TB:         That’s a great question, John. And we could spend an hour just talking about that alone. I think you identified, just on the outset of this, there’s an ethos attached to what we’re doing. And I think that the 17 folks that work at Till all are aligned on that. We want to do good while doing good. But the reality of running a for-profit business is you do have to make money. And I think all of that rolls back into how do you acquire customers? And how do you target the right customer?

In our world, we’ve really got kind of three constituents of customers. We have, obviously, the child, but the parent is also a customer of ours. And then when it comes to how we actually meet them and acquire them, we operate in a B2B2C fashion. While some of our customers come off the street and find us by watching a podcast or reading an article, a majority of them come through partners. And we typically partner with businesses that intersect with kids and parents at key life moments. So when you get your first cell phone, when you go on a student trip to Washington DC, when you join a sports league for your youth sports experience, those are the types of partners that we’re looking for in the ecosystem and that’s ultimately how we target them.

JH:         I want to go back to what we talked about before because I just think it’s absolutely brilliant when you talk about building smart spenders. That’s a process. You just talked about that a little bit, of the entry point, how you connect with the parent. But what your promise is, and this is a big bold Till promise, your promise is you’re gonna help parents connect with their kids in a way that they haven’t done before, to actually lay the foundation for that child to be a smart consumer.

At Invite Education and My College Corner, we intersect with the high school senior, the junior, about to launch into the world and we’re trying to help them make good, smart choices about the very first big spend they’ll ever have, which is college. So, the real question, I think, for you is where do you want that first intersection to be? How old is that student? And how do you make and keep that promise to the parent that you actually have a process that’s going to help that student get to that end result?

TB:         I think, stepping back, one of the first things that we realized with all the research that we did is parents’ biggest challenge is answering that question. Where do I begin? Where do I start? What’s the first conversation look like?

I think research indicates that kids start to have financial acumen around seven years old. So they start to form their financial thoughts. They understand that things cost, I’d argue, like my kids are starting that at 3 1/2 and 4 right now. They think there’s unlimited money involved. But I think that the right number is when you get the brick of responsibility. You know, just to hold it up, it’s this thing, right? As soon as your first cell phone, that’s when the economy comes rushing in. That’s when you start to get targeted legally or illegally based off of COPPA laws.

But that’s when we want to have parents start to have those conversations at the latest. I think that starting to think about savings prior to that probably makes sense. But anywhere from 10 to 12 is our kind of ideal entry point. And then, obviously, there’s other kind of later stages that we can also enter, but that makes the most sense.

JH:         The very first step in the economic chain to becoming a consumer is actually making choices. And I’ve seen a lot of research that says it’s actually even kids in strollers seeing their parents making choices in a store and putting down, it used to be a credit card, but now they’re sort of tapping with their phone, but that is actually the first sort of glimmer of “oh, there’s something, there’s a trend”. They know there’s a transaction going on. They don’t know it’s a transaction, but they see it. And so what you’re saying is the first time they’re really cognitive about that is around that time. But then very soon after that, some of them have a phone in their hand and they are legitimate consumers at that moment.

TB:         You see them on the subway, the city kids. The ones that you’re like how young is this person that’s riding in the subway by themselves? You know it, it happens quick.

JH:         Tell us about the app. How does the app work?

TB:         It works like you’d expect it to from a banking application, except significantly better because it’s purpose is built for a family. I think that we’ve all felt the frustration of banking with our partners being on the same account and not really having tools to interact and engage. I think that it’s primarily because the macro banking ecosystem was built for a single user profile. And when you have banks that are processing billions, if not trillions, of dollars, disrupting that flow with advanced application architecture means they’re losing money on the learning time of that, which is why this space that we’re in at Till has been so underserved for so long.

So what we do is we kind of pull that experience out. There’s a child experience where you can see your balance, create savings goals, see tasks that your parents might want you to complete to get allowance, as well as have direct deposit for maybe your first job. And then the parents have a companion app, and that’s what they use to fund the account. They take their personal debit or checking account and fund what we consider like a parent wallet, and then they can push those funds instantaneously to their young person. They can track spending. And that I think also leads into what type of controls does that parent have.

