As a 34-year-old single dad to an amazing and sometimes challenging 6-year old little girl, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my daughter’s future and ensuring she is set-up for success in life. To me, being set-up for success means giving her a well-rounded education and the financial as well as emotional support to continue that education wherever her dreams may take her.  As any parent knows, there is a lot to balance when raising children between work, school, sports (in our case, basketball, and soccer), piano lessons, family time… the list goes on and on. Admittedly, my focus as a parent early in my daughter’s life was on giving her a well-rounded childhood and not enough on how she would be able to continue her education after high school. 

I blame part of my failure to plan on the fact that no one ever saved for my college, and so I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t give saving for her education much thought. With no money saved for college, I had been fortunate to have earned a full scholarship for my undergraduate degree to the Air Force Academy. I had hoped that my daughter would someday follow in my footsteps, and the Air Force would pick up the tab.

While sitting at the doctor’s office for her 5-year-old check-up, I came to learn that while my daughter and I look almost identical, we have very different eyes. Her poor vision would almost certainly preclude her from someday attending the Air Force Academy. This realization served as a wakeup call for me to begin investigating college savings and learning more about the best vehicles to save and invest for her college. It was not good enough to be a great dad for her now; I had to plan on how I was going to take care of my daughter in the future.

As I researched, I realized that the longer I prolonged acting, the more it would inevitably hurt my daughter’s chances of pursuing her dreams due to the threat of student debt. I understood the burden of student debt because I did have to take out over $100k+ in loans while earning my master’s degree. It almost killed me, but I was able to work diligently and pay off that debt thanks to the success of a consulting business I founded after leaving the Air Force.

Having worked in consulting, I reached out to a friend who was a financial services guru to hear his thoughts on saving for college. He recommended I investigate UNest, a mobile app that allowed parents to set up a 5-star rated 529 college savings plan. I had read a bit about 529 Plans and the tax advantages they offered parents for not only college but trade school and other education-related expenses. Taking his advice I decided to download the app and check it out.


Initially, I was skeptical, primarily because UNest seemed to good to be true. I had learned how lengthy the process of setting up a 529 plan is. For those parents who did not want the hassle of navigating mountains of paperwork and dozens of plans by themselves, there were financial advisors will to help. Unfortunately, those advisors charged parents ridiculously high fees for establishing 529 Plans. As I researched, I began to appreciate what the UNest team had built. As a busy parent, my biggest concerns were ease of use, not wasting money on high management fees, and the ability to contribute automatically. 

UNest had solved for my core concerns with their easy to use interface that allowed me to download the app and set up an account in under 5-minutes. I was able to play with their planning tool and see the monthly contribution I would need to make so my daughter would have enough money for college upon her high school graduation. It also made me happy that an active advisor was monitoring the plan. I wanted to be in an age-based plan that balanced risk over time, becoming less exposed as my daughter got closer to the date she would need the money.

One of the things I had been most shocked by was the high fees advisors charged for setting up plans. While these did not look significant early over time, they added up to thousands of dollars. UNest’s solved this problem with a flat $3 monthly fee, which I felt was fair given the value of their service.

Ever the skeptic, I did not dive into becoming a UNest client immediately. I downloaded the app and read the reviews. I talked with more friends and even had the chance to meet the founder of UNest through my friend. I learned about her background and saw she truly cared about her clients and saw the need for UNest while at a large financial institution that had been charging far too much to parents. She wanted to democratize college savings and ensure anyone could set up an account quickly and efficiently.

At this point, I was convinced and began funding my account. Still cautious, I started with smaller contributions that have grown over time. Since investing my first dollars, I’ve received paperwork confirming my plan, and I’ve had no problems with my deposits going through every month. I’ve even gotten to know the UNest team very well and am a proud supporter which I why I am sharing my story with you today.

Full disclosure, I loved the UNest app so much I even invested in the company and am now a proud account holder and shareholder in UNest. I know that there are lots of other parents out there like me who have postponed saving for college for their children because it seems like too much of a daunting task. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be, and the team at UNest is happy to help you just like they helped me. Together we can all make our kid’s futures brighter by removing the burden of student debt.

Blogs and articles contain the current, good faith opinions of the authors but not necessarily those of UNest. The documents are meant for educational purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any type.  The documents may contain forward-looking statements.

