81. Trent McKendrick| Pay Off Your Student Loans with the Founder of the Lever App
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Daphné Vanessa

Shamil Rodriguez



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About This Episode


rent McKendrick is the founder of Lever.App which helps you pay down your student loan debt! Today, on the Student Loan Podcast, we discuss how you can use the Lever App to help pay down your student loans and get your personal finances on track.

Perfect timing for the New Year!



  • How the Lever App can help you;
  • The absurdity of the amount of growing interest on student loans;
  • The fact that Americans now owe over $2 Trillion in student loan debt;
  • Tips for how to deal with your student loan debt; and
  • much, much, more…


Enjoying the show? Leave us a rating and review. Every comment helps! Drop in your IG handle so we can thank you personally!


Trent McKendrick (00:00): The more you ignore it, the longer it'll go on. It's time to leave you in life. You know, it's time to say, I have this debt, but this debt's not gonna own me. I'm gonna own it. It doesn't matter if you deal with your services, if you tell them what's going on, if you deal with your, your, your lenders, if you tell them what's going on, they have to listen. The rules and regulations are there for consumers to say, Hey, if this consumer's not where he was the day that he took this contract, circumstances have changed. He has the right to, to change and for things to work in his benefit. Whether that's payment, pauses, reduced interest, or end or debt writeoffs, there's ways to, to request all different sorts of things.

The Student Loan Podcast Intro (00:38): Welcome to the Student Loan Podcast. Here you'll find practical advice on tackling student loan debt, paying down your higher education expenses, and inspiring stories about paying off student loans. We're your host, Daphne, Vanessa and Shamil Rodriguez.

Daphné Vanessa (00:57): Please rate, review, and subscribe to the Student Loan Podcast by visiting the Student Loan Podcast on Apple Podcast or wherever you find your podcasts.

Shamil Rodriguez (01:07): This is not professional advice, and we speak from our own personal views and opinions.

Daphné Vanessa (01:13): The Student Loan Podcast is brought to you by Start New, where you can serve your community and get rewarded with tuition and student loan payments. To check out if Start New is on your campus, visit start new.com.

Shamil Rodriguez (01:28): All right, welcome everyone to another episode of the Student Loan Podcast. Today, we have a great guest for you with a great solution that we're hoping that you could take advantage of if it applies to you. So with Trent mck Kendrick here, we're gonna turn over to him to introduce himself, and then we're gonna dive deep into his Lever app. So, Trent, take it away.

Trent McKendrick (01:45): Thank you guys. Thank you for having me. I mean, I, you know, as we mentioned, lever App is a student loan renegotiation tool that allows you to see what programs are available through financial aid in the Department of Education without requiring you to speak to your servicer. We allow you to click a few buttons, choose what's appropriate to you, and then enroll in those programs. That's really what we built. We think there's 42 million Americans there, uh, that exist, that need, uh, technology like this, and we've tried to simplify it as much as possible so we can offer a solution to people that deserve that.

Daphné Vanessa (02:15): It's amazing and to come to come up with something so creative and innovative. Tell us about your backstory of how you even got to a place where you were creating this amazing solution for people

Trent McKendrick (02:28): Straight from the land down under to the big . I, um, yeah. I mean, I've been in financial markets most of my life post-college or university in Australia. Um, I've always sort of cared about the user experience side and, and understanding what people want. Uh, my time in financial markets, just to sort of clarify that, was, was working, uh, within technology and industrial stocks. I really loved little innovations and things that were going on. You know, when Netflix came out, it was about the CDs we had that I was fascinated that you could rent a CD via the post, and it was awesome. All, all those kind of things showing my age. But, um, you know, then, then, then in, um, early 2014, I started to, uh, travel a bit, spend some time in the us, realized that there was a, a big gap in the market for debt collection.

Trent McKendrick (03:14): And the way that the debtors, so people like myself that might owe a telephone bill or a cable bill, were were being handled by the collection agencies and or, uh, by companies themselves. So I, uh, invented a, a new process and a user experience that focused on the data. Um, and then that company went on to, to great successes. And, um, throughout the, the, uh, the following years, I really thought about what we could do better on the user, user side to deal with debt collectors rather than giving debt collectors a good user experience. So, uh, we created leather in Australia. We focused on helping people Rene, uh, negotiate with debt collectors and, and companies that were requesting that they repay their debts. What we used was a number of formulas that relied on regulations, rules, and things that people really didn't know exist that allowed them to leverage or lever it, uh, as, as we say.

