Episode 16

#16 Texting Can Get Students $2.9Bn More in Financial Aid: NextGenVest puts $ in College Millennial’s Pockets

Kelly Peeler, founder/CEO of NextGenVest, is tackling the $2.9Bn problem of unclaimed financial aid in a trillion dollar student loan market one text message at a time. NextGenVest is a free, on-demand, text message service that helps students navigate the complex financial aid and student loan process, NextGenVest is quickly becoming a trusted college money mentor helping millennials become smarter about the first and most important financial decision of their lives.

Notes

Tulipomania by Mike Dash, iBooks

#AskGaryVee by Gary Vaynerchuk, iBooks

How Kat Cole Went From Hooters Girl to Running a Billion-Dollar Brand by Jessica Grose, Lenny

Additional Reading

The Biggest Mistakes in Paying for College by Kelly Peeler, LinkedIn

Millennials, money and changing the world by Kelly Peeler, TEDx Johns Hopkins University

Student Loan Debt Is Leaving Women Broke and Vulnerable by Jill Filipovic, Vice

Student Debt Can Hurt Women More Than Men by Natalie Kitroeff, Jonathan Rodkin, Bloomberg

NextGenVest CEO On What Fintech Startups Can Learn From Uber by Harry Stebbings, TechCrunch

The U.S. education bubble is now upon us by Mohamed A. El-Erian, MarketWatch

This one graph shows why the higher ed bubble may be close to bursting by Katie Hardiman, The College Fix

What We’re Buying With $1 Trillion in Student Loans by Megan McArdle, Bloomberg, 

6 Steps to Becoming a Successful Student Entrepreneur (Infographic) by Kim Lachance Shandrow, Entrepreneur

Student Startup: Why College Is the Perfect Time to Launch a Business by Jessica Ekstrom, Entrepreneur

Find the Right College to Be an Entrepreneur by Delece Smith-Barrow, U.S. News & World Report

The 3 Biggest Challenges of Being a Solo Founder by Aihui Ong, Entrepreneur

How A Founder Who Sold His Company For $100 Million Survived The Brutal, Early Days Of A Startup Alone by Alyson Shontell, Business Insider

The High School Guidance Counselor Shortage by Timothy Pratt, Time

Guest bios & transcripts are available on www.broadmic.com.

Bio

 

KELLY PEELER - Kelly is the Founder & CEO of NextGenVest, a free text message service to help students navigate the financial aid and student loan process. Students leave around $2.9BN on the table every year in free aid because the application process is complex and time consuming. NextGenVest provides students with key financial aid deadline reminders, form annotations, and on-demand help over text message to get more financial aid in high school and beyond.

Kelly has always been passionate about empowering young people to live their fullest lives. As an undergraduate at Harvard she started the International Women in Business Summit and Business Across Borders, a 501c3 to help Iraqi University students rebuild their own economy by starting their own companies.

After graduating from Harvard where she studied the History of Financial Crises, she worked in JPMorgan's Investment Bank covering financial institutions and also as a financial advisor. she was selected as one of the eight Kauffman Foundation Global Scholars, accepted as one of 30 up and coming women in Women In America, named by Goldman Sachs as one of the100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs, and a named a White House #StartTheSpark Ambassador.

Transcript

Kelly Peeler: I want to be number one in the world at building trust with students, as quickly as possible.

Kelly: I'm Kelly Hoey, host of BroadMic. I speak with the most accomplished entrepreneurs, investors, and thought leaders about the issues that matter in building a business. You will get the inspiration as well as the picks and shovels you need to become a better entrepreneur. Be inspired, take action, think broad.

Today we have Kelly Peeler in the BroadMic studio. Kelly is the founder and CEO of nextgenvest.com, a free text message service to help students navigate the financial aid, and student loan process via key financial aid deadline reminders, form annotations, and on-demand help over text message to get more financial aid in high school and beyond. I'm going to talk to her about the development of NextGenVest, designing a user-to-user platform, and reaching millennials. Welcome, Kelly.

