Ian Brock Is On a Mission to Educate Gen Z on Money Matters

    Not many 19-year-olds would think about writing a book about money, but then again, not many 12-year-olds start their own business as Ian Brock did, selling cookies to help fund his Dream Hustle Code nonprofit, encouraging young people to pursue opportunities in tech.

    So, while youthful entrepreneur Brock doesn’t claim to be a financial expert, his New Nerd Money draws on almost a decade’s experience to offer sound advice to his fellow Gen Zers and help them start to build wealth at an early age.

     “I’m not a financial adviser,” Brock says from the outset. “This is from a teen’s perspective, writing to other teens, giving them a basic foundational introduction to financial literacy, mainly because a lot of kids want to learn but they just don’t know where to start.”

    Brock’s advice is based not only on what he has learned personally (“some things that worked and some things that didn’t”) but also on lessons gleaned from interviewing successful people from age 11. Repeatedly featured in national media for his young entrepreneurial skills, Brock has rubbed shoulders with numerous big-name business leaders.

    From those different case studies, Brock concludes one essential thing: there’s a way to win. “The principles of making money work, no matter if you’re Black, white, Asian, Hispanic, no matter what religion you are, no matter where you come from on this planet—if you’re ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ however you want to call it.” Things like budgeting, using credit—“apply them in the right way and they work regardless.”

    The challenge for his generation is getting them to look further and see the bigger picture. Most teenagers are thinking to themselves, he observes: “Don’t make me wait. Don’t be telling me to save.” They need a clear why for waiting, he says. “Let’s say they’re in a situation where they grew up in the hood, and they want to take their mom out [of there],” he says. “If they understand they’re delaying gratification so that they’ll be able to put their moms or their families in a better position, from what I found, it makes it that much easier to encourage them to save their money.”

    If it’s naturally difficult for young people to wait, that have-it-now itch is only worsened by social media. “You see all these people with all these nice cars, nice houses, they’ve all the fanciest clothes,” Brock says. “Sometimes you just want to go spend, spend, but… my goals are bigger than just having a fly outfit.”

    Brock recalls interviewing Cam Newton at the Super Bowl and asking him what was his worst purchase. The answer: a piece of clothing that cost thousands of dollars that he wore just once. 

    Delay needs to be twinned with discipline, Brock says—a plan for getting where you want to go. He aims to buy his first property this year, a four-unit, so he can live in one and rent out the others. Then, he intends to purchase a car.

    With that in mind, he sticks to a budget. Some people call him cheap because of that, but he doesn’t mind. “If I have a budget, I know how to work,” he says. It’s not the numbers that matter; it’s the principle: “The budget could be $10 or $10 million. If it’s within the budget, it works.”

    All of us can make money if we learn to apply the principles and work together.

    A young learner

    Another lesson Brock wants to pass along is that there’s plenty of money out there to be made. “There’s an abundance of it,” he says. “A lot of us work with the mindset of lack when really all of us can make money if we learn to apply the principles and work together… I have learned that if you are able to take [them] and actually use them consistently, you will get some results.”

     Brock was an early student when it came to money. “I started learning about financial literacy, started learning real estate, when I was 13 years old,” he says. “Dad had me learning everything about credit since I was 14. And then when I turned 18, I had a whole plan in place, and I started to execute it.”

    Brock’s achievements and accolades are due in part to the nurture and support of his parents. Michael and Dulcevita Brock emphasized the importance of education from a young age, encouraged his interests and supported his efforts, co-founding Dream Hustle Code with him.

    The movement promoting young people’s interest in computer science has earned Brock honors as well as headlines. A member of the prestigious Thiel Fellowship Class of 2023, he has been a finalist for the Time + Nickelodeon Kid of the Year Award and named one of Chicago Inno’s 25 Under 25 Rising Chicago Entrepreneurs & Technologists. A WayMaker Media board of directors member, Brock hosts the teen portion of the annual WayMaker Men’s Summit.  

    Despite his many youthful successes, Brock was hesitant when someone first suggested he write a book about money. But a mentor told him, “The only way for other kids to be able to take in that information is if it comes from another kid like yourself.” He told Brock the book would encourage other kids to do the same, “and who knows how many other kids will get into this space because a 19-year-old said so.”

    With that in mind, Brock—as might be expected—has a plan for New Nerd Money. He wants to give away 100,000 free copies to students in workshop presentations in schools in his Chicago hometown, plus New York and Los Angeles.

    RELATED: How to Build a Bundle

    A family thread

    There is also a deeply personal inspiration behind Brock’s book: his grandfathers, both brilliant in math, he says. His mom’s dad, whom he called Lolo, was born in the Philippines. He got a well-paying job, but he wanted a better life for his three daughters. They moved to Canada and from there Lolo came to the United States to build a foundation for the family. He was separated from his family for nearly 10 years, working his way up to a job designing blueprints for nuclear power plants.

    And then there was Grandpa Brock. After serving as a military police officer, he got a job with a trucking company and decided he wanted to start his own. But he couldn’t get anyone to lend him the money he needed. “Being Black in America in the late 1960s and sometimes not having the right information, it’s hard to get that funding,” Brock says.

    In time, Grandpa Brock started selling drugs to take care of his family and ended up becoming a user. “Eventually, he passed away,” says Brock. “Some people said it was because of him having an excess of drugs in his system. Some other people say it was because of the heartbreak of losing his son earlier that year, as well as not being able to achieve the dreams that he had for himself.”

    As he thought about his grandfathers’ experiences in trying to pursue their dreams, Brock wondered, “How different would their lives have been had they had access to this information? Would my grandfather from the Philippines have been able to come here earlier and not had to have been separated from his family for 10 years? Would my Grandpa Brock still be alive and have started his own trucking company?”

    Brock considers how different his family’s life might have been had they had access to the information he shares in his book. “And so when I thought about it, I was like, ‘OK, I can’t change my family’s past, but I could potentially change and shape someone else’s family for future generations to come.’”

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