Trent McKendrick (04:06): Um, then in early 2020, as things changed and the world sort of evolved into this pandemic and everyone was at home and, uh, incomes were, were were lost and people were slowing down on their jobs and things sort of changed. We really saw an, an influx of users and people that were, were really, um, you know, taking advantage of the ability to say, I can't afford to pay this cause these are my reasons. Generating a legal letter through our app, and then having the ability to negotiate without having to speak to somebody, which is what, you know, gen Zs and us millennials want. Um, you know, fast forward to 2021, I was looking at the, the US and I just, I got obsessed with the student loan problem. I got obsessed with what was going on with credit cards. I got obsessed with the rates that people pay on auto loans.

Trent McKendrick (04:52): And, um, we just started working on how could we shape what we learned in the last few years with Lever in Australia into something in the US and, you know, benefit student loan borrowers and, and people that have that sort of huge exposure. You know, average, uh, millennial has 170% of millennials have $117,000 in non-mortgage debt. You know, a large portion of that be it is student loans. And I'd say a small, a small part of that is credit cards that are most likely related to their time at college or related to their, uh, their time whilst they use their college degree to increase their income to become more stable in life. So we looked around, uh, we found a really great partnership with a group called Paid Off Who, who had built a, a really smart api. We thought, all right, great. That's our, that's our in with the Department of Education now, let's build around that.

Trent McKendrick (05:42): So we've built an app that u uh, uses a number of factors, shows in consumer, um, what's available to them from the doe, and then helps them enroll into that. Throughout that, that's kind of the tip of the iceberg, you know, under there, there's a lot of calculations and things that we do, which is, is based on what people are trying to achieve, whether it's, uh, you know, um, as we were talking about earlier, saving for retirement or just basically getting themselves getting all their liabilities paid down. Mm-hmm. . Um, and that's, that's kind of the, the, the story of where Lever went from financial markets to digitalizing debt collection through to, here we are today, tackling a, a monster problem with student loans and hoping to make an impact.

Daphné Vanessa (06:21): Yeah. We're so excited for how many people you're going to be helping here. Mm-hmm. , because we from our users as well get so many letters, so many emails, um, dms from people just sharing how the weight of student loan debt can be so heavy. It prevents you from doing everything. So I love that Lever is addressing that situation. Personally for you, did you ever have student loan debt? And if so, how much?

Trent McKendrick (06:49): Yeah, so in Australia we have what was called hex debt. Um, that's a government funded program that allows you to basically pay that off with future income. So it takes a percentage of your, your future income, and that still sits there. Um, it sits there until it's paid off. So, yeah, I, I had some debt. I, I self-funded myself going to college and, you know, university and, um, and then, uh, talked my way into an MBA at, uh, at, at a, at, at a university in Melbourne. And, uh, realized I just had more of a passion for work. So kinda rode that off, uh, over a few years, paid that debt back. But, you know, what I don't fathom is the cost of college versus what I paid. You know, my, my cost of my college was like $15,000 a year all in with books and, and everything else.

Trent McKendrick (07:36): And the government funded like 90% of that. Um, what, what I see in the US is, is an incredible, uh, economy, an incredible place, you know, land of opportunity. There is no doubt in being here. Has, has, you know, it's, I love it. It's the best place on earth, there's no doubt about that. But, um, the college debt problem, I think there, you know, there needs to be serious change and you're not gonna impact that change today. You've gotta impact that change over time. Um, the elite colleges and, and everything that goes on with sort of the networking side. And to be amongst that, I get that mentality and I love that. But I also think there is, there are ways to educate yourself through college to maybe do use those as finishing college, the, you know, finishing colleges if they accept you. But, you know, the, the whole thing is it's expensive. Does it pay off? I think for some people it does. I think for a large percentage it becomes an overwhelming issue where they just end up ignoring it and they don't really utilize that college degree cuz they're working three jobs just to maintain their financial, um, you know, their financial life. And, and it's a sad story in many cases and it's, it's a glorious story in others, but, you know, we just, we just really wanna help.

Daphné Vanessa (08:45): Wow. I love that. Um, and the fact that you worked and were able to afford tuition just shows how in Australia anyways, they really thought about what, what the end goal was, right? A productive working society mm-hmm. and yeah. I wonder how much, um, the United States considers the loss of productivity with a ton of educated people that are unable to financially afford to give their intellectual contributions to society.

Trent McKendrick (09:18): No, I agree. There's a lot of smart people on the street in America. there, there's no doubt about that. Literally, you know, the creative community, the, the everything that goes on the in innovators that, that, that produce over, over here is incredible. So, uh, I don't know how to comment on that, but, but, but I, I do, I do get your point. And I, I I absolutely agree that, uh, you know, if there were other systems that allowed people to go to college or to get their college education that maybe wasn't in person, that wasn't $150,000 a year or, uh, depending on what you're doing, you know, the 50 to a hundred thousand dollars a year in, in tuition fees and they didn't have to repay that after they graduated and they didn't have these huge debts that had these intricate amounts of, uh, fine print and different terms and, you know, nitty gritty little changes that constantly go with your loan services. Maybe it would be a better operating environment. Maybe they do need a, you know, a one size fits all approach. Yeah. Dunno.

Daphné Vanessa (10:17): So, go

Shamil Rodriguez (10:17): Ahead. No, so I was thinking, um, with, with that being said, what about the idea that, uh, you decided to actually break down? Cause I actually wanted to go through like, if somebody's hearing this right now and be like, Hey, you know what, lemme check out Lever. So what are the actual steps of like, Hey, I'm interested, I just heard the podcast. What do I do now?

Trent McKendrick (10:34): Yeah, abso uh, just go to the app store, download Lever, it's lr.app, or go to our website and find the link whether you're on Android or, or Apple. Mm-hmm. , um, download the app. You sign up, you put in your, your factors. So you'll just say that, you know, this is my age, this is what I'm looking to do. And our system really tries to help, uh, recommend, recommend things as you are filling out that form. So it is like a five minute process to, to set, to set it up. But once you're set up, it really does the work for you. So sign up, um, put in your details, connect your existing loans. So if you're with a, with an existing servicer, we allow you to connect those and then the system does all the work for you. It would actually break down what your costs have been, what your costs will be for the rest of the loan term that you have in existence, and then into step three, which is, Hey, here are the available programs based on your profile.

Trent McKendrick (11:26): So we don't require you, um, to, to do a tax form. We actually have a self declaration system where it allows you to say, last year I earned this, or, and, and then the system does that, that's available until May, 2023 when I think, uh, I'm aware that the, the government will look to, to actually get the, uh, the correct IRS forms. But, um, until then, you know, just, just take advantage of the simplicity of self declaring, not having to speak, get your, your, get your tax details from the irs. But, um, let's say you've done that part. You, you're in there and you've got three choices. For example, you might have the ability to go into a, a, a new program that allows you to pay more and have a lesser term and pay less interest. Or you might have a program that allows you to pay less, extend the term pay, you know, regular interest.

Trent McKendrick (12:16): But it really is about what suits each individual person. So, um, there are hundreds of programs and there are hundreds of ways that those programs can work for different people. And what our system just tries to do is say, here are the ones that we think are most appropriate to you and your initial goals. Um, and if you like those, let's get you going. And whilst we do that, we also look at, um, a holistic view of your existing liabilities. So we use a number of data sources to give you everything that you owe across the board to give you a, a, a really specific plan that says, here's my student loans, here's my credit cards, here's my whatever. You know, you might have a payday loan or it could be anything auto loan, and here's the best way to start repaying those. So, um, and the best ways is, is based on you and what you want to do.

Trent McKendrick (13:02): It's not the best way that we think. There's one or two ways, there's multiple ways and everybody has different goals and, and different ideas about what they want. Some people want to pay pay less so they can save for a holiday. Some people wanna pay more so they can get rid of it and start applying for mortgages. There are a number of, uh, of directions you can take at using our app, and we've really made it deliberately that way because we don't feel that we wanna be telling you what you should be doing, like, um, you know, a savings plan or, or the ability to, to cut your loan, uh, term down is, is great, but that may not always suit you.

Shamil Rodriguez (13:34): Mm-hmm. . That's fair. No, no, that's a really good point. And that leads me to another point that we were talking about before, uh, which was the idea of, you know, telling people what to do. So it's not through the Lever app, but the idea that the government is telling people what to do with their student loans at this point. Um, so I know we wanted to really touch into that part about how folks are being told right now. Things are being held up in court. Some, uh, ideas are coming from the president's, uh, office. Uh, so, you know, I know you may have some thoughts about that, Trent, that you wanted to make sure that we, we we touched up on .

Trent McKendrick (14:05): Yeah, I think you, you know, one of the things, and, and, and we mentioned it, uh, you know, earlier, is that a lot of people don't realize that they shouldn't be getting charged interest whilst this pause, like the pandemic pause is on, and a lot of services are charging interest and we see it every day. Um, you know, people will come to us and say, well, you know, we, we get a lot of, uh, offline communication from people just wanting to understand things. We're new, we need to build that trust. Sure. Um, but we try to be available and, and everyone that works in our team understands student loans, has student loans, is American and, and is based in Los Angeles. So it's really easy for us to, to kind of understand that environment. We have people that are 23 that have just graduated through to 45 that have had student loans in 15 years.

Trent McKendrick (14:48): You know, it's like, that's America . Um, but yeah, we, we are seeing, unfortunately, we're seeing a lot of people that are coming that are being charged interest. I won't name the services, but, uh, but, but a lot of services are, are still charging interest. And I urge people to look at that. And, and you know, Daphne, we kind of quickly mentioned that we sh there should be a group that should advocate for these individuals. And I think there are ways to, to to, to do it and to, to help people. I I, for us, it's a mission that we'd like to be a part of in the future. Right now we wanna focus on helping people, um, deal with their deal with, with the doe without having to deal with their services. But I think there, there, there should be an available template or something somewhere where people can put in those details point to that regulation and, and get their services to reverse those charges as quickly as possible. We might even create it now. We've talked about it. Yeah. Yeah. There we, maybe there's, maybe that's what we'll do. Student

Shamil Rodriguez (15:44): Loan podcast .

