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Angela Yee and Acorns Are on The Come Up

Last Updated: April 23, 2022
Acorns helps 4.6 million Americans save smarter, with $12.5 billion collectively invested to date. Their new video series “The Up and Coming,” hosted by Angela Yee, takes the mission one step further.

The motto for the investment and savings app Acorns is simple: “From acorns, mighty oaks do grow.”

Acorns CEO Noah Kerner and radio personality and “The Breakfast Club” co-host Angela Yee have demonstrated that through the methodical building of their respective careers. Both born and raised in New York City — Angela in Brooklyn, Noah in the East Village — Kerner and Yee caught the entrepreneurial bug early and have utilized it unselfishly in their individual come-ups.

That shared value system will spread its wings with Acorns’ new financial education series “The Up and Coming” on YouTube and wherever you listen to podcasts. Hosted by Yee, the show seeks “to normalize money conversations and open access to financial knowledge,” the company announced Wednesday.

Yee’s guests for Season 1 will include Kerner, Nick Cannon, Remy Ma, and Lenny S., and each conversation will be a raw glimpse into universal experiences when it comes to handling money and setting yourself up for the future.

It can appear from afar that big-name personalities at the top of their industries have it all figured out when it comes to wealth, but Kerner and Yee’s extensive experiences in and around music — and rubbing elbows with the top dogs across industries — allow them to relay a more realistic perspective to the general population.

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Kerner spent the 1990s and early aughts DJing for the likes of Jennifer Lopez. He’s a serial entrepreneur — serving as some combination of CEO, founder or board member for Noise, Say, Give Kids Art, and Save The Music en route to Acorns, which boasts Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Durant, and Rich Kleiman’s Thirty Five Ventures, and Ashton Kutcher among its investors.

Angela Yee for “The Up and Coming” (Photo courtesy of Acorns)

Yee worked alongside the likes of the Wu-Tang Clan, Nile Rodgers, and Eminem before becoming a national personality during a six-year SiriusXM tenure. Since 2010, she has co-hosted “The Breakfast Club” with Charlamagne Tha God and DJ Envy; they were collectively inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in August 2020. She’s also a service industry entrepreneur via Juices For Life and Coffee Uplifts People, and drives influential conversations through her “Lip Service” podcast and “Wealth Wednesdays” alongside Stacey Tisdale.

“We’ve seen so many people sign bad deals. Go broke,” Yee told Boardroom in a joint phone interview with Kerner. “People that you would think had so much money and were wealthy, and then you find out that they’re not. That’s a story we’ve heard a billion times over.”

“We just need to make sure that we prepare better for the future,” she continued. “For me, it’s all about making sure that people understand all that glitters is not gold. A lot of times, people think, I’m gonna invest, and then I’m gonna make all this money right away. That’s not necessarily how it happens. I want to make sure in 20, 30 years from now, when it’s time for me to just relax, I can do that and not have to worry about it. [Using Acorns] is one of the ways that you can make that happen.”

Now officially partnered for “The Up and Coming,” Yee and Kerner dished to Boardroom about their personal connections to financial literacy and why it’s so important to make money management tools accessible to everyone.

MEGAN ARMSTRONG: Angela, you grew up going to the New York Public Library, for which you were named an ambassador in 2018. When did your passion for literacy evolve into a passion for financial literacy?

ANGELA YEE: For me, it really did come later in life. It did start when I purchased my first home, and that was about eight years ago. That was not something I never even would’ve imagined I’d be able to accomplish. And so, after that, I was just on this mission of making sure that I would be able to do other investments.

Prior to that, I had started an IRA. I had my 401(k) that was matched by my job, and I was trying to do all of the right things. This was just another step for me. I just wanted to be more intentional about diversifying the ways that I save for the future depending on what my plans are — if it’s something that I need money for that’s more immediate, something that I’m thinking about for retiring, something that I plan to do in five or 10 years from now.

I just wanted to make sure that I had a financial plan. That was not anything that I’d ever learned. I didn’t learn about it from my parents or anybody in my family, and I wanted to be able to do better. I want to be able to provide for people in my family. It was me starting my own business and becoming an entrepreneur — when you become an entrepreneur and a small business owner, you really have to be involved with your personal finances because you have to separate those two things. So even if things are happening one way on the business side, you want to make sure as an individual that you’re secure.

