Another important pattern I've seen is that products, in the long-term, morph to take the form of their revenue model. Many personal finance products are free, but make money by selling data or trying to upsell you on something else that you don't need (like, say, a credit card you don't need or a tax product that is overpriced ). This is what happened with Mint. It became a "top-of-the-funnel" lead generation tool for other products.
This also explains a lot of the problems with the internet at large today—misaligned business models. I'd definitely encourage anyone joining (or starting) a company to think about what the revenue model they are choosing means for the product and company long-term. Every company will say they are different, and that they actually care about their users and about building a good product... and maybe in the early days, the original team can stay true to that, but eventually time and money take their toll.
Companies that really want to build lovable, user-aligned products, set up a revenue model that encourages them to stick to that long term.
I think you could run a reasonable lifestyle business here if you don’t take VC, but I’m skeptical this can ever be truly mass-market.
You Need a Budget (YNAB) is proof of this. I don't believe they've taken any VC funding and are a pretty successful lifestyle business in the Budgeting/Finance space.
"A lifestyle business is a business set up and run by its founders primarily with the aim of sustaining a particular level of income and no more; or to provide a foundation from which to enjoy a particular lifestyle."
Seems like a useful concept. What's wrong with it?
When used it's a description that the business owners provide based on how they run their business, then it's OK. When you use it to describe someone else's business it's often considered a slur (unless they've previously shared this with you and you know that fact.)
Many smaller companies are not actually lifestyle businesses although that term is thrown around here. The owners may be part-time because they actually operate a group of companies, grow niche companies to sell outside of the VC world, etc. They are indistinguishable from lifestyle businesses, but the owners are looking to do a lot more than sustain a level of income.
I find it a bit unsettling that in some cultures stating that a business has priorities other than profit at all costs is considered a slur.
A company whose owners are working to grow the business consistently and organically is not a lifestyle business; it is also not pursuing "profit at all costs". Most privately-held businesses fall into this category.
As to "lifestyle business" being a slur, it is unfortunate that members of the growth-obsessed communities use it as such. They don't see a business with a fixed target size as serious. Incidentally, many also think the same about the organic growth case I mentioned. I ignore them, and most other things from VC startup culture.
I think this is too far narrow a definition of "lifestyle business". The better definition is simply a business that fits the founder's intent and lifestyle.
I know several founders that started from nothing, built their company to turn a sizable profit and resisted big VC money.
It's demeaning and inaccurate to call them "lifestyle businesses", they made a calculated decision. Roughly, they took a chance with self-financing, and maybe a ~40% chance bet on making a good living, versus taking the VC money and having 3% on becoming unbelievably wealthy.
Given a 40% chance of making several million and a 3% chance of making billions, it's pretty reasonable for folks to take the higher probability, even if the statistical expected value is better with the VCs. These aren't people who "gave up", often, they made the smarter decisions.
I find it interesting and even inspiring that some economies allow entrepreneurs to make this kind of choice. That is not my reality at all. In South-America, we grab every chance we get and don't let go. There is much less opportunity.
To give an analogy: “family car” is a good way of describing a safe car that fits a lot of passengers. But if you set up your SUV for rock-crawling and somebody calls it “a nice family car” you might consider it a slur.
It is literally "Middle Class"
They want to stop at the 'M' part in SME.
What it is not is a good term for any business that doesn't take VC. There are many businesses where the primary objective is to grow and make lots of money but where VC doesn't make sense. It's probably most businesses. So when someone calls a business a lifestyle business simply on the basis that the market isn't big enough to warrant VC, it's insulting to a large swath of business owners and generally a case of unwarranted elitism. Like if Zuckerberg was looking at businesses earning tens or hundreds of millions a year and went "how cute, lifestylers" it'd be shitty but at least he'd have the success to back it up. Mostly on here you see it from people just leaching off the success of their industry. They earn hundreds of thousands but use their position in tech to look down on people pulling in millions.
At that point you will have achieved significant scale and all the headaches that come with it.
Getting back to the above post, a budgeting tool is a lifestyle business. It will likely never grow to 100m+ revenue or 200+ employees.
It can however make for a great lifestyle business that generates enough money to cover living costs with minimal investment from the owners (after initial investment of building the business).
This just proves how stupid the label is.
Which lumps a business that employs 140 people in several states and makes a few hundred thousand in profit every year with a bookstore with a cat that barely breaks even, and is closed every Wednesday so the owner can go skiing.
But that's always going to be true because VCs don't invest in lifestyle business.
It’s also an expensive product for most people. But we do need more of these sustainable low-growth non-VC style SaaS companies out there.
