This Navy SEAL veteran fights for investment opportunities in the military community

Kaj Larsen is an award-winning war correspondent, filmmaker and journalist. But he started out as one of the toughest in the game: Navy SEAL, of course.

His five years of active service as a Special Warfare Operator shaped his future and what he had become. After moving to the reserves in 2007, Larsen received his masters from Harvard University and spent the next decade chasing and telling some of the most important stories of our lives. In 2018, he left the Naval Reserve as a Lieutenant Commander, motivated to use his voice for the military community in even more meaningful ways.

These days, he spends his time defending a slice of the investment and wealth creation pie. “The DOD recently recognized that financial preparedness is a critical national security issue. Financial stress is literally the biggest stressor and the biggest household problem for military families, ”he said. “For me, it was really that transition from doing all that veteran service work in the philanthropic sector and watching the guys from Team Rubicon and The Mission Continues come back and really need to feel engaged. They were to use their hands to help other people rebuild their homes after our hurricane. But at the same time, some of these guys couldn’t even pay their own rent.

Not wanting to accept a world with no real solution to the problem, he worked with friends to create it themselves. The big idea was simple. “Let’s bridge this gap with the private wealth community. Let the community invest in their financial future and teach them how to do it, ”said Larsen.

The result was an investment platform specifically for the military community, the first of its kind. “I would say the idea has been smoldering for 15 years and last year we poured gasoline on the fire,” Larsen said with a laugh.

This veteran SEAL just has a little experience blowing things up, after all.

The formation and creation of the platform took years. “Our founder Sean Bonner was a Wall Street veteran for 25 years. He was on the floor of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange on September 11. The next day he was in front of the Navy recruiter and commissioning at 34, ”Larsen explained.

Bonner’s passion for financial health, however, has never wavered. In 2020, he teamed up with Mike Conallen (also a former naval intelligence officer) to make it happen. Larsen joined the launch team soon after. The mobile investing app launched on Veterans Day 2021.

“We allow fractional stock trading and we have all of these tools, interactive tools to help guide military families in investing so they can prepare for their financial future,” said Larsen. The military changed its pension system several years ago so that many people benefit from the blended pension system, but ultimately they will benefit from a contribution-based system. And it’s actually a pretty robust system, but the military participation in the TSP is 40%, which means there is this huge part of the military community that doesn’t have long-term financial planning. “

GUILD, designed for veterans by veterans, aims to reduce the two main barriers to investing – lack of confidence and knowing exactly how to invest your money. The team has also partnered with the Office of Financial Preparedness, creating extraordinary content to support the educational level of the business. Larsen also added that education is a priority and a big part of their mission with the company.

Larsen also wanted to spend time crushing misconceptions about investing. “It is not true that it takes a lot of money or specific knowledge to start investing. We preached the opposite, in fact. It’s never too early to start and time in the market is more important than timing in the market, ”he said.

They put their money behind the claim. Users who complete certain educational videos and take quick tests afterward will receive $ 5 for their investment. “We want to start getting people to invest and think long term as early as possible. And it’s hard, it’s a fight. We were all there early in our military careers and we were focusing on other things, ”Larsen said. “This is one of the reasons we decided to make it as smooth as possible. We bring people to the platform, we will pay them to get smarter about it. “

GUILD does not charge a commission and users can invest in a share of the stock for as little as $ 1, although some relevant SEC and FINRA fees may still apply. The interactive platform is formulated specifically to talk to the community. And like most things in the military, the team created a friendly yet competitive atmosphere by allowing those who share their portfolios to see other rankings. You can even earn a specialized “ribbon” for your first trade.

As for this Navy SEAL veteran who continued to look for ways to serve, his new endeavor is very much in keeping with his commitment to the well-being and continued prosperity of the military community. “After focusing on the purpose and mission of the veterans for so long, this is my new mission,” said Larsen. “It’s to help veterans stay in the fight for their financial future. “

You can read more about the military investment app by clicking here.

Jill E. Washington