Instead of relying on 401(k)s or employer pensions, which are quickly becoming extinct, Matt Carey has set out to build a new way for people to plan for retirement. His startup, Blueprint Income, is busy digitizing and creating a virtual option for folks to set up and manage their retirement funds securely. Carey spoke with us about his business and what he’s calling the “pension plan of the future.”
What problem is your business looking to solve?
In 2013, I was working at the U.S. Treasury, focusing on retirement policy. At the same time, I was seeing my parents who were about to retire. I realized there had to be an alternative for people like them besides the typical 401(k). With a 401(k), all the market risk sits with the individual, who also has to guess how long they’ll live. Conceptually, I knew that a pension was a better model for people, but I also knew traditional employer pensions weren’t coming back, because employers don’t want to own that risk. I decided to find co-founders who could help me build Blueprint Income in response–we see it as the pension model of the future. It provides the same benefit as a traditional pension, but without an employer having to manage it. We’re calling it the Personal Pension. It’s only offered digitally and we work directly with insurance companies to provide the backing.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in starting your company?
At first, no one believed middle-aged and older Americans were actively making financial decisions online. We had to disprove that. Then, many people were skeptical that users would make large and important purchases without ever meeting us in person. We had to dispel that too. People also weren’t convinced insurers would be willing to prove the financial backing to make this possible. But we struck deals with insurers and continue to do more. At the moment, there’s a lot of skepticism about our ability to make our platform accessible in every channel, especially via employers. Instead of just talking about these challenges, we’re really focused on addressing them through our actions.
What new innovation in fintech are you most excited about?
We’re still a little ways out, but I get most excited about the use of artificial intelligence to help Americans better manage their financial lives. I believe a retirement decision built on passivity will be much more successful than the one we have now, which requires navigating a really complex maze. With the rise of AI, the next challenge will be building trust that the actions being taken are sound and secure.
What’s a lesson you wish you’d known back when you started your company?
I wish I’d known then that if you continue to show progress, many of your early skeptics will turn into your greatest evangelists. You won’t convert a skeptic with talk, so go build something! I also learned that the biggest thing standing between you and achieving your vision is the team you build and your customers’ loyalty. Focus on these two things–even to the detriment of all else–and it will usually all work out.
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever gotten?
“Plan beats no plan,” was something Tim Geithner, the former U.S. Treasury Secretary, often said. It’s surprising how clarifying that message can be when you feel like you’re operating in a world of imperfect information, which, by the way, you always are. It’s never too early to have a plan, even when you know it’s wrong and you’ll have to revise it later.