Kelly Peeler: Hi.

Kelly: So what influenced you to become an entrepreneur? I want to start there before diving into NextGenVest...

Kelly Peeler: All the way back?

Kelly: But dial it back. When did you know you were entrepreneurially inclined?

Kelly Peeler: I guess it started probably when I was 11. I've always been that super aggressive salesman, starting when I was 11, whether it be a lemonade stand, or I actually started with furniture. So my first company, even though I didn't know at the time, I used to get furniture out of the garbage, refurbish it because I used to watch a lot of Martha Stewart, and then sell it at probably like a 300% margin. So that's how I kind of got my spending money and also worked to pay my way through the high school that I went to and parts of college.

Kelly: Did you ever sell furniture back to the person who'd thrown it out?

Kelly Peeler: Yes, I had actually. Yes, and that is awkward because I was like super sleuthy about it too. I would go to people's houses...I mean they put it out in the garbage, I wasn't stealing or anything. But I would like grout and put a mirror, make it look like really antiquey, and people would pay a lot of money for that.

Kelly: That's hilarious. You know, that just came to mind. So being an entrepreneur, as you said, this is what got you through college. So what's the origin of the story for NextGenVest?

Kelly Peeler: Yeah, sure. So it sort of is a combination of both of my very different but personal passions. So I didn't stop when I was 11. I started a company in college and then also a nonprofit, and I've always been super passionate about empowering young people to live to their fullest potential. So that's on one end of the spectrum, and then on the other end of the spectrum, I'm a huge nerd and really obsessed with the history of financial crises. I studied that as an undergraduate and really kind of dug deep into the student loan market at my senior year of college, and then also my two and a half years at JP Morgan.

And in my opinion, the biggest thing holding students back from living their fullest lives are student loan burdens, which is really what NextGenVest is centered around, is helping students redesign how they engage with money from the beginning, before they've made their biggest financial mistake, which is generally around taking out way too many student loans and not understanding what that will mean for their future lives.

Kelly: I'm going to talk about all of that. Just before we get into though, what were the risks for you in terms of starting businesses in college, and even more particularly starting this business? Because there's a lot of established companies who like the student loan mess as it is.

Kelly Peeler: Yeah, so I would say I had a lot of...it's great to and I would hugely...I talk to college students all the time. It's a really great idea to kind of start the process of thinking about, if you're entrepreneurial and you would consider yourself starting a company, why not in college? There's a safety net there, you generally will have food, you'll probably have housing and there's less downside risk to starting then and at least just exploring.

So maybe it turns out that you're not really an entrepreneur, you're not a founder. Cool, you know that and you can move forward, and you can optimize your strengths. Maybe you're great CFO, maybe you're a great VP of engineering, whatever. I just think it's a great time to experiment with those things, and I was lucky enough to be in a great environment as an undergrad to be surrounded with those people.

That being said, I couldn't continue with one of the organizations that I was part of our founding team with because I needed to like make a living for myself. So that sort of drove me into JP Morgan, where I thought to myself, "I'm interested in financial institutions. I'm really interested in financial crises right after the financial crisis. So I'm really interested in the topic matter and the firm, but then more importantly I really need to make a lot of money as quickly as possible so I can try to start my next company thereafter."

So I saved pretty much every penny, and that was really the motivation to go and take that step. So the risks specifically for me in college were less. It gave me more time to explore. The nonprofit I started was in Iraq, so that was sort of like kooky and out there, and I wouldn't have done that if I was employed at that time.

But personally I came up with my own financial plan of starting this company, and it's a huge financial risk for me personally. I bootstrapped it for the first year and definitely made a conscious decision that I want to bet on myself.

Kelly: So I always say to people, "If you're not your own best investment, I do not know what is."

Kelly Peeler: Exactly.

Kelly: And that's amazing. I think one of these things in terms of entrepreneurship people don't realize...there was an immense amount of power in a W2. There is an immense amount of power that can come from working at a big established company like JP Morgan, where you make contacts, you might meet your first investors, or in terms of gathering all that information.

