With nearly three quarters of Americans living without life insurance, there’s no question estate planning is a major issue that often goes unaddressed by far too many in this country. That’s why Dave Hanley, co-founder of the app Tomorrow, wanted to make estate planning more accessible to the average American, not just the wealthy. The Financial Health Network sat down with Hanley to discuss the founding of his app Tomorrow, and lessons learned along the way.
What problem was your company looking to solve?
Before Tomorrow became the name of our company, it was an idea that I had developed. The stats around estate planning are sobering when you think about it: 78% of millennials don’t have a will; 74% of all Americans don’t have individual life insurance, and half of all millennial households would have immediate trouble paying their bills without their primary wage earner. My co-founders and I knew that families needed something better than what was currently available, so we set a goal to build it for them. That’s how Tomorrow came about.
Why did you feel you were the right people to take on that challenge?
My co-founders and I have both lost loved ones. I was personally thrust into the antiquated world of financial and legal processes and paperwork, costly lawyers’ fees, and intense personal anguish after the difficult and unexpected loss of both of my parents. By that point, I’d already built and sold a successful digital marketing firm to Deloitte and knew there had to be a better way to put estate planning within reach of American families. My co-founder Josh had lost his father to stage IV colon cancer when he was just 19 years old. His dad left behind a devastated family of six, but he had taken the time to create a will and a trust and secure life insurance. That insurance policy paid off the mortgage on the family home, the loan on their car, and enabled Josh to finish his undergraduate degree. Instead of worrying about how the next month’s bills would be paid, his mom had time to grieve. She had the peace of mind that too few Americans have. As a team intimately familiar with loss, we knew more people deserved this same peace of mind.
What’s the biggest challenge you faced in starting your company?
There are a lot of barriers that stop American families from getting the kind of legal and financial protection they need and deserve. Our mission is to knock down those barriers by simplifying tasks that have historically been difficult to navigate like creating a will, buying life insurance, and making arrangements for a trust to fund future financial needs. We wanted the Tomorrow app to make those tasks accessible to everyday people, not just the wealthy–so families can finally take them off their perpetual “to do” lists. We also faced the challenge of figuring out how to make those tedious tasks aspirational, social, and even enjoyable, right from people’s phones.
What are some lessons you learned along the way?
Not everyone has a traditional family structure. We knew that to do this right, our app had to let people define their family exactly the way it is. We had to design a system that learns from people in the background as they use it. As a result, the app takes exactly what you tell it about your family and only recommends what’s right for you based on those details.
What did you learn about consumer behavior that helped in building your business?
Few people fully read legal documents. Lawyers tend to use words most people aren’t familiar with, not because they want to over-complicate things, but to make sure nothing is misinterpreted. That’s why lawyers are paid handsomely to choose the right words. It can cost a fortune if you get the wording wrong. With our app, we wanted to make it easy for people to make important life decisions without having to navigate a document they don’t fully understand.