Somewhere in between $very_long_ago and $long_ago, I stopped using a well-known personal finance app because I grew dissatisfied with it overall. It gained all sorts of genuinely useful capabilities over that time period, and didn't shed any, but still managed to become less functional (for my purposes) at the same time. I ended up replacing it with a competitor whose feature list was much, much, much smaller.
Also, there is a plugin that gives you more reports: https://www.toolkitforynab.com/
For example, task management software sounds like a coherent thing. But in practice, people think and work so differently that there will never be a solution that everybody loves. At least from personal experience, personal finance is the same way.
That's been an important insight for me to understand. Describing something in terms of its features/how it works, you might say "photo sharing app". But this core feature could be wrapped, packaged, marketed, and described so many different ways: flickr, Instagram, Getty Images (!!), a scientific collaboration tool, etc.
"Task management" feels similar.
With the caveat that this problem often persists even within the eyes of the customer. A lot of people would agree with the problem statement of, "I need something to help me keep track of what I have to do." But "I", "keep track of" and "what I have to do" varies widely in ways that the customer isn't aware of.
It's sort of like picking a place for a group of people to have dinner. A lot of people think they just want dinner until you say, "How about X" and then they realize their desires are much more specific.
I think that depends on how you address the market, actually. The Mint way, which requires continuous engagement and ad impressions, is something you’d be right about. But there’s a larger addressable market of people who intermittently think about getting their finances squared away, maybe as a New Years resolution or something. If you market to those people the way gyms do, there might be a larger market.
Fuckin' ay. Consider me one of those consumers! ...I should probably stop consuming.
The problem for me with Mint is that it just... stopped getting any updates, and the visualizations are not configurable at all, so if you want something that looks a bit different, or doesn't use a pie chart, or shows more things at once, you just can't do it. And it's all in Flash! I ended up building a crappy set of graphs in Excel and using Mint's csv output to try and get a more useful view of the data.
What was refreshing and different about Mint for me is that they said, "Hey, what if we really look at how people deal with their money and design accordingly?" It was a huge, innovative leap forward. It was far from perfect, but if they just kept iterating with the same spirit, I knew it would get to be something I loved. Alas, alas.
But if it's not a modern way to look at finances....
I see a lot of times, people export to Excel to do their own analysis. I think there is something about doing it "my way" that helps me connect with the data, whether it's budgeting or (my current project) fantasy sports.
Specifically, what value do you get from exporting and creating your own graphs? How much time do you spend / how frustrating is it to have to export and build the graphs?
One day I will throw it into an instance of http://redash.io and have more fluent access to the data, since I write SQL-backed graphs in my actual job I'm much better with it than Excel.
Couple questions, if you don't mind taking the time:
1) What makes you want to use Redash, instead of a spreadsheet?
2) If you had a service that (securely) sync'd data into your spreadsheet, would that provide all of the value of Redashing it?
I think they moved away from Flash, I see svg now for charts
The core functionality is indispensable, but it's become so outdated, inefficient, and difficult to use that I'm champing at the bit to jump ship. I'm surprised it's taken this long for a serious competitor to emerge, given that it's been saturated with ads for at least half a decade and Plaid's been around just as long.
I love being able to instantly graph net cash flow over the last 10 years.
I started doing this a while ago because Mint only tracks the maximum account value for a particular month and doesn't let you modify historical data. So once or twice a year, something with an account would change and I'd end up with a month with a 70% or something jump in net worth which would drop off the next month.
Plus, you can do projections with excel.
YNAB seems to pretty actively want you to "Fresh Start." One of the giant values for me with Mint is historical information. I often will dump a CSV or troll through old transactions since I can't remember which account was used. After not touching Mint for a year I could go through and touch up categories and answer if "eating out" was something I'm doing more of in Nov/Dec than January. Or I could skim through and mark deductions when filing taxes or looking for medical expenses.
My needs have changed a lot since I was clawing out of debt. I don't really see myself setting a budget, but more tracking categories to find outliers. I guess kind of like changing my diet instead of trying to make my next meal "healthy."
That said, I'd love to ditch Mint. There are so many ads garbaging up the interface. I never found their charts all that useful. Their offers seem to be whoever bought ad space this month instead of what would improve my financial situation. YNAB is way better at things like bi-montly bills that use income split up each month.
But I got back into budgeting in mid 2018, and I actually love all of those features. imo the $7/mo I pay is well worth the auto-transactions, auto-syncing across all devices without dropbox, ability to link several different accounts (my checking acct is with a small local credit union, I have a brokerage account, a personal loan I'm paying down, etc.).