And just like a snowflake, every single family is different. The comfortability on what they want and don’t want to control is different. You can control that from the parent app experience within the Till ecosystem.

JH:         And how do people find your app? Where do they look, in the stores I’d imagine?

TB:         Yeah, iOS and Android App Store. You can find us at or .com as well. But when it comes to how a consumer in the wild finds us, it’s actually typically being introduced via a partner. So whether that’s a student tour operator, whether that’s the youth sports league that you belong to, or whether that’s one of our adult financial institution partners, that’s where we’re showing up.

JH:         You know earlier we talked about fintech and edtech and for those who don’t follow this as closely as you and I do, can you spend a moment to just tell us what the difference is? It seems like you have a foot in both camps. But you’re more of a pure fintech when it comes right down to it. Is that right?

TB:         Yeah. Looking at the words fintech and edtech, when I think about fintech, that’s how do I make my money work smarter for me. How do I use technology to make that financial ecosystem work better for me as an individual?

When I think about edtech, it’s not about my money. It’s about my brain. How do I make my brain work smarter by leveraging and using technology?

And you’re exactly right. We’re the intersection of both. Both your conscious and subconscious mind when you’re making decisions as it pertains to financial outcomes. So when I think about “how do we play?”, I think our learning-by-doing mantra skews a little bit more edtech, but from a tactical perspective, you’re leveraging a fintech platform, if that makes sense.

JH:         Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. And it actually is a perfect segue into how we want to make this collaboration work and we both see the same thing which is it takes both of those. You need the money and you need the education.

My College Corner/Invite Education really started as a place providing tools and services to the fintechs and the banking system and then backfilling that with content. So our dream when it comes to having a great collaboration with you guys is that we’re able to find ways to transfer the message and the education around financial spending into your ecosystem. It’s the left or right side brain. A great way to do what we talked about before as complementary. It’s a partnership.

What’s your dream or hope for this collaboration?

TB:         We’re not the content experts. We’re the learning-by-doing experts, and we’re making sure that the product that we’ve put in your hands works every time and that kids don’t have that “oh geez” moment where their card gets declined at checkout in front of their friends without a parent around.

So we look to find partners like My College Corner that are strong on the content side and that have a clear mission and message around that to bring in and work with us. And I think that part of knowing what you’re good at and what you’re not good at is crucial for any type of successful partnership because it really makes sure that the swimming lanes are well-defined and understood and that both sides of the business are getting whatever they want out of the relationship. And then ultimately, the consumers we both collectively serve are the winners.

JH:         Right, and to take the water analogy a little bit further, as entrepreneurs, we know we can’t boil the ocean. We’ve got to find some little part of it that we want to be really good at and find places where others are doing work that’s complementary.

So I have one other question for you. It’s the dilemma of being a B2B2C, that is, we’re dependent on someone in the middle to help us get to the consumer. And we struggle, frankly, with how do we get the metrics around our success. What got me onto this is when you were talking about maybe a success moment is when the kid is there and something happens and they feel empowered and educated enough to fix the financial problem themselves. I would imagine that’s a marker of success.

What are some of the other markers of success for you when you’re thinking about what you want parents to be able to achieve? And then, is there something else that you want the students to get out of their experience with Till?

TB:         I think that it all comes back to feedback. I think that, as a business, Till does a great job talking to customers. We talk to our customers every single day, every single week, across the different demographics that leverage our platform. And I said it earlier, our customers and families are like snowflakes. They are all different. And I think that while their needs are different, their wants are all aligned, which is I want to help my kids start their journey, I want to have my kid have a better opportunity at launch than I did, and I want to know that they’re safe and secure. And I think that what we want to do is make sure that we’re checking the box across those three categories with with all these families as we’re going.

I think the other piece that we spend a ton of time thinking about is when we get notes back from whether it’s a rating in our App Store, or we have a message that goes out that’s an automated one that we get fantastic responses on, and families letting us know how they’ve used our platform.

Oftentimes it’s in ways we didn’t expect. Someone just tagged us in a LinkedIn post. It was a big picture of a Lego set, and it was this long story about my kid really wanted this, he was getting 25 cents, 50 cents a task to complete. And it started slow, but it started to build up when he saw the success. And when he purchased it, it was just this really core memory moment that we created. And he tagged us and he’s like “hat tip, Till”. And it wasn’t like a Till ad. It was very much about his experience, but we were like the little total piece of it.

That’s what I want. That went around the company internally and everyone’s like, “yeah, let’s go. We did it.”

JH:         Congratulations! It is those unscripted, unexpected things that come up somewhere in a feed. If anybody has any question about why we’re on this mission, just take a look at this. That’s really fantastic.

We could probably talk all day, but I want to get us to a point where we know that we covered what we want to cover. But more importantly, was there anything else that we ought to just talk about? Did I miss anything when I was asking some questions? I think this collaboration is just awesome. But I do want to make sure that we leave on a really great note with what this is about and what is important to you.

TB:         I think that there’s a lot of noise in the financial education space. I think that there’s a lot of different opinions, valid and otherwise. And I think that we’ve kind of been trained to expect certain things.

We started Till for a reason, and that was to help young people and families, regardless of their socioeconomic status, be able to be participants in the US economy. Do so in a way that allowed them to prosper, but also do so in a way that prepared them for some of the pitfalls that we know folks are facing. You’re seeing upwards of 35% of 18- to 35-year olds living in a house owned by or subsidized by their parents today. This isn’t the ‘70s anymore, where homeownership is attainable for everyone. But I think that folks that can build and support in this space should be thinking about how they’re deploying that product.

And so when I see things like fee-based monetization of what should be a free product, it’s kind of a cringey thing for me. We want to make sure that it’s clear to not just the folks that are listening to your podcast, but also anyone that you would engage with from a business perspective, know that Till is for everyone, not just the top 20% of Americans. And in a time when there’s more socioeconomic mobility than we’ve ever seen before, we want Till to be a great freeway for those consumers to start their journey.

JH:         That’s really awesome again. More than anything, this collaboration we’re doing I think is going to be just a great opportunity for all of us to learn more about what it is that our customers want and how we can provide for them. And what you said, it’s just absolutely critical, people need a safe place to go where they’re not going to be spammed all day long, where they know that they’re getting really good expertise.

Somebody actually called me the other day. We were bemoaning the fact that parents believe that they should get a lot of this kind of advice for free. And the line that was drawn that I thought was just absolutely brilliant, this fella said to me, “Yeah, but remember, there’s a difference between advice and expertise. And people should pay for expertise.”

The advice, that’s OK, get that for free. But when you need expertise, just take that little bit of time and find the expert. And that’s why at “Ask the Expert”, we’re trying to talk to people like you who are on a mission and want to do the right thing. You’ve got a great product and we wish you all the best with this. And I hope you’ll come back and visit with us again another time.

TB:         Absolutely, John. I’ll be here anytime you’ll have me.

JH:         Thank you so much for taking the time today to be in My College Corner. One last question on the way out. Where can people follow you? Where should they tag you on social media?

TB:         Yeah, @TBurton86 on Twitter. I’m not super active, but I’m definitely a reader. I guess we call it X now, but feel free to link in with me. Anyone in your ecosystem that potentially wants to partner with Till as well. And then obviously the Till app across both the iOS and Android Store.

JH:         Well, that’ll do it for this edition of My College Corner’s “Ask the Expert” with today’s guest, Taylor Burton, co-founder and CEO of Tool Financial. Visit Till at, and follow My College Corner on LinkedIn, Facebook, try our My College Corner YouTube channel as well.

We’ll see you next time on My College Corner’s “Ask the Expert”.