Trent McKendrick (15:46): Yeah. Yeah. Well, Sege write that down. So,

Shamil Rodriguez (15:51): Um, no, you're right. Because a lot of people, uh, with the pandemic pause and you have, every case is going to be unique or different. Right. And that's what we're talking about here. But you shouldn't be your student loans that were impacted by the federal, uh, by the pandemic pause, shouldn't be accruing interest unless you consolidated. Right. And go and check your specific scenario by trans saying, now make sure that your servicer is not charging you interest on that. But we, we just wanna make sure that that is the case. Cuz it's unfortunate just because something is written down in the laws and is a regulation that someone should be following, doesn't mean that the servicers are gonna do the best thing all the time 100% of the time. I mean, a good example of that. Good.

Trent McKendrick (16:29): No, it's said old age at, at each, uh, you know, beg, bigg, forgi forgiveness, don't ask for permission. Right, right,

Shamil Rodriguez (16:35): Right. No, that's pretty much what No, you're absolutely, I mean, today, I I, I saw an article today actually based, uh, published, uh, by one of our previous guests on Forbes that was speaking about how student loan borrowers, borrowers received emails today that some of their loans had been forgiven or they receive, received some form of forgiveness. Uh, but not everyone was, it wasn't accurate for every person that received that email. So can you imagine that, that perspective if, if the federal government is making that mistake, you can only imagine what your servicers doing too, or what the possibilities could be for your loan. Don't just assume

Trent McKendrick (17:08): It's Yeah, agree. I mean, that's, we covered 98% of the services. We don't have a hundred percent, it's just, right now it's not possible for us to have that. But what we do have with the 98% are the majority of, of what people use. And you can come into our app and actually see what I'm being charged, what my, what my charges are. Were for the li and you can break it down by months and years, and you can see the interest that you have accrued based on your previous statements. Our algorithm actually reads that from your statement, uh, that, that's very secure information only you get to see it. But, but it's available once you plug in your loans. And that's why, uh, the loan plugin process is really, uh, important to, to doing this so people can really see what's going on.

Daphné Vanessa (17:47): Mm-hmm. . Very true. Very true. So would you equate lever to the personal capital of student loans?

Trent McKendrick (17:56): Yeah. . I would love that. That's great. . Yeah, I mean, we're not, we took the view, we took the view that what we're, what we're doing is really trying to help people not fix a problem, then fix, fix something that just exists. Because to say it's a problem is to say that it's, you know, it's a widespread issue that needs to be addressed. I think there are specific people that, as we say, said in the beginning, that can use the system well and that go off and, and do well. But then there are people that just get trapped and that's, it's not their fault. You know, people don't pay attention to what's going on with their finances. Cause life is so busy. Um, you know, 36% of millennials, this is a fact, let student loan debt, uh, accumulate. That's 36% of people with student loans don't talk about it, uh, acknowledge it or, um, have the capacity. Whether that's because they're not financially educated or whether they just don't have time and they're raising kids and they have families who knows, you know, you get a wife and a, and a husband or a partnership that met in college, went to college, they both got the same debt. They both studied the same thing. Uh, you have babies, you've got two kids, you know, it's imperative. You have to save home to raise your kids. You've got a single income essentially, and two student loan debts. You know, it's, it's tough. It happens.

Daphné Vanessa (19:20): Oh man, it does. But , luckily there's the, but there's hope, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah. With with, we're not gonna say in the with lever. I like that.

Trent McKendrick (19:28): Yeah.

Daphné Vanessa (19:29): No, I was gonna say, I like that you're managing almost the communications with servicers, because I know that that's been an issue mm-hmm. for a lot of people that, that they've raised where they make an extra payment and that payment is applied toward interest, as an example, even though they intended for the additional payment to go entirely.

Trent McKendrick (19:49): Yeah. The principal mm-hmm.

Daphné Vanessa (19:50): . So

Trent McKendrick (19:51): That's all we, all we do is pay your princip through our app. The, the acknowledgement is, is that you are paying down your principal, you're not paying your monthly payment or your, or your interest payment. There is an option to make your monthly payments with us. But what we are here to do is actually get that paid off. That is our mission, is to get your student loan to zero balance. And whether that's long term through, um, smaller repayments and then extra repayments, we have features like a roundup. So if you go to the store, you can put your card, you can attach your card to the Lever app, and every time you spend a do, uh, $10, you might add 50 cents and start paying off little increments of your student loan. You know, there was a, a company called Pillar that did that really well years ago that was acquired by, um, acorns really loved what they did.