MA: I read that when you were little, you’d write fictional stories to cope — like when your parents made you mad, for example. Can you remember a time when a circumstance involving money or someone undervaluing you led to writing one of those stories?

AY: I think now it’d be more non-fictional. [Laughs] When I was younger, you know, I was just making up stories, but now, I definitely do write things down. It helps me a lot.

Even for myself, asking for a raise, I did that when I was at Sirius. And that was all because I read an article. You never know what can spark something in somebody. A conversation, reading an article, reading a book. I had read an article about how women don’t ask for raises and don’t negotiate their salaries the way that men do. That prompted me to go in and take all the steps necessary to ask for a raise — not because you want one or need one but because you deserve one.

That was something for myself that was like, okay, I need to do this. Leading up to that, I would write down all the different things that I was doing and accomplishing, and then I would kind of sketch out how I was gonna go in there and ask for what I knew I deserved. I’m a big fan of writing things down and helping things come to fruition because you put it out there in the atmosphere, and it did actually work out. That was all sparked from me just reading an article.

MA: In more creative industries, or even just as a writer, there is this fear that if I don’t just agree to the terms right away, they’ll find somebody willing to do it for less.

AY: And I get that. I agree. That’s a real thing. But you know what? I now look at it, like, this is what they offered; that’s just their starting point because they expect me to come back and ask for more. There’s so many resources now to see what other people in your industry are getting — and for people to have more transparent conversations about what they are receiving. All of that helps.

MA: When you think about the many stigmas around money, is there a particular interview from “The Breakfast Club” that comes to mind? I remember when The Wall Street Trapper came through.

AY: [Laughs] Yeah, and then we’ve had Earn Your Leisure. I remember when Damon Dash came on. That was a really big one — when he was talking about ownership. That resonated with a lot of people. I may not have agreed with all of the points, but I do think it created a conversation through the controversy. Stacey Tisdale, who I do “Wealth Wednesdays” with. I know Noah’s gonna come on soon.

MA: Did all of those types of conversations inspire to start “The Up and Coming,” a show specifically about financial education?

AY: What really started it with Acorns, we discussed Acorns in an interview. It was not anything that was planned. It was just a tool that I was using. I know a lot of people that use Acorns. Our security at work was telling me, “Oh my God, you’re doing something with Acorns? That’s how I was able to pay for my trip to Italy!” Everybody uses Acorns.

When I was on “The Breakfast Club,” we were just discussing easy, accessible ways for people to start investing, and Acorns was what we were discussing. At some point, there was gonna be some type of link-up and synergy there, but it wasn’t anything that was planned.

The relationship years later manifested itself just from us having that conversation. I’ve mentioned Acorns several times with people who are first-time investors; over 60% of the subscribers on Acorns are first-time investors. What I love is that it’s really easy to use, it’s accessible, and it’s reliable. You can see from the success stories. That’s important to me, too: to see that there’s other success stories and that people love it. When you can see that there’s more than 4.6 million paying subscribers, I mean, there’s a reason for that.

MA: Noah, everybody knows we live in an age of instant gratification. Do you think that the concept of investing and placing investments for a longer-term payoff has appreciated and value?

NOAH KERNER: I think it’s important that people understand that slow and steady wins the race and a good investor is a long-term investor. Part of the wonderful value of this partnership with Angela is articulating the important lessons to understand about how to manage your money.

When I say the responsible tools of wealth making, I’m talking about diversification, I’m talking about compounding, I’m talking sticking with it — even during times of volatility. The opposite of trading, you know? The idea that investing is about time in the market, not timing the market.

With the elevated conversation and culture around money and investing, which is great, it’s also important that people understand the right ways to do it, and that there is a right way and a wrong way. It’s our hope that this partnership and Angela getting really interesting people to open up about their money stories is also going to elevate the conversation about the right ways to think about it and the responsible ways to manage your money.

MA: It’s putting faces and names and real-life, tangible stories to these concepts that can sometimes feel overwhelming, right?

NK: One hundred percent.

MA: In your mind, what separates Acorns from your past businesses and entrepreneurial ventures that you’ve had a hand in building?