- Import from v4 is super broken for credit card accounts and I ended up with weird positive balances that don't add up based on any combination of transactions. Forum advice was "start over".
- You cannot tag income as "available for next month", instead all income must be immediately budgeted. Which is different than the old YNAB advice of being a month ahead. Forum advice is to earmark it a special category then fix it when the next month lands (https://support.youneedabudget.com/t/63pgpp/budget-using-onl...).
- No side-by-side month view. You can only view one month at a time.
The differences were too much for me and the import was so borked that I immediately gave up and stuck with v4.
You can receive income in January, then switch to February and allocate it to a category. When you switch back to January, it will not show that money in your To Be Budgeted total. So you can zero out January while having the next month already budgeted for.
My system is to switch to the next month, select all categories, then click the "Budgeted Last Month" button to automatically apply my previous budget to that month. Then I switch back to the current month and fix any underfunded categories and allocate any overflows to get the balance down to zero.
I run all of my spending through BoA credit cards / checking accounts, and they automatically categorize 99% of transactions and there's a nice little report of the last 12 months. It also incorporates Merrill data, and you can add other companies' logins to so BoA can import those transactions too, but I'm not a fan of giving out login information.
[0.1] affiliate: https://share.moneydashboard.com/71926HSZ
The "KLO-ification" of Mint, the C1Acquisition of Level, Visa tactically grabbing Plaid: they're all to consolidate the industry and allow existing players to stifle the American banking landscape.
1. Don’t be evil (aka don’t be intuit)
2. Web based with some sane security (2fa, encryption at rest, etc)
3. The ability to sync transactions from my bank.
5. Some sort of sane forecasting. You’ve got N months of data from a customer, why can’t you tell them in 6 months this account is expected to have $x in it?
6. Sane APIs.
No one I’ve been able to find has been able to do all 6 of these.
> 5. Some sort of sane forecasting. You’ve got N months of data from a customer, why can’t you tell them in 6 months this account is expected to have $x in it?
I work on a methodology engine and have implemented both of these, at least on the data side, and they are essentially aspects of the same thing.
Fundamentally, what's hard is user trust. If they see numbers that don't make sense, explaining that "technically you told us this and this which all adds up to that" sounds like "we can't do arithemtic" to users.
The budget needs to agree with the forecasts. And the forecast doesn't quite semantically "fit" the budget; your forecast shouldn't "know" about the future or it can't give faithful metrics whereas your budget is supposed to plan ahead.
It also gets tricky when people use the damned thing, because your system needs to be resilient to users not doing the things they promised to do. For example, if they promise to deposit $500 in projected account A, but instead deposit it in tracked account B, you would project that the money lands in A, and also report that there's $500 more in B. So now those totals are off.
And budgeting itself is a surprisingly tricky problem. There are so many techniques to make a budget work that selecting good ones is hard. And users will say, "oh, I always want to spend $500 on this," and when that results in something stupid, "well, obviously not then." Even without that, it's hard to make the budget not do weird stuff that gives a user a WTF moment. The most counter-intuitive stuff tends to happen when the person is running low on funds, but that's also the raison d'etre of a budget.
> 3. The ability to sync transactions from my bank.
> 6. Sane APIs.
Between not making money off the APIs, having the user get frustrated being bounced between my support and the competitor, and that the APIs become another component that must be secured and administered, I'm not surprised APIs are uncommon.
Which makes me sad.
Forecasting is one of the strongest aspects of our product. We also provide alerts ahead of time if we can predict your account balance will fall below zero (or whatever threshold you configure). Forecasting can also be used to preview your expenses/income/cashflow for the upcoming months / years.
We do have an API, but I admit it's not the best around. Other than that, our product does all the 6 things you point out.
Happy to hear more feedback at email@example.com
Why don't you link to it from your home page? I had to do a Google site search to find it. (And maybe even put the 'what we share' chart somewhere more prominent)
If I recall correctly, the original pitch deck for Mint stated that this was the plan. Weird to say it morphed into something that was just the original vision.
Edit: found the deck https://www.slideshare.net/hnshah/mintcom-prelaunch-pitch-de...
Source: was attending Berkeley with the people listed on the first slide when this was published.
Not that there's anything wrong with that, I'm just curious.
(Val made his way into the post when another ex-Mint dev tweeted his apologies for what had become of the site; I got in touch with him and he suggested I talk to Val.)
Question about MonarchMoney. Is it going to be a cloud service or a standalone old-fashion desktop software? Most of serious personal finance people would prefer desktop software in order to protect their own data. However, most consumers prefer a free and hosted solution. Which market is MonarchMoney going after?