Trent McKendrick (20:35): We've, we've learned a lot from, from some of their, um, you know, some of their wins and some of their fails. And, you know, fortunate for us, um, you know, we're able to add that feature and, and we love it, you know, know we've kind of promoted as this is what you should be thinking about because you're gonna spend anyway. We're a con, we're a consumption based economy. We spend, and if, if anything, you know, the Black Friday sales being at a 20 year high and interest, uh, credit card usage, being at a, at an all-time high for the Black Friday sales is for us a sign that people aren't spending savings anymore. That that pandemic helicopter money has really dried up. But I think the habitual, um, the, the habits that were created during that pandemic, well, I got $700 a week and I didn't really think about it, and I was able to, you know, spend money, my new t-shirt every other time that I wanted to go out.

Trent McKendrick (21:26): That mentality I think has to change because people are still in that and still spending, and it's hard to get out of that. And I feel like it's a bit of, a bit of a mouse trap. And, um, student loans are, are something that, uh, you know, can affect you, um, from being able to reach your goals. You know, if you want to go and get a mortgage, your, your bank's gonna look at your, your serviceability. They don't just look at your credit score and your income. They say, well, what have you got, uh, against? What's your assets and your liabilities? That's literally the, the formula. So we just wanna help people understand that they can pay that down faster, that they don't need to deal with the service side, that the servicer will be notified once the enrollments taken place and that everything is, is really seamless.

Daphné Vanessa (22:11): How was it, or how difficult was it to get servicers on board for this program?

Trent McKendrick (22:19): Yeah, so as I, as I mentioned earlier, we, we work with a company called Paid Off and, and paid off have, uh, have the relationship with, um, all the services through a, a, uh, the services, uh, I, I don't recall the exact name, it's been sometimes since I've talked about it, but it, it's basically a board of all the services that work together. So they have a, a couple of core people within their team that, that, um, own those relationships. So we leverage their, uh, existing API into all the services to get the information. So the information comes from the servicer, but then the enrollments go directly to the Department of Education, if that makes sense. So the servicer doesn't touch the paperwork for a re-enrollment into a, you know, a PE program or an R D R. They, these, these are done directly with the D L E.

Daphné Vanessa (23:05): Okay. And then the communications with the are like, apply this directly to principal that's already baked into your terms. Right. So they're

Trent McKendrick (23:14): That's right. Yeah.

Daphné Vanessa (23:15): That's automatically in the, the instructions.

Trent McKendrick (23:17): Yeah. So our payments, our payments to the services go directly towards principals. They're, they're not interest payments. That's correct. Unless you want to, as I mentioned earlier, nominate for this to go towards your monthly payment. And the monthly payment is generally just covering your interest. You know, that it's credit card, pretty credit card scheme, pay, pay the minimum ,

Shamil Rodriguez (23:38): I think, uh,

Trent McKendrick (23:39): Pay the minimum. That's

Shamil Rodriguez (23:40): Correct me if I'm wrong here, Trent, but the idea that I'm getting for, for everyone, uh, is that it, your lever really is attempting to serve as that almost like your financial advocate, right? Someone that can, or some app, right? But in this sense, I'm related to having a person on your, in your corner that's saying, Hey, um, this is what you're paying. This is what you're accruing. Um, this is a plan that you can have in place, basically the goals that you've entered in. And then we're gonna, we're gonna act on your behalf, right? So we're gonna, if you wanna enroll in this program, we're gonna take care of it for you. Mm-hmm. wanna communicate this, we're gonna take care of it for you. So it's like, is is that, would that be like an accurate way to summarize what someone Yeah,

Trent McKendrick (24:18): It is. It is. And, and, and, and that's because consumers don't have an easy and centralized way to consolidate all their liabilities and, and pay them off. And that's not, that's not to say that, um, you know, it's not possible. It's just we've gone out and focused on that and focused on showing people what they should and shouldn't be paying, focused on how can you use the rules that everybody else has used in other industries to benefit you with student loans? And that's, that's all we're doing. I mean, we did it in Australia with, with debts. It was really about how hardships work, um, you know, how pausing loans and, and how requesting that credit cards go into different programs, uh, works. And we just leveraged that, that those, um, you know, the consumer laws. And it's the same thing here. Um, you know, the more and more I've thought about this conversation, the more and more I think we will build that template is to show people that, Hey, I've been being charged, and we can just give you the exact number.

