Can checking your bills not suck?

We’re losing money because reviewing our statement is such a pain. 

Raphael Ouzan

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Personal finance apps aren’t working for you. But it’s not your fault.

Most of us want to better organize our money lives, and there’s plenty of software that tries to address that need. But the fact is that only about 5% of American adults have even tried to use a multi-account personal finance app — and even fewer stick with them.

So as we began planning BillGuard for Android — which we’re proud to release today — we tried to identify the main shortcomings of personal finance apps and how we could solve them.

We believe there are three main reasons why personal finance apps haven’t really caught on: their design, the usage pattern they encourage, and the problems they address.

Personal finance can be sexy, too

Nobody really wants to check up on their money (well, unless you’re rich). Money trackers are boring at best, they make you feel anxious and depressed at worst, and the task is just a chore. We’d much rather check Instagram — and that’s completely natural.

But we know we should be checking, that we should be budgeting and spending less. We really want to. We just need a little help to get over that hump. For starters, we need an app that’s simply not boring.

To that end, we took a graphic design cue from a related field that’s way ahead of the game: exercise and quantified self apps. Most of us also need some help getting motivated to work out and get healthy, and the best of these apps do an amazing job of it — starting with sexy design.

Here’s the main screen of BillGuard for Android — where you get a unified, snapshot view of both your monthly spending broken down by category and how you’re doing against your monthly budget:

It’s a riff off the Nike FuelBand app design!

For activity trackers to personal finance apps

These are apps I want to use — they’re both a pleasure to work with visually and present all the essential information on one smart dashboard.

We’re also releasing a tablet version today, which fills in a gaping hole in the market. There are very few personal finance apps available on Android tablet, and nothing that looks anywhere near as sharp as this:

That’s the first step toward creating a better personal finance app — make it gorgeous, fun and with immediate utility.

Bite-sized budgeting

The second reason personal finance apps aren’t working is their whole approach to budgeting. They typically ask you to define a detailed budget far in advance — in essence, to project your “perfect self” onto the future. So when you fail one part of the plan (nobody’s perfect), you give up on it all. And the whole thing feels like work.

We think effective budgeting should be based not on unrealistic long term projections, but rather on short term check-ins. We need to develop the habit of regularly tracking our spending — at least once every few days — and to trust ourselves to calibrate our spending when we’re getting out of whack with our budget. So BillGuard for Android is structured around notifying you to swipe to confirm individual charges:

and reaching the ‘All Clear’ state where your recent spending (since the last All Clear) is broken down by category:

No projected perfect self, no judgement — just much better awareness of where your money’s going, so you can make the right decisions yourself, on the fly.

We’re getting fleeced

The final element in building better personal finance app? Solve today’s problems.

In the good ole days, a personal finance app could just concentrate on budgeting. But right now, American cardholders are being hung out to dry amidst an epidemic of retailer data breaches that expose our card info en masse. We have the growing sense that if a bad guy wants access to our payment info, it would be easy to get. So we need our money app to do more than track spending — it should also help protect us from fraud and wrongful charges.

BillGuard for Android alerts you front and center when a suspicious charge is posted to your accounts:

It then helps you get your money back from fraudulent, erroneous or unfair charges:

And right now, along with Android, we’re launching a new security service: BillGuard breach alerts. When there’s a data breach at a place where you’ve shopped, we’ll send you a personal notification so you’re aware and can look into it.

As always, BillGuard is powered by a crowdsourced, national transaction monitoring network of users whose diligence on reporting unfair or outright fraudulent charges helps everyone else.

So as you can see, we have ambitious goals for BillGuard for Android, and are anxious to get your feedback. Please take it for a spin and let me know your thoughts. Thanks!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcKXOjol73U

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Raphael Ouzan

EIR @ThriveCap. Founder ITC.tech, BlockNation. Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum.