Although the American Dream has inspired many people to call our country home, including Lule Demmissie, President of Ally Invest, not everyone feels as though they can turn that dream into a reality. As a child, Lule was told that other countries had the door firmly closed on opportunity but that America has always left that door slightly ajar.
To her, any door left ajar has the potential to be pushed farther until it is open wide. All it takes is to create momentum through action. The same goes for investing. It’s not about the amount; it’s about putting the financial wheels in motion.
It sounds easy enough. However, financial and investment environments haven’t felt even slightly open to all nor have those behind those environments made the effort to do so. Banking and investing haven’t been the most inviting due to complex processes, products, and terminology. The result is that many give up and walk away, thinking they are not smart enough or worthy to participate.
That’s exactly what Lule and Ally Invest plan to change. Already a prime mover with ten years of experience in establishing and growing the digital banking channel, Ally Invest is now championing investing for all through a simple and connected online experience.
However, Lule isn’t convinced that financial literacy should be the sole strategy to push that door open further. Ally’s focus looks very much like Lule’s personal mantra of a life of simplicity and purpose. Both the bank and its investment arm reach out to customers from diverse backgrounds and offer unmatched ease of doing business. The intent is for customers to enjoy the experience so that they feel more engaged with achieving financial goals rather than be confused and discouraged by the process.
Beyond serving as the first step to encourage more wealth-building for all, those struggling to save or put money aside for retirement have to overcome some mental barriers that have been placed in front of them. Lule notes that she sees a lot of people give up too quickly, assuming they need a considerable amount just to get started and ashamed that they have nothing to show from many years of working. But, to her, it is not about the amount; it’s about just getting started as soon as possible because time is the most important part of wealth-building.
That may sound like those in their 40s who are self-employed with nothing saved may be out of luck. But, those are the type of people Lule and Ally Invest want to reach and assist along with everyone else, of course.
According to Lule, there is no bad starting point. Everyone can create some type of retirement fund buffer for themselves. Just opening an IRA with a small amount is something. Later on, there are ways to catch up on retirement savings. For now, though, opening an account is the momentum starter that is often more important than just focusing on financial education.
This is where community comes in as a key strategy to help a broader umbrella of humanity. In recent years, the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) has grown in size as more people see the value in collaborating on ideas that can help with wealth-building. In joining one of these communities, it is possible to learn how to shrink a cost footprint and get best practices to help change behaviors.
These communities have developed in large part because the financial services industry has not opened itself up to the different voices that need to be involved in the investment conversation. Lule and Ally Invest have already joined the dialogue and encourage more within their industry to empower more people to invest.
Money Champion Moment
Lule comes from an immigrant family many of which are now growing up, attending college, and entering the workforce. Her nephew, who has graduated college and is now an engineer, sought his aunt’s assistance. He wanted to know what she thought about his plan to keep all his cash in a savings account until he reached a certain amount and then would open a 401(k).
Her thought was it was a better way to access the money should he need it rather than pay fees to get it. Lule didn’t agree. She wanted him to start his retirement savings now, so she helped him by putting money in his savings if he would put the other money he had in a 401(k) now and not touch it. Here, Lule lived by another one of her mantras, which is you need to give people the carrot to fill the cup. Now, her nephew is saving money for his current needs in a savings account and for his long-term needs in a 401(k), which he wouldn’t have done if he didn’t have the support of his aunt to show him.