February 01, 2016
I saw The Big Short this past weekend. It was an excellent film, and it did a fantastic job of explaining what happened back in 2006-2008 better than most things I have ever come across.
This movie got me thinking about some financial startups that we have seen over the last 3-5 years. There has been an uptick in people trying to “replace” your bank to make it simple to buy stocks or even set up different savings accounts.
There is a new batch of startups that are innovating in the financial sector in really impressive ways. They are bringing tech into the financial world and are making it easy to consume and easier to manage money. If you talk to most people, they don’t properly save the right amount of money. They don’t know how to invest.
I will make a confession that I use a lot of these apps. I am a bit of a fanatic when it comes to money. I have an elaborate system that works for me, but might not be best for everyone.
As always, it is your money so only use and do things you are comfortable with. It might be from the movie, but just make sure you put money in spots where you are comfortable. There is nothing worse than having problems with money.
Simple was one of the first startups that I found attempting to change banking. The startup based out of Portland, Oregon and was, as the name suggests, trying to simplify the banking process. I signed up for Simple back in July of 2013. The service at that point was invited only, but signups are open for all at this time.
A few things set simple apart from most other banks. The first is that they have an incredible customer service team. They have responded to my emails very rapidly, and whenever I needed to get on the phone, they answered. The conversation was quick and painless, and I was never on hold for more than a minute or two. If you have ever had an issue with one of the bigger banks you know this is far from the case with them.
Simple has a different way of setting up your account. When you first log in you see a big number on the top of the page. That is what is safe to spend. They take out all of your pending transactions like checks and other debits that might not have cleared.
The best feature is Goals. This is what sets Simple apart from most other banks. Usually, if you have a checking account you open up a savings account, you set up an auto transfer, and you go from there.
But, with Goals, you make a new goal for something such as rent. Then set the amount and the date you need it by. Simple will then let us say 1.25 a day and move that into your goal to stash away. The great thing is you can have as many Goals as you want.
The thing that I found about Goals is it makes something like budgeting and saving very easy and almost just happens by default. There are a few updates that I would love to see to Goals one day such as reoccurring Goals that just dump the money back into your Safe to Spend so you can set up auto pays for some bills.
Now, if you don’t mind your bank and checking account setup, but you might be a terrible saver, then you should try Digit .
Digit is an app that has no interface and is all done via texts. Digit is a saving platform that intelligently saves from your checking. It studies habits and trends, and it decides how much it can take without you ever noticing. Most, of the time for me the transactions have been tiny.
When you sign up, you can connect your account to one of your banks. There are a few options you can do from here. The most important one is setting a basement for an account. Say, you don’t want Digit to do its thing if your account his $200 bucks. Then Digit will stop. You can get either daily or weekly texts that show your checking account balance and your savings balance.
The thing about Digit is that it gets out of your way, and it will be a part of your workflow as much as you want it to. I found it to be helpful to get these text reminders of my balance. They were never 100% up to the minute, but if you get a busy week and have a few bills coming up, it is nice to know that things are still floating.
Also, there is something refreshing about not having another app to deal with and another interface to learn. Digit is simply a contact, and it can certainly help you save and save rapidly. In my year tests, I was able to save a nice little sum. It works well for me as a rainy day fund, but I can see this being a nice tool to get people into the habit of saving in general.
My goal by using all of these tools is to spend less time checking the balance and trying to automate as much as possible. I have a pretty good system on lock down for bills and savings, but I always wanted to dabble in investments. In my head, it seemed liked the most complicated thing ever.I was worried about a bunch of different monthly fees and having to manage all of this accounts. I just wanted to automate this aspect as well.
I found a few apps that took the pain out of the investment process and had provided some simple and mobile-friendly solutions.
Sumday created by one of the largest global investments companies, BNY Mellon. The interface was clean and simple, and it seemed like it was easy to get my money out if I didn’t know what was going on. There are a lot of “cool” ways to get money to your account such as having a hashtag on your social accounts. But, I drop in a few bucks on the first of the month and just occasional log in to see if anything is up. At the moment, I am down a little bit. If I learned anything, this is a long game, and I shouldn’t panic.
It is fun to check and see if there is any action and I am sure over time there might be a better move. I don’t check weekly or even monthly. But, it is fun to watch and experiment with.
Acorns connect to your checking account and will round up your transactions and invest them.
Every Acorn account insured up to $500,000 by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). That sounds official to me.
There are fees with Acorns under 5K is a dollar a month and over 5K is .25% per year.
The rounding up your transactions is fun and with all this investing it takes time and it is fun to watch things grow and letting those small amounts start a slow blossom. Also, if you love great app design, the Acorn app is brilliant and a joy to use.
Overall, investments are something I still don’t fully understand, but Acorns and Sumday break down the barriers to entry and make it easy for anyone to gets set up in this finical workflow.
The app market continues to flourish in this section. Just this past week I found a new batch of apps that seem to take the promises of saving and making banking easier one step further.
Just recently I found a new checking account called Chime. Chime does something cool with savings accounts. They round up all of your purchases and then dump that money into a savings account for you. It is an excellent combination of Simple and Digit in some sense.
They also promise to pay a 10% bonus on your roundup savings so that you can increase your savings faster. I mean, if that’s the case you can’t get an interest rate like that anywhere. I am strongly thinking about giving them a shot to see how it works and if they do pay out that 10%.
[Qapital] and [http://sweep.co] are taking on the savings accounts. Qapital has a goals system, and they ask you to apply a rule to the goal. It can be something like save a dollar week one and then two dollars week two and so on.
Sweep takes a similar approach to goals and calls them buckets. Sweep continuously tracks your bills and expenses. It is like a budgeting app on steroids. I like the aspect of the automation but, I would love if they would pay your bills for you. That is one thing that remains. Sweep is iPhone only at the moment, so I haven’t given that a fair shot.
Do you hate your bank? Do you hate your money setup? Do you regularly find yourself with issues? Are weird fees always showing up?
There is no better time to try out a different app and a different workflow. As with anything that is money related, only use things that you are comfortable. You don’t want to wake up one day with no access to your money. Most of these apps are FDIC insured, so there is a level of protection there. There was a report that I found during my research that said 40% of young adults are not putting money aside for savings accounts.
This is what makes some of these apps so critical. We can sign up and just let them do the work. These are the next wave of financial applications. We are not stuck to use Bank of America for everything.
So please, in some way, start saving and making sure that you have easy access to that money because nobody else is looking out for your balance.
Written by John Siwicki who lives and works building interesting things. You should follow him on Twitter