Trent McKendrick (25:10): If you just upload, connect your service sites, it's very similar to what we did in Australia. But there is no, no one out there championing, championing in student loan borrowers. And, and, and that's where we want. We wanna be first and foremost, and, and, and just give people that sense of control. Because how hard is it to call a servicer? You're on the, you're on hold for hours. You, you're talking to somebody who has to find your file in a computer, has to read your notes, has to do this, has to get permission. Here's a 45 day, you know, service standard and will come back to you where it shouldn't be like that. It should be a lot of automation, a lot of rule based, um, you know, engineering, and then just, Hey, you know, yep. You've qualified. Here you go, you're done. No, we shouldn't have judged your interest. That's right. You're off. Like there's a lot. Agree, agree.

Daphné Vanessa (25:59): Um, so how much does this cost? Is this anything for the borrowers

Trent McKendrick (26:04): Punchline? No. Uh, no, it's not. It's, it's not actually, um, you know, we made a, a decision this year, you know, we're going into July, we're thinking, okay, what's going on with student loans? We're gonna restart. Then we get told September and we're thinking, okay, good. That's what we're gonna do. And then we get told January, I said to my team, listen, what's it cost us to acquire a customer? What do we care about once we acquire that customer? Do we really think that charging them, you know, a, a fee for the first year is gonna be worth it? I think people are already in shock. I think that, um, my biggest concern is that there, the amount of people that come to us that are being charged interest by their servicer, and I just said, listen, we'll just wear the cost of the first year right now.

Trent McKendrick (26:51): We're not charging you to onboard to change your loan, to re-enroll into a new program, to see all your liabilities, to start making extra repayments. We even give you a credit score on ways to increase and, and benefit your credit score and track that as well. We even give you round ups and extra repayments towards any other liabilities focusing on student loans. I just said, guys, we were gonna charge 79 99. I've, I've scrapped that. We're not charging for the first year. If you don't get value out of it in the first year, which we believe you will. So we're not too worried. We'll be looking for you to, when you do your annual renewal, which is basically a recertification of who you are. So if you get into a, an IDR program or a P ae or you know, the federal programs, you have to do your annual, um, an annual certificate recertification, we'll remind you of that 90 days out.

Trent McKendrick (27:38): And then if you want to continue using our app to manage that, then we will charge you a 79.99. And, um, but that will be year two. So we wanna prove the value, build the trust, have a community of people that are actually benefiting from what we're offering, uh, you know, be it at our expense. But we believe that, I think people have had too much of, of, uh, you know, a have been too much of a pinball inside a pinball machine just being bounced around, not told the right things. And then every time the ball goes to go down there, it's getting prong back into this mess. So we need more clear direction. And, and, and that was part of our, our sort of vision and our values is let's bring people, uh, the ability to do this without having a commitment.

Daphné Vanessa (28:19): Got it. So freemium model, essentially first year, free,

Trent McKendrick (28:23): Free, free for the first year, get your credit score, do your roundups, do everything. And then in, in year two, um, when you go for your recertification, there'll be a fee of 79 point 99, unless

Daphné Vanessa (28:34): You paid off loans in a year

Trent McKendrick (28:36): Paid, and the California lottery ticket was yours, maybe . Yeah. But the, but, but, but yeah, the, the, the point is, you, we, we know that people will get value out of it. You know, on average people save around $240 in their first month. So, you know, that's, for us, it's, it's a win-win. I just wanna go out and sell that value proposition. You know, I don't wanna be selling snake oil. I want people to actually see the result 12 months down the track. We're with you for 10, 20 years anyway. So the long-term value that we reap out of you being a customer of ours and the, the long-term value that you should reap out of being our customer, there should be a healthy margin between the two of us as well.

Daphné Vanessa (29:16): Agreed. So what does the future look like for the debt industry? Do you see Lever contributing to a more financially free Gen Z and millennial generation? What do you think the future looks like?

Trent McKendrick (29:31): Yeah, that's absolutely our mission. I mean, helping people understand what debt means, understand how it works, you know, um, a lot of our, our purpose is taking everything from, um, existing liabilities, be it credit cards, could be, you know, a Best Buy card. It could be anything that, that you have. We're basically able to get you all of those liabilities into, into the app and show you exactly what you owe, where, where it's owed, what it's costing you every year on a holistic point of view. You'd be surprised at what your liability interest looks like. One, you, once you combine it all into one frame, if you see, wow, I have a hundred thousand dollars here, it's costing me $13,000 a year in interest, you'll start to think, well, how am I paying that much interest? Or, you know, and then it breaks down exactly what, uh, you are paying the interest towards.

Trent McKendrick (30:25): Um, and then allows you to look at how can I renegotiate directly with those, um, with those, with those providers, and or how do I get a be a, a better, um, program with my student loan? Be like an idr, for example, in the, the income driven repayment plans, by far the best, I think for, um, people with a higher balance in their current income, which is a lot of people . Yes. Um, so yeah. And, and, and then, and then we want, and, and you know, we kind of looked at it saying, okay, let's set up reoccurring payments and help people do roundups. Let's help them apply for things like IDRs. Let's get people Biden forgiveness, and then let's help people dispute debts they don't even recognize. Because if you put all your liabilities into one place, you'd be really surprised at how many things that you've got on that, your credit file or, or that are coming through your bank statement.

