Dr. Joshua Funder has recently turned 50. He’s celebrating this major milestone by creating a trust to help older women in need of a home, to connect with those who already have one. It’s a Not for Profit venture that has emerged from his very successful home equity access company, Household Capital. Maybe it’s his somewhat contradictory CV – a mix of venture capital and socially progressive think tank experience – that now allows him to connect the dots, for the benefit of others, in a super interesting way.
Let’s go back to the beginning …
Josh founded Household Capital in 2017. His diverse background in both corporate and Not for Profit sectors combined to help him to see both a need and a solution.
How did this roll out? He holds a PhD in IP law, where he learned about new ways of financing need. Next, he worked for the Clinton Foundation on a program which connected a solution (generic medicines from India) with a need (HIV patients in Africa).
After this he entered the world of venture capital, working with the CEOs of some of Australia’s largest superannuation funds.
It became crystal clear to Josh that, despite Australia having what the World Bank rates as a ‘best practice’ retirement income system, the vast majority of Australians remained underfunded for retirement.
Josh’s next role was as co-founder at Per Capita, a socially progressive think tank. Here he recognised the need to radically reframe the Australian debate on ageing – fostering a shift from the concept of ‘burden’ and the notion of a ‘tsunami’ of older people to better understand and promote the benefits of this massive demographic shift.
But there remained a fundamental challenge; the clear need for most Australians to plan 30 years in retirement based upon the median superannuation saving of just AUD $200,000.
And this is where the house can be viewed as the mainstay of most Australians’ retirement security, with 80% of retirees owning homes, with a median equity of $700,000.
Globally, Australian retirees are the wealthiest in the world when ranked by assets held. But between 66-75% of these assets are held in the home.
This challenge led Josh to establish Household Capital, allowing customers to access the wealth in their homes to supplement their retirement income. The goal for Household Capital is to be Australia’s largest provider of affordable housing.
This means fighting the push by those economists who maintain retirees underutilise their (often large) homes and talk them into downsizing as they are ‘taking up too much space’.
‘That’s bullshit’ says Josh.
The benefits of remaining in community are manifest – community connectedness is fundamental to wellbeing.
Retirees continue to work in both paid and unpaid roles, often working from home, often caring for family, including grandchildren.
So the family home is used actively, albeit in a different way from previous life stages.
As his business has grown, the lessons Josh learned at Per Capita remain at the forefront of his mind.
In particular, the identification of single female retirees renting private accommodation, as the poorest and most vulnerable in their age group.
Josh wanted to do something practical to ensure that these women could also have a secure and fulfilling retirement. More specifically, that their crippling financial situation would not shut out all joy and aspiration.
Enter Household Connect, a philanthropic trust created by Josh and his team at Household Capital. The aim is to use the Household Capital network and experience to build, based upon existing customers, a critical mass of age-appropriate housing capacity to enable all retirees to meet four key needs:
Funder acknowledges the work already done in these field , including pilot programs, by groups such as The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI). He also believes that digital matching technologies – think Air BnB – can offer templates to establish connections with a high likelihood of compatibility for the Household Connect program.
With more than 50% of existing Household Capital customers female, there is a strong database with whom to connect older females in need of secure and affordable housing.
Says Funder, ‘Women will show and lead the way in dynamic ongoing relationship building’.
This, he believes, will allow the creation of relationships that may last the full 20-30 years of later life.
Back to the crisis!
On December 11, Josh Funder’s much delayed 50th birthday celebration will be held in one of post-lockdown Melbourne’s coolest restaurants. And the price of entry? A donation to his passion project, Household Connect, of course. An impressive example of how to celebrate big birthdays for the rest of us to follow …