Kelly Peeler: Yeah, I met my strongest mentors and my first investors at JP Morgan, and I met my problem, my specific problem point there too. So I was very lucky to have the experience to work there.

Kelly: A bunch of smart people who had made really silly decisions with student loans? Is this what you're telling me that you found when you were working on Wall Street?

Kelly Peeler: More, I mean I worked with a few private equity firms that were trying to short the student market, so that kind of made me dig into how does that work. Why is the risk of student loans completely mispriced? Why can't you actually take a direct short position on student loans? And that just got me really fascinated.

In my opinion, this is pretty bold to say, I'm a very huge advocate to say that the next financial crisis will be around the student loan market, after studying them for the past 200 years. So that was really the spark that really threw it over the edge.

Kelly: I do really have to ask this. In my past life, and there's been many past lives careers-wise, but you know, when I started my legal career, I was doing a lot of bankruptcy law. And so these things do fascinate me as well. So maybe it's meeting another Kelly who's fascinated with...

Kelly Peeler: Who's both wearing red lipstick.

Kelly: Very red lipstick and fascinated by financials, of course. But what on earth, particularly for someone who...I graduated from high school, graduated from undergraduate, graduated even law school and I can count down...there's 83, 87, 91 and you're nodding because you know those were financial crises. But that's not your experience. What on earth, what on earth interested you in studying 200 years of financial crises?

Kelly Peeler: Well, I was really lucky to be at Harvard as an undergraduate during the financial crisis, the last one and studying under two prominent financial historians, Niall Ferguson and Emma Rothschild, and I was just completely obsessed with them. So I've always liked history. I always liked economics but the history of economics really was something that I also played a role in as an undergraduate.

So I was there when they merged the departments to create a history of economics and also created, this is also a bit nerdy, the first undergraduate financial crises website, where we published papers. So it was a lot of right timing that I was lucky to be around fantastically smart people. And just during this huge economic crisis that was just unfolding.

Kelly: It was all the nerdy factor. My first trip to London, I had to go see canary wharf to see where the [inaudible 00:09:27] lost their money, because, as a Canadian, that was of course what you do when you go to London. I go to a museum, "Let's see where famous Canadians have lost all their money." So you're a solo founder?

Kelly Peeler: Yes.

Kelly: Now, that's usually not the recommended course of action.

Kelly Peeler: Yup.

Kelly: How have you handled all of that, and why have you chosen to continue being a solo founder?

Kelly Peeler: Yeah, it's just kind of how things happened. And I am also a big proponent of, I want to be number one in the world at building trust with students as quickly as possible. I feel there's two buckets, people who want to be number one in the world at something, and people who work on their strengths and their weaknesses. And I'm kind of a no holds barred person. I want to be number one in the world at something, which means I have to be very self-aware of my own weaknesses.

And so I've come to the terms of...I just delegate quicker. So part of the reason why it's able to work out is I know what my strengths are, and I very well know what my weaknesses are. And I just delegate those to the rest of my team and surround myself with people who are substantially better at my weaknesses than I would be at approving them.

So yeah, it's been a conscious decision, and it's worked really well so far.

Kelly: How big is the team now?

Kelly Peeler: We're four people, and then about 20 interns, I'd say. So we take a very student-focused approach with everything, product, scaling, with getting word out, with thinking about next iterations. So we really consider ourselves to be a community of students.

Kelly: So what's your core competency?

Kelly Peeler: My core competency is really I would boil it down to empathy and being hopefully as well the best in the world at listening to our demo, which is like 16 to 23-24. And I say that because that's really where I see a huge, huge trust void and a huge wide opening for financial services companies, where people just are not listening and they're not empathetic enough to the life of a 17-year-old girl or the life of a 20-year-old guy.

They don't know how they're talking to each other, they're not building product around that, and it's not something that people are not fighting over. It's a huge really valuable group of people, but really, I would say, that we're really great at listening to students.