Twice, I've had coworkers - developers, mind you - tell me in a meeting with the whole team that "We're not going to turn away money." Both times I was left speechless, and silently judging like mad.
Because if you really dig into what a statement like that says about their character, you're going to be very, very disappointed, possibly lose respect for them, and once you have no respect the temptation to say something unpleasant is much higher.
Which is not to say, "I'm surrounded by scoundrels." There's something systemic there. When we have to repeat back what we've said or how we've behaved it's often a lot easier to see that we're disappointed in ourselves. That this is not the person you want to be. You know someone who has done this to you, or rather, for you. You might even hate it a little bit at first but they've done you a huge favor. Eventually you see it.
Problem is, there's no incentive or even huge disincentives to try to do things like this in a business setting. I'm sure this has been playing out in slow motion at Google, if only for statistical reasons. It seems to happen most places.
1. Allow people to enter transactions ahead of time and plan ahead. I dropped Mint in favor of Quicken because no other tool allows me to properly plan ahead. But Quicken still lacks support for a number of financial institutions as well as stock options.
2. Please support stock options and non-public wealth tracking. Quicken has to be shoehorned into it, Personal Finance supports it but doesn’t allow you to plan ahead. You could do a lot here for people.
3. Have it be cross-platform. I wish I could edit Quicken transactions on my phone but I get this dumbed down synced version that is practically useless.
Put those three in and I’ll be one happy user.
This is such a no brainer. I tend to buy tickets to concerts/shows at times two months of time and I want to reflect that in that month's spending and not this months.
Just click on the transaction and then again on the date and modify.
How does it differ from YNAB (of which I am a big fan), for example? At first glance YNAB has all the same features shown on your website, and the "budget with ease" screenshot in particular could have been taken right from YNAB.
And what exactly does "The first all-in-one
personal finance platform" mean? What does it have that others don't?
Hope this doesn't come off as overly critical! I am really interested.
At a high level, though, if you read the complaints in the rest of this thread you'd get a pretty good sense of what a product in this space would need to do to be successful (of course).
YNAB is great as a budgeting tool if you're willing to subscribe to their entire budgeting system, which most people aren't.
I hope the next generation of personal finance apps maintain strict privacy guarantees while running on a subscription model. I'll definitely be giving Monarch a look!
2. Are their any features for Pro consumers who are not looking for budgeting or retirement planning? I don’t mind paying $100 a year for a good service. I would rather not have it free.
3. I am ready to switch banks or even brokerage firms if they provide a saner integration with your service
1. We are primarily using Plaid, but will support multiple data aggregators to provide our users with the best coverage for their financial institutions.
2. Yes. We will go way beyond what current products do. I can't go into specifics ahead of our launch, but we are confident we can help people achieve better financial outcomes cheaper and faster.
Our view is that a subscription-based model allows us to align our incentives with our users and focus on building the best product, rather than trying to optimize for advertising partners or data sales. On the latter point, we highly value privacy and will not share nor sell your financial data.
3. That's great to hear!
There are a lot of apps out there doing pretty much same thing as mint - can you give us a preview of how your app will be different?
When are you going to have a beta out?
I haven't been able to find any other confirmation that this was a thing outside the one time I saw it.
I seem to respond well to defined, rigid systems. I handle all my task management via the systems outlined in Getting Things Done. I'd be curious what other books are out there for handling aspects of life with a systemic, opinionated approach (professional life, social life, dating, etc.)?
It is still early days for the product, bur it is rapidly improving and the creator is very good and communicate. The couple of times I have requested support (mostly for feature suggestions), she has gotten back to me very quickly.
Then, as the month goes on and some of the categories that didn't have a fixed budget are "over budget", I just move the required money to the individual category to zero it out. Anything that caries over to the next month goes to the savings category.
I'd rather use Excel than be forced to use their stupid system.
The last thing I want to associate with my google account is my financial data.
The best part for me is how it handles where money you earn goes, it always goes to next month, not the current month (granted, after I graduated college it took me a bit to actually get back into this because of living with effectively 0 income for 4 years), so you know that you're already budgeted for the month when you get into it. That feeling is super comforting for me.
I finally feel like I have a solid handle on my budget, Mint never gave that to me.
Somehow in an era where personal data on spending habits is supposed to be extremely valuable, they can't afford to fix the product, and this is the best we can get.
Every payday, I get an email notification from Mint asking if I recently made a large purchase, in the amount of my paycheck.
Why even bother having a transaction categorization system, if it can't tell the difference between a deposit and a withdrawal?
I've recategorized a certain transaction pattern and marked it "always categorize" every paycheck for several months.