Ksenia Yudina, CFA, MBA

Founder and CEO

Ksenia is the Founder and CEO of U-Nest, the first mobile app that makes it easy for families to save for college. As an entrepreneur and finance professional, Ksenia has focused on alleviating the impact of student debt on families across the economic spectrum. Previously, Ksenia was a Vice President atCapital Group/American Funds, the largest 529 provider in the U.S. In this role, she played a leadership role in helping parents plan and manage their finances, with a focus on the future well-being of their children. Prior to Capital Group/American Funds, she was founder of a residential real estate company. Ksenia earned her bachelor’s degree in finance from CaliforniaState University Northridge, and an MBA from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.

Mike Van Kempen

Chief Operating Officer

Mike joined U-Nest in September 2019 as COO. He was previously at Acorns, a financial wellness platform, where he spearheaded the analytics and growth initiatives. Mike successfully expandedAcorns’ paid acquisition strategy, adding over 4.5 million investment accounts. Mike began his career in strategy & analytics at Belly, a Chicago-based loyalty startup in 2012. At Belly, Mike led projects that fueled growth across all aspects of the business, growing the customer base from1,000 to over 11,000 merchants, and accumulating a membership of over 2 million customers.Mike holds a B.B.A. in Finance from Loyola University of Chicago.

Steve Buchanan

Chief Technology Officer

Steve has over 20 years of experience in delivering digital innovations in the financial sector. Steve previously orchestrated product architecture and innovation as a Solutions Architect/ Fintech consultant at Union Bank. Prior to Union Bank, he was Chief Architect and Director of Engineering at Calypso, a Silicon Valley startup, where he architected and built multiple financial solutions. He was also Head of Global Integrations at Globe One in Vietnam where he integrated its Peer-to-Peer lending products into core banking solutions. Steve also built the first ever electronic Equities &Equity Options trading systems for Scottish stock brokers Wood Mackenzie (acquired by CountyNatWest). He is a graduate of Edinburgh University.

Peter Mansfield

Chief Marketing Officer

Peter has built an impressive track record in multiple financial industry segments including payments, credit/prepaid cards and lending. He has played an instrumental role at a succession of financial industry leaders, co-founding companies such as Brand3 (acquired by American Express) and PropertyBridge (acquired by Moneygram), and, as the early stage marketing lead at Marqeta (where he was team member number two), BillFloat and WallabyFinancial (acquired by Bankrate).He has helped fast-growth companies reach an aggregate market value of close to $8 billion. Peter holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Angila, UK.

Sonya Kidman

Client Relationship Manager

Sonya Kidman is a Customer Success professional with a decade of experience in advocating for consumer through user research and genuine empathy. Sonya specializes in user behavior and regularly attends national and global training sessions in wellness and people analytics tools. Sonya is a true global citizen was born in Russia, grew up in Israel, lived and worked in Canada and NewZealand. That global expertise along with an undergraduate degree in Sociology from Tel AvivUniversity have helped to shape a bullet-prof Sonya's framework to develop a winning customer strategy.

Frank Mastrangelo

Board Member

One part banker and one part technologist, Frank spent his early days with the Annenberg Foundation and PNC Bank. His career path led him to Jefferson Bank, where he led the build-out of its electronic banking platforms, and where he would forge a powerful alliance with The Bancorp co-founder Betsy Z. Cohen. As President and COO of The Bancorp from its inception in 1999 Frank played a critical role in helping the organization become an industry bellwether for branchless financial services and a global leader in payments. For this, he has become a widely respected fintech expert, and thought-leader. Frank was recognized in 2013 by Banking Innovation, a leading industry journal, as an “Innovator to Watch.” and as one of the innovators shaping the future of banking. Frank is a graduate of West Chester University of Pennsylvania.


College Savings Calculator is a hypothetical tool that demonstrates how monthly contributions, age-based asset rebalancing, and tax savings may impact the long-term value of your account, and do not take into account a portfolio’s underlying investment management fees. Calculations assume the private institution cost inflation is 2.8%, public out of state cost inflation is 3.9%, public in state cost inflation is 2.7%. Portfolio is assumed to have only stocks and bonds. Monthly equity returns are based on the historical data from the 10-year track record of the stock market (SPY). Monthly fixed income returns are based on the historical data from the 10-year track record of the bond market index (AGG). The current college expenses are provided by the Actual account performance may differ due to market fluctuations, changes in recurring investments, and asset allocation. The information provided here is for illustrative purposes only and does not represent actual or future performance of any investment option and is not intended to predict or project the investment performance of any security or index.