Youth can be enterprising -- and these days, the entrepreneurial lab is either a dorm room (Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg) or a garage (Google's Sergey Brin). In the case of Bryan Sims, who founded brass, with the requisite video podcasts and Web site, it's both. Brass -- young today, rich tomorrow -- is a quarterly with a mission: help young adults 16-25 understand money and achieve their financial goals. Note to Bryan: send the blueprint for your 4-year-old mag to the White House. So far, the Bushies have as much chance of grasping sound economic policy as your cat has of getting a pilot's license.

By Sims' count, an estimated 500,000 issues are distributed nationwide, including to 85,000 high-school students. The 24-year-old has hit advertising's sweet spot. I applaud his running PSAs, but tasteful ads seem a natural fit, too. But before the sponsors, comes the substance. Let's get down to brass tacks:

First, the small-print disclaimer in the masthead: Don't "make decisions based on information contained in brass without the advice of a qualified professional advisor." In short, kids, don't try this at home. Self-help is fine; input from someone who pays rent is better.

The 28-page February issue, a bit anorexic for a quarterly, opens with a table of contents as tough to read as Moby Dick. I hate to sound old-school, but white on gray isn't the easiest color combo to decipher. This section is a shout-out to readers, not the ultimate eye exam.

Once in, we alight on a story about coping with car accidents. Since 16-year-olds, per Allstate, have higher crash rates than other drivers, this is a mandatory read. Your parents, who have memorized the insurance rates, will thank you. Such practical info is a brass specialty, usually accompanied by helpful sites. This issue also gives tips on seasonal jobs and an assessment of a stock -- Varian Medical Systems -- that rivals any my broker ever offered. He usually waxes rhapsodic about a stock, then, when the monthly statement arrives and his dreams dry up like a raisin in the sun, blames "unforeseen market conditions." Yet no matter how dire the company's revs, he's convinced, like the rainmaker, a fat payoff is just around the corner.

Sims, unlike my broker or Walter Mitty, has both feet on terra firma. He knows it's important to a) plan ahead and b) have a solid business plan before sending your wallet airborne. Let me now disclaim the disclaimer: Professionals, feh! I did better when I picked my own portfolio.

Given Sims' mission, the "Gold-Plated Grub" story in the "Ridiculous" section --outrageously priced glam food, like the $1.65 million pastry, seems wasteful. Similarly, the cover story "The Buried Life" profiles four guys who want to complete a list of "100 things to do before you die." Their quest took 20 months, 7,000 miles and two countries. This feature is fine in Maxim or FHM, but how does it fit into Sims' overall vision? When riding a bull or sleeping in a haunted house are your must-dos, you've got too much time on your hands. The saving grace: the quads were also committed to helping others.

In fact, the "Buried Life" is now a social network and reaches many with suppressed desires. The name comes from an 1852 Matthew Arnold poem. My favorite is "Dover Beach," but still! How often do 20somethings quote 19-century English poets? Probably as often as the Democrats hold a brokered convention. The party's first in 40 years takes place this August. The last one, in Chicago, caused riots. There's nothing like backroom pols picking a president to test your faith in democracy.

Unfortunately, like the primaries, this issue didn't live up to its promise. I'd like to see more stories devoted to making and investing money, the best rates on financial aid, etc. Sims has a laudable aim: to make the Millennials generation financially savvy and happy. They may not know it, but solvency is sexy.


Published by: brass|MEDIA
Frequency: Quarterly
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