Trent McKendrick (31:10): That might be a fraction of a dollar that you are still paying for that shouldn't have been paid for. That maybe the con the person that provided you with that contract in the beginning hadn't decided to cancel, and they still had your, your, your banking information. And it's crazy how many people, how much money gets wasted on, on things that people don't even know what they're getting charged for. And we just wanna contribute to the education of that. Make people more financially aware, make people more confident. And you know, you see these stories online all the time, and these like dudes that are selling four X courses and all these things, and you know, for us that's, that's really funny. But that's really not how you make money. How you make money is knowing how money works. How you make money is knowing how to manage your debts, how to, how you make money is knowing how to plan a budget and what your credit score does for you.

Trent McKendrick (31:57): Once people understand how they can increase their credit score, we see a dramatic engagement rate of people wanting to know monthly, what am I, what's my credit score done? Okay, have I paid this? Should I pay that? And the app kind of gives you that, um, gives you those recommendations for your credit score, and then reverts that back to the individual liabilities. So yeah, we wanna help everybody pay their debts back. You know, there's, I think the number, uh, was 16 point, I've got it literally right here. I'm just gonna tell you the number is 16.5 trillion in consumer debt exists across 715 million consumer accounts. Be it that 11 trillion of that is mortgage debt. That means that, uh, just over 11 trillion of that is mortgage debt. That means that there's over 5 trillion of consumer debt that currently just sits there, a accruing interest. Mm-hmm. , 2 trillion of that as of, was it September? Was it September when it ticked over to 2 trillion in student loans

Daphné Vanessa (32:54): From one point? I didn't even think it was possible.

Shamil Rodriguez (32:56): I remember

Daphné Vanessa (32:57): What it was under a trillion. This is terrible. Mm-hmm.

Trent McKendrick (33:00): . But yeah, we have that on our website. And like I said to guys, like, did you see that? It just happened, it was crazy. 2 trillion in student loan debt, you know, that was 1.8 trillion six months ago. Mm-hmm. . So what's going on? Yep. You know,

Daphné Vanessa (33:14): Is it enrolled?

Trent McKendrick (33:14): How is that a,

Daphné Vanessa (33:16): What happened?

Shamil Rodriguez (33:18): Yeah. This is definitely compounding.

Trent McKendrick (33:19): I think enrollment and interest, enrollment and interest. The interest, the interest is piling on top of those, you know, the stories are immense. Yeah,

Shamil Rodriguez (33:27): No, absolutely. But, you know, I wanna, uh, I want to go into something else you'd mentioned earlier, Trent, that I think would be good just because, um, you're, you're not just doing it for those that are out there, but you also have team members that are carrying student loan debt. So would you mind sharing a little about your team and, and, and how you built them and what they're up to? I think it's, it's, it's fascinating to talk about you've got real people that are dealing with this issue as well on your, on your team.

Trent McKendrick (33:50): Yeah. Well, no, we do. So we, um, you know, I got to the US in, in, in January this year, and I really, I wanted to get the right people around us. So we went on, we, we've got some, some really good engineers out of Silicon Valley or, or San Francisco. We've got some really good engineers in, in, in, in Los Angeles. We've got some great engineers in Chicago and Arizona. You know, we were used to a remote working environment, so to get people back into an office, to interview, to get people really excited to sit at a desk was a little bit challenging. But we try to bring the energy, we try to show people that we're actually a purpose driven business, and that we're not here to just try to charge people $79 to, to use our app. And I think with, uh, you know, we've worked Tanya, our marketing manager who's fantastic, she's, she's worked with, uh, Nike before and, and, uh, and a number of charity organizations and nonprofits.

Trent McKendrick (34:37): So her mentality is really about giving back as well as being part of the capitalist community. So that's a, a nice healthy balance. Um, but Tony came to me and, and I remember we were sitting there on our first day and we were talking about student loans and, and sort of her experiences. And I said, have you looked at your student loan in the last 12 months? And she was like, no, no, not at all. I haven't looked at it since, since the pause. She, I said, open it. I bet you it is more than you expected. You had the day that it went on pause, and it was, it was $2,000 more, and she was livid. Like I thought I was, you know, paying this down. And I thought that I didn't have to, I thought that I'd be able to get this paid off, and the, the balance would be this, and it was, there was 2000 more.

