Can Earnest Convince Graduating Millennials To Talk About (Gulp) Their Finances?

FAST COMPANY: Nothing says “congratulations on your graduation” like an email from your student loan servicer reminding you that your first payments will soon be due.

That five- or six-figure bill is the financial hangover that thousands of newly minted graduates are waking up to this month as they reenter the workforce, diplomas in hand. “Game of Loans: interest is coming,” one Wayne State University senior wrote in protest on her graduation cap. “I got 99 problems and student loans are all of them,” another tweeted.

But if graduates are quick to vent their anger and anxiety (#StudentDebtStress has been trending on Twitter), they are not necessarily eager to engage in a deeper conversation with a financial advisor or their peers. Enter Earnest cofounder and CEO Louis Beryl: He wants millennials to harness their frustration, and take action.

“Really high-quality, high-potential young people are just being dramatically overcharged and mispriced by the credit system,” Beryl says. “You’ve heard all of these things—you need to go get a J.Crew card, and pay it off—that’s crazy! All the workarounds—the system isn’t built right.”

Earnest is an attempt to correct those flaws, and in the process save young borrowers thousands of dollars. Beryl and his growing team launched the company last year with a personal loan product designed to cover major life events like relocation or marriage, and introduced a student loan refinancing product in January. Unlike traditional loan providers, which evaluate borrowers’ credit histories through the lens of the FICO system, and unlike startups such as LendUp, which mine Facebook and social media to assess borrowers’ risk of default, Earnest approves applicants based on a comprehensive snapshot of their career history and their finances.

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