With his charitable start-up Moneythink, 24-year-old Ted Gonder aims to wipe out financial illiteracy in Chicago and beyond.
Ted Gonder was inspired to cofound Moneythink while observing financial disparities in and around the University of Chicago.
Ted Gonder didn’t really see poverty until he landed in Hyde Park as a student at the University of Chicago. “You could be sitting in a coffee shop, rubbing elbows with Nobel laureates, walk out, and be a block from a gang shooting,” says the La Crescenta, California, native who graduated from UC in 2012 with a degree in geography. That disparity—green grass on one block, foreclosed houses on the next—prompted him and four classmates to launch Moneythink, a nonprofit that aims to improve financial literacy among underserved teens.
Established in 2009, Moneythink now tutors students at nine high schools in Chicago and 36 nationwide. The idea, says Gonder, the company’s CEO, is to “flip the knowledge economy” by offering students financial basics: How to spend money, save money, and set financial goals.
The start-up has garnered major attention for Gonder. In February, he was named to President Obama’s Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans. He’s also an in-demand speaker on the topic of financial literacy at conferences like Emerge and this fall’s innovation and design gathering Cusp.
Gonder himself has never had money worries—he was raised in a comfortable, two-parent household—yet at 14 he suffered an existential crisis. Clarity arrived in the form of a 19-year-old Ghanaian math tutor. “We were both young people who believed we could have a better future if we worked and tried our best,” Gonder says. “He got me to look at my life as an entrepreneurial venture.”
Entrepreneurial indeed. In the last decade, Gonder has launched two nonprofits. In high school there was Project Cooldown, which aimed to raise awareness of global climate change. But Chicago-based Moneythink is the project that has Gonder’s star on the rise. “Our goal is to create the world’s first preventive cure for consumer financial distress and make it available to every young adult in the United States by 2030,” says Gonder.
New this fall: An app to help Moneythink volunteers and students keep in touch 24/7 via texts and Instagram-like updates. “Kids today have more power in the palms of their hands than the King of France did in the 1400s,” Gonder points out. “I don’t see us getting bored with Moneythink for quite a while.”