Kelly: So you said it, you said "product," and that's so key in terms of reaching any audience, but I think particularly with millennials, who...they've grown up in a completely different world, and you're using text message whatever. But what role of knowledge or product development, what did that play in your success so far?

Kelly Peeler: So the way that I think about product is how I can create instances faster than anyone else to get to the right answer. So I would never presume that I would have the right product idea because I just think that's a very arrogant perspective to have. I'm never the smartest person in the room. But we create...we have weekly product sessions where we bring in, every Friday, 20 different high school kids and have them critique every single thing that we're doing. And that's what I mean about listening...

Kelly: Ouch.

Kelly Peeler: Yeah, but that's our approach, which is, "They know better than we do," and that just comes down to listening. I'm not a 17-year-old kid, so I just have to be really good and really quick about observing what they want.

Kelly: Right. Where are you finding these students and these user groups? And tell me more about that. That's fascinating.

Kelly Peeler: Sure, so that's, I would say, our secret sauce a little bit is we...

Kelly: Well, don't give it all away. Just kind of the outside.

Kelly Peeler: And through different organizations like the nonprofit I mentioned that's based in Iraq. I've always been really fascinated and really honed the ability to identify advocates within a community, and then catalyze them, and then motivate them to continue to build out a community for you. So we essentially have student advocates, whether they're setting up NextGenVest clubs in their school or chapters in their colleges.

But students originally sold our education product into high schools for us. So it wasn't me going around to all the different schools that we're in. It was student saying like, "Hey, we align with this mission, and we believe that all students should have this type of information," and they would go bring it to the decision maker within their school. The cool thing now is that's over text message that's transferring into referrals, student-to-student
referrals, which is growing really quickly for us.

Kelly: So how did those first students find you, or how did you find them?

Kelly Peeler: Yeah, so I...

Kelly: Like, what was the first product?

Kelly Peeler: Literally the first way that I found student advocates was I host a conference. And I made it about...I brought together the type of student that I knew would be a great advocate for us, and messaged it directly to something that would be interesting for them. So I had all these people in one room, and then really sold them on the mission of what we were trying to do, and gave them really concrete steps of how to bring it, and spread it, and be a part of the growth of what we want to build.

Kelly: Does that mean...I'm assuming, for so many of these students, there's this sort of excitement of graduation and going off to college but also this sort of looming rock that's going to be over their head?

Kelly Peeler: Yup, I mean, it's honestly terrifying. We get super personal, very anxious text messages from students, where this is like they're the only person in their house...and by the way, now over 70% of our user base is on lower income. So these are students who are dealing with these huge momentous decisions by themselves generally. Twenty percent of high schools also don't have guidance counselors in the U.S. So it's like they're by themselves, so we really are their "money mentor," because there's kind of no one else there.

Kelly: Right, no one else for them to ask about whether or not they're making the right decision at this point, in terms of taking on student loans, financial aid, whatever it may be. And then of course, that also has all sorts of, I would say, a domino financial effect going forward in terms of how and when they choose to pay it off. Right now you're on Snapchat and SMS platforms?

Kelly Peeler: Yeah.

Kelly: Why? Why those two?

Kelly Peeler: Attention, attention graph of students. So I'm a big believer and will be much more vocal about this soon, but I really believe that the time for consumer fintech is right now. Namely because there was a transition between V1 of consumer fintech, which was financial organization, to V2 of fintech, which is financial efficiency.

So speaking for my demo, no one wants pie charts. No one wants where you're tracking, where you're headed. They want a "set it and forget it" approach, which is, "Tell me the minimal amount of things that I need to do, and I'll rely on your trust because I've been talking to you for a while." And that's really where we really sit, which is we're not...we like to think about saving users time, then saving them money, and then providing that in a reliable and efficient way.

So we're saving users time because we're on the communication platforms where they are. We're not spamming them saying, "We're sending you an email, which you don't want to get, to go to our website, which you don't go to because your phone doesn't load fast enough." We're catching them where their attention already is, so it's already organically more pleasant experience for them to engage with us. But really comes back to where attention is.

Kelly: So knowing that their attention is right now on Snapchat and SMS, are you already looking to the day when you're going to have to migrate off of those platforms?

Kelly Peeler: Yes.

Kelly: You know, I laugh about it. We laughed about this before. People are like, "Oh, the kids are on Snapchat." I'm like, "No, no, no. The old farts are on Snapchat now. The kids are going to be exiting that really soon."

Kelly Peeler: Yeah, the grandma effect.

Kelly: Exactly, exactly.

Kelly Peeler: Yeah, 100%. But what we're really building is a profile for a student that they don't have to be bombarded with. And frankly we're platform-agnostic, but we're collecting information from a student, whether it be where they're going to college, what their concerns are, what they're interested in studying, what accounts they already have. But we have that internally, and we're just telling students and guiding them through small nudges.

Not in annoying spams or like, "Learn all this crap." It's small nudges to make their lives easier. And we're really taking a long-term bet that if we can save them time through a really painful experience, hopefully get them more money too by negotiating their financial aid packages, then we will have built that trust with them for other financial decisions too.

Kelly: So how does a student get started with you? If I was like, "Sign me up, Kelly." How do I get started?

Kelly Peeler: Hopefully it's easy as possible, which is not downloading an app, which will take anywhere from 2 to 17 seconds, which is way too much time for a student. They literally have to text into our hotline number, which is 646-798-1745, and they just text in, "I want help." And then they're immediately connected with what we call a money mentor, which is a real person. And they're prompted through different questions to help to really quickly figure out how we can help them best.

Kelly: "What is the real problem?"

Kelly Peeler: The problem, but also, "Are you a junior? Are you a senior?" So we're like hyper focused. I think it's really silly how people are like, "Millennials need help with money." Customization will be the thing. I'd say if there's a fourth thing, saving time, saving money, providing a reliable, dependable service, customization is the next fourth bucket because I don't know what 18-year-old acts like a 33-year-old, or what 33-year-old acts like an 18-year-old. But they certainly don't act the same way or care about the same things about money. And that's the millennial bucket. So we're hyper focused on this really small but not inconsequential moment in a person's life.

Kelly: Isn't it part of our frustration too with...speaking as the, I'd like to say...now, you've said something earlier that reminded me. I am the oldest millennial. But speaking as a 50-year-old, this is part of our frustration with the financial, I would say, money management industry is one pie chart thing, report, monthly fits all, whereas...we're all individuals, we all have our personal anxieties around money and all of our own money concerns. Why wouldn't I want to be treated as a person with respect to my money?

Kelly Peeler: Yeah, it's super interesting, because I think a lot about what did trust look like in financial services when it first was created. Trust was an in-person meeting. You go to your local retail bank, and the reason why you were there as opposed to one that was maybe 15 miles away is because it was more convenient for you to have your guy, your banker, who you knew knew your stuff.

And the thing is that trust is now completely changed because of the way that we communicate. So trust for our users is not an in-person meeting with a stuffy dude in a suit because that's the last thing that they want to go do is talk to a real human. It's using gifts and emojis and texting characteristics and language that builds the same trust but just in a completely different communication channel.

Kelly: So okay. So when I need to know where the kids are, I just need to figure out what channels you're texting or [inaudible 00:21:41] you're reaching millennials. I don't know what's that, Snapchat, I don't know, based on where you are. So has your customer base evolved in any way that has surprised you?

Kelly Peeler: We've been so lucky and this has taken...not a long time, but I'm super proud that we are...now 70% over our user base is low to middle income. And now we're actually getting more of our user growth through student referrals than what we had done before. So this is kind of a high-level, just taking a step back. We started with an education platform namely to take advantage of the Department of Education requirement in 17 states that requires a financial literacy course.

So our first interaction with students is in the classroom through education, and the ideas layer on customization through communication channel, namely text message. So what's been cool is that just in the past month and a half, we've seen huge student referrals. So we're building that trust with the student to say, "Yo, dude. This is actually really helpful. You should use it," as opposed to coming from a teacher or from a parent, which we're really proud about.

But the tricky thing in the beginning with the education system is that low-income students have really high acquisition cost. So it's really hard to get to a student that maybe doesn't have internet in their school or maybe doesn't have a guidance counselor in their school who has e-mail. So the transition has been we've gone down in terms of income levels for our user base, which I'm really excited about.

Kelly: I was going to say, so many startups would not be excited by that, but I'm listening to you and I'm like, how warped and crazy our world is, but I'm so excited to say that.

Kelly Peeler: The underbanked population, in terms of product and gaping holes of opportunity, underbanked in the U.S. is really interesting, especially in terms of people who have the ability to have empathy to build products for them, which I'm super excited about.

Kelly: No, it's amazing. As soon as you said about the internet, not having internet at home or perhaps not reliable, all that kind of stuff, the percentages, even in New York, are really pathetic. But I'm a subway user, so I've taken to notice where you get Wi-Fi in the subway. And I would just say, for anyone in New York, taking notice of it. I hate to say it's the neighborhoods where the people have quality...

Kelly Peeler: Digital divide is real. It's huge.

Kelly: Oh, it's digital divide. Even on the subway platform. Was not finding Wi-Fi on the subway when I was up at 116th this morning. So anyway, so you told me you bootstrapped initially?

Kelly Peeler: Yup.

Kelly: And when did you say, "Okay, I need investors because this is bigger than I thought it was." Or, "This is the time to get investors because now I've really got something to show them?"

Kelly Peeler: Yeah, it was actually more of an aha moment from my own perspective, which was...the past two organizations, and even since I was 11. So the nonprofit that I started in college, we brought entrepreneurship programs based in Iraq. I did that on a $1,000 our first year. I traveled to Iraq and fundraised by myself, without a visa. So I guess that would also put me in the bucket of, like, how did I know I was as an entrepreneur? It's because I take insane risks that I'm really passionate about.

But I have a bootstrapping mentality and I don't like the idea of not making money, which sounds a little bit bizarre in these times. But I had started off by pre-selling our education platform before anything was made. I made it back and I sold it to schools before we had anything, just to see if they wanted it. And they did, which is great, but then I got to this a little bit of conundrum of, "Hmm, if I really want to reach the user base that I want to, which are low-income students, or the kids who I can really make a substantial impact on their lives, which is my own personal passion, I really need to use technology to scale impact."

So that was really, I think...I listened to one of the talks that you did with Susan Lynn [SP]. And she gave the really kind of interesting discussion around, "Don't just raise money for the hell of it," basically. Like, "Think about why you want to raise money." And it really had to do with going from a smaller medium-sized business, where I could make some impact, to using technology to scale impact and also take advantage of a huge void in a business side. The next generation of financial services consumers, people need to pay attention to them and we can really use technology to do that, which is why essentially that was really the reason I took money.

Kelly: I want to go back to your customers for a second. Did you think that after students graduated that they'd still be coming to you?

Kelly Peeler: Absolutely. That's sort of the whole play. This was done in the past, most people try to hit up students right after they graduate to be like, "Okay, you're independent. You're getting your apartment, you're taking on your first job, you have all these financial decisions."

Kelly: "Now we love you."

Kelly Peeler: "Now we love you." Yeah, and to be quite honest, it needs to start way earlier than that, namely just because how people develop brand affinity. You buy your first toothpaste at 13 and you use the same toothpaste when you're 65. People develop brand identity and affiliation really in their teen years, and it's a little bit, I think, too late in the game to be, like, the cool financial product, when you graduate from college, when people have already been figuring this stuff out themselves.

Kelly: So your customer acquisition strategy is to start talking to them when they're in school?

Kelly Peeler: Yes, yes. So start talking to them in high school and guide them through their biggest financial decision, hopefully making that process suck less for them.

Kelly: Right, and then your real customers once they've graduated?

Kelly Peeler: Yup.

Kelly: Got it. We're going to get to the pay it forward part.