Trent McKendrick (35:17): And that was shocking. And I think that drives a lot of the fire in the belly for our team, that we genuinely try to understand the rules and the regulations and, and they love that side. Um, you know, we have, we have Maddie who runs our operations. Uh, we have a, a few developers with Sege that runs our, our project team. And, um, yeah, it's, it's, it's a great environment of, of like-minded people. We work in a, in, in, in an, in a, in an office together. There's, there's, you know, 12 of us that, that sort of sit there day in, day out. And then there's a, then there's some of the remote guys that, that are still attached to, attached to the team every day. But being, um, you know, being in office, having that, having that vision, you know, we're constantly shaping things.

Trent McKendrick (35:58): And we have a team of people that are really, um, committed to providing the best service to our end user. And, and that's when we started out and said, well, when I started, when I started out with everybody, I said, our goal is to create the most easy to understand, um, intelligent way for anybody off the street in unless, uh, three years old or 30 years old or 60 years old, can pick up the app, can navigate through the app and can say, actually what I did through this app was figure out what I owed, figure out how I could pay better, figure out what suited well, well figure out what suits me, figure out how I can pay better, and then get that done without straining, without going through paperwork. We're in a digital economy. There's no reason people needed that. Um, need paperwork. So

Daphné Vanessa (36:41): Facts, when student loan service request that you fax a document, I always ask them in I am the 1970s fax. Yeah. Are we still faxing? People

Trent McKendrick (36:51): Are still, it's happening. Yeah. So, so our team, our team are, you know, great Americans, great people that are, that are, are driven by the mission and, and, uh, the values that we hold within our business. And, you know, one of those values is money. You know, it's understanding money, it's figuring out how money can work with you and how you can work with money. And that's, um, yeah, that's, that's us. We love it. That's, we do it day in, day out. We're actually, you know, we're getting onto to our nearly 12 month, uh, and we're, we're still as fiery as we were on our first.

Shamil Rodriguez (37:22): Nice. Amazing. I'm really happy to hear that

Trent McKendrick (37:24): , even though this Biden guy's really wearing us down with changes, we're still excited because we know when the time comes, the value will be offered to a lot of people. And, and, um, yeah, it's good.

Daphné Vanessa (37:38): It, it's, it's good for so many people. Um, last question. Your options that you're giving people are consolidation, refinancing, applying for government programs, and what else? What are, what are sort of the options of repayment that you guide people?

Trent McKendrick (37:56): Yeah, so just, just to be completely clear, we do not do refinancing or, um, consolidation. Okay? We help you take all of your existing student loans, and then you can consolidate them into a program with the federal government. We don't offer any private, we don't work with private funders. We made a strategic decision. We've had a lot of people come to us and say, Hey, we're able to pay your referral fee. And my view is this, private funders are there to privately fund something. Private funders aren't there to help you when things change. Private funders are, there's a set amount of money over a set amount of time with a set amount of interest, and they lock in their value day one, and they probably package that up and sell that loan off to somebody in a year's time anyway. So, uh, you know, our, our view is that, um, that we don't want to, we don't wanna be involved in refinance and consolidation unless it's directly through government programs. But the important thing is, is that when you do enroll in these programs, not all of your loans will qualify, but a holistic repayment point of view, this is how much you'll be saving and this is how much you should be paying, and then allows you to choose the right options because debt is confusing and it's intentional,

Shamil Rodriguez (39:04): Right? Yeah. Yes.

Trent McKendrick (39:05): ,

Shamil Rodriguez (39:06): That doesn't happen by mistake. your MPN agreement and ask me if you under

Trent McKendrick (39:12): Smarter people than ask the writing, writing those loan contracts, that's for sure. Yeah. That, that's where, that's where lever comes in. We're trying to, trying to make it all as simple as possible. But as I mentioned earlier, like we also decided we'll attach your credit score because your credit score impacts your financial life. That's how you get educated. You can see what payments affect, what part of the credit score, and how to increase that to be a better, you know, a a better financial citizen, really.

Shamil Rodriguez (39:36): What's a, a final message that you want to give to folks that are listening right now?

Trent McKendrick (39:40): My final message or my, my, my final opinion is that if you have debt, face it, don't ignore it. Because if the more you ignore it, the longer it'll go on, it's time to leave you in life. You know, it's time to say, I have this debt that this debt's not gonna own me. I'm gonna own it. It doesn't matter if you deal with your services, if you tell them what's going on, if you deal with your, your, your lenders, if you tell them what's going on, they have to listen. The rules and regulations are there for consumers to say, Hey, if this consumer's not where he was the day that he took this contract, circumstances have changed. He has the right to, to change and for things to work in his benefit may, whether that's payment, pauses, reduced interest, or end or debt write-offs, there's ways to, to request all different sorts of things. So my, my last word is face it, don't ignore it and get on with life, because once you deal with it, there's plenty of life to live. Thank you for having me, guys.

Shamil Rodriguez (40:33): Oh, thank you so much for coming on. All right. So for more information on today's episode, visit the student alone podcast.com/episode 81. That's the student alone podcast.com/episode 81.

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