There are 83.1M millennials in the United States, coming into adulthood, including myself. We are starting careers, taking out student loans, pursuing goals, buying cars, houses, getting married, and starting families. This is an exciting period of our lives, but there is one big area that a lot of us struggle with - Money. It is easy to spend but hard to understand. Many of us came of age during the great recession. We saw the ugly side of credit and learned that things aren't always stable. We know the importance of saving, but have a hard time actually doing it.
We took this opportunity to give something back to many others like us, who face trouble with money almost every day. We collaborated with Wilbert Gutierrez and Melora Zaner from Chase Bank to understand how millennials interact with the bank, both online and offline. In addition to reports from Chase, Stanford, Pew, Forbes, Edelman and many others, we went out and surveyed 80 millennials and interviewed around 7 millennials to see how they felt about money. This is what they had to say...
While many of them did feel confident, there was a definite underlying theme of feeling overwhelmed. Even those that did feel in control reported putting in a lot of effort to get there. When we asked millennials about their saving and spending habits, these struggles became even more apparent. One in four respondents admitted to overspending regularly and feeling nervous to even look at their bank accounts. And that is mainly because they hadn't kept track of their spending and were afraid of what they would see. As a result, they put off checking their accounts to just once a week or less. This cycle exacerbated their struggles with saving for the future. With the knowledge of how important saving is but struggling to actually save became a huge amount of stress.
45% of millennials report feeling chronically stressed about money. This level of stress results in frequent anxiety, guilt, and creeping into their personal relationships. Increasingly, we are putting off investing further in education, marriage, and even independence because of the stress we feel around money.
It often comes down to the fact that we think of our future selves as strangers. It is hard to connect the decisions we are making now with the consequences we will see down the line. This shows up many aspects of our lives from eating healthy to staying out too late the night before a presentation, but one area where it is really hurting us is in how we deal with money.
According to recent studies, people save 50% more for retirement when they look at an aged picture of themselves.
Based on the insights we got from our research, we put together several different ideas. From an interactive piece of art a user could hang