I'm a big fan of how I can categorize expenditures and export them as CSV's or charts, which I can then send to my accountant for an easy tax season.
Without this (so far) free tool - as I have not paid for anything Intuit related minus likely my personal data - my annual U.S. taxes would be a massive pain in the rear end, being that I'm self-employed.
This is a solved problem in tech (OAuth, I think) so clearly there are perverse financial incentives (ie. my bank doesn't want to make it easy to me to export my data)
Does anyone know what would have to happen to make this possible? My bank is in Canada, if that matters.
Fidelity Brokerage has this kind of account.
You could create a company that stores all your credentials for you, and they perform an OAuth layer, but then you have to trust them :)
Is your solution technical, or do you also have a solution for the fact that it's a service banks have no incentive to offer? (And incentives not to)
I've been using it for about 4 years now. Best money management system I've used in a long time
To clarify, personal capital is for US residents
From their support page:
>Although you can access the Personal Capital application from any location, we currently only support U.S based financial institutions (currency, USD) for linking accounts. Note that for security reasons, you will need a valid U.S. phone number to sign up for Personal Capital.
They want your phone number because their "advisors" blow up your phone every month or two trying to get you to use their financial services (which I'll never do). They also like telling me in the UI that I'm "not putting enough of my money" to work or some BS, just cause I like having a little nest egg.
That being said, it's a massively useful tool. I'll gladly let my Pixel spam filter their calls every couple months in return for being able to track my net worth and investments so easily.
I use it in addition to Mint actually. Mint for tracking spending and PC for macro view, like net worth/investments. I recommend Personal Capital for this as well.
To me it's still worth that annoyance. The only thing I use it for is balancing my portfolio across ~8ish different brokerage accounts.
The #1 thing that I need from Mint is 100% reliable integrations so it can automatically pull all my data, which it no longer provides. I have been talking to their support for about a year asking to fix an integration with US's largest mortgage servicer.
The #2 thing is reliable inference of transaction categories. That's also starting to wither. Categories are all over the place.
Everything else I really don't care about. Even if there's on interface and just a big "Export to CSV" button I'd be thrilled about it.
So Mint does it's own integrations instead of using something like Yodlee or Plaid. For me, Mint has been way more rock solid than sites that use the others. All of them have gotten way worse over the years as banks have cranked up security and generally been hostile to APIs like this.
Personally, I'm looking to move my financial services in order to get better integrations (specifically faster ACH transfers and integrations like Mint). There's no reason a secure solution (that doesn't involve me giving Mint my credentials and allows read-only access) can't be widely adopted.
The Mint-assigned categories are terrible, and I regularly have to review and re-assign categorizations.
It was easy to download transactions from participating banks (I think in OFX format?) and it was easy to see the last successful sync date per account. The UI made it straightforward to categorize my transactions and dead-simple to compare monthly spend against an easily mutable budget.
In fact it was so easy to use that for a good long while I found myself manually entering cash receipts and even tracking my cash purchases. And it cost $0. It felt better than Quicken for personal finance.
Maybe I have missed some major innovation in personal finance software -- I largely use Mint and home-grown spreadsheets now, and I keep hearing that people use paid tools like YNAB or free complementary-to-the-company's-real-job tools like the Personal Capital suite -- but this all feels like it's worse now.
Some early Microsoft products were so good - I was once lost in the middle of the Netherlands, typed a nearby company name in Microsoft Autoroute and got directions to my destination. All offline.
Nowadays, I’m can’t even get Windows 10 to navigate me to the correct program from the start menu search.
My biggest complaint about Personal Capital is the frequent phone calls from their financial advisors despite asking them to stop. I'd be happy to pay $10+ a month just for their aggregation services but my private bank is leaps ahead in terms of sophistication and access to alternative investments not typically available to the public.
I really wish there were self-hosted options for seeing all of your finances in a single spot. Even paid options. That's what I really want.
I've been using it for years. It does what it needs to do, and literally nothing else.
Most of the charts and graphs work fine. It seems to be specifically the investment ones that require Flash, which is a bummer. Honestly I'd never used them before, so hadn't even noticed.
But in contrast to other software that completely overhauls its interface (usually for the worse) every few years, and turns into slower and slower bloatware... I guess it's kind of refreshing to me that Mint hasn't changed... knock on wood.
For those who haven't heard of Lunch Money, we launched originally on Show HN back in October 2019. I'm a solo founder and this is my full-time job. My motivation is to create a non-opinionated, delightfully simple to use personal finance tracker. We are a subscription-based service and I don't intend on ever selling ads. My intention is to keep this an indie product and continue improving for our small but growing user base.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org