Kelly Peeler: I'm ready.

Kelly: You're ready?

Kelly Peeler: Yup.

Kelly: Okay, what are your primary sources of information? Blogs, Apps, shows, podcasts?

Kelly Peeler: Snapchat.

Kelly: Snapchat. All right, how do you discover new information?

Kelly Peeler: Snapchat.

Kelly: Did you ever think you'd be giving that answer to everything?

Kelly Peeler: No, I had to study Snapchat. I wasn't a natural born Snapchat user but I had to study it.

Kelly: There we go. What book are you reading?

Kelly Peeler: I'm reading two books. TulipoMania, which is actually about the financial crisis in the Netherlands in the 1600s, and then also the new Gary Vaynerchuk book, #AskGaryVee.

Kelly: Yes, awesome. Do you have any rituals or habits you swear by as CEO?

Kelly Peeler: Yes. I write on a big huge index card, before I go to bed every night, the three things that I want to accomplish the next day.

Kelly: Very good idea. Who are the entrepreneurs or leaders that you follow and admire?

Kelly Peeler: Kat Cole, who was previously the head of Hooters, previously the head of Cinnabon, now the head of Focus Brands. She's just, like, insane. She's super young, really energetic, gives back. Thinks about the alignment between for-profit and for-purpose, and she's just super generous with her time.

Kelly: Amazing. What is the best advice you've ever received?

Kelly Peeler: I think that's probably, "Be number one in the world, delegate everything else," at something.

Kelly: Are there any particular myths that you would like to dispel for our listeners?

Kelly Peeler: Yes. So going back to what we're doing, I'm a huge...and the whole theme of BroadMic, which I think is fantastic. I really think that this discussion around the wage gap needs to start earlier. So, in my mind, the modern-day wage gap for women really starts at the age of 18 with the decision to take out student loans or have a higher debt profile than men do. So the AARP, and Institute of Women & Politics put out a study that said the percentage of annual income, or debt to annual income for postgraduate women, is higher across all races compared to men. So that means that you're already starting out with a disadvantage because of the amount of debt that you've taken on, regardless of your income level.

Kelly: We're behind the eight ball, and then we're behind the eight ball again because we get paid less.

Kelly Peeler: Yeah, right. Yes, it's thinking about two sides of the balance sheet. So everyone's kind of focused on the income level. Yeah, women make, like, 73 cents on the dollar to every man. But wait, they also owe more money, so they have to pay that salary back too, which is just kind of an alarming point. So I think we need to start earlier with this whole discussion of the wage gap and bring it to when you start taking out loans where you can't literally default on.

Kelly: Yup, absolutely. What words of advice would you give to listeners about taking risks and closing the confidence gap?

Kelly Peeler: I would say that I personally put...my apartment is, like, insane. I have mantras all over my apartment. I'm a very visual person, so I need visual reminders. I literally have paintings in my apartment saying, "Be fearless, be kind, be brave," things that are just like subtle reminders to yourself, but I'd also say to be very really self-aware and put yourself in positions where you can be your best self.

I think a lot of women don't know their own strengths and weaknesses and are comfortable with them or super confident in them. So I only try to put myself in situations where I'm playing to my own strength.

Kelly: Right, because we can focus on the weaknesses till the cows come home. And what does "think broad" mean to you?

Kelly Peeler: To me, it means, dream big, be a winner. That's the quickest thing that...when I saw that on the sheet. I think it means dream big, don't limit yourself at all, and if you can't picture something, then no one's going to make it happen for you.

Kelly: Awesome. Thank you so much.

Kelly Peeler: Yeah, thank you. Lots of fun.

Kelly: Thank you for listening to BroadMic. We welcome your feedback. Find us on Facebook, where you will have show notes and additional references for a deeper dive into today's topic. Subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode. Please review our podcast on iTunes, which will help other listeners discover BroadMic, and grow the BroadMic community.

BroadMic is produced by Christy Mirabelle with editing by John Marshall Media. Our executive producer is Sarah Weinheimer. Think broad.

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