NK: Well, there was a certain point — someone in my life said, “Have you decided what your purpose is gonna be?” I was sort of struck by the question, and I didn’t quite know how to answer it, but then the suggestion was to write down what you’d like it to be. I just wrote, “Level the playing field.” That became front and center for me as a professional purpose. Now I always suggest to people that they think about trying that exercise and just writing what comes naturally.

That idea of leveling the playing field is personified in Acorns, and the notion that you can broaden access to the responsible tools of wealth-making and provide those tools to everybody — not just the rarefied. That, for me, is an inspiring thing to wake up to every day. It’s the greatest work, the most meaningful work, of my professional career so far.

MA: Angela, you handle “Rumor Report” on “The Breakfast Club.” What do you think is the most widespread rumor or misconception about money and finances?

AY: Right now, it probably has to do with crypto and NFTs. [Laughs] But I would say one of the most widespread rumors is that Black people aren’t good with money. That’s 100,000% not true. We’ve seen from Black Wall Street, we’ve seen how Black people have managed to build and accumulate wealth, but we have this distrust of the system just because there are so many unfair practices that have happened to us over centuries.

We are great with money, but we’ve just had a lot of terrible things happen, you know? I just don’t want to feed into that narrative. I’ve heard people say, “We don’t invest in the stock market,” or we don’t do this, or this is a scam. I just want to get out of that mindset.

MA: In a similar vein, you’ve founded Juices For Life and Coffee Uplifts People. Why was partnering with Acorns the right next step for you in building out an empire that prioritizes pushing the community collective forward?

AY: Everything I do has to do with me trying to do things that are about community, about nutrition, about wellness, about literacy. This fit right into the mix. Acorns, I trust them. I’ve talked about it even before I worked with them. This was just a really natural thing.

I was super excited when I got an email that they wanted to possibly explore something. I was like, “Yes, absolutely.” I’m proud to be able to work with Acorns and partner with them on this series because I feel like it’s such important work that they’re doing. A lot of our goals are aligned when it comes to financial literacy, and when it comes to making sure that we bridge this wealth gap.

MA: How do you define your worth at this point in your career and your life?

AY: By how much I can help other people. That is the most valuable thing in the world. You have to get yourself in a situation where you’re comfortable and you have enough knowledge and you have the resources to be able to help other people in this world.

MA: What can you guys tease about what’s to come on “The Up and Coming”?

AY: Well, Noah’s on there, so you’ll get to hear his very interesting story about how he came up and why this was important for him. Nick Cannon, hearing him talk about his finances, his investments, what was his best investment ever. Remy Ma just talking about the way that she views money. I feel like it comes from an emotional place for her — the way that she invests and what she does with her finances and what her plans are for the future. She has a big investment she’s doing right now. Something that means something to her and that she’s passionate about. For Lenny S. to be able to share a story that he’s never told before about an investment that he made.

Sometimes when you make an investment, you bring somebody else in on it, and it doesn’t go as planned and you feel responsible. Some of those mistakes that people have made, some of those lessons that have been learned, some of those triumphs. With Lenny S. in particular, he made mistakes, but then he learned what he needs to do in the future to be better when it comes to investing and finances. I feel like this is such a nice story of him really learning and taking proactive steps to making what happened to him in the past don’t happen anymore. That’s really what it’s all about: just being proactive about your own future and your own finances.

MA: You’re in the Radio Hall of Fame, so you obviously have a storied career in hosting and conducting honest interviews. What is it about “The Up and Coming” that excites you in a different way?

AY: I love talking about business. Money and business are obviously very tied together, right? You can’t really have one without the other. Talking about entrepreneurship, talking about investments, those things are fascinating to me. I could talk about it all day. It’s what I talk about when I’m not at work.

I feel like we all need to be able to have that diversity in our conversations. Now, when I’m with my friends — you know, one of my homegirl is buying a house right now. She’s an attorney, and she was calling me, asking me different questions. “What should the closing cost be?” Or, “If she said this, how much do I need to put down?” I’m able to answer those questions, and it makes me feel really good and confident that I’m having these conversations with my friends. Being able to tell people, “You should start a business, and I would invest in your business if you did that, so let’s get your business plan together,” I love those conversations.

MA: It goes back to how you define your worth, right?

AY: Yes! Nothing means more to me than when somebody says they heard something that I said, or an interview that we did [on “The Breakfast Club”], and it inspired them to start a business or it helped with what they had going on. That is really the most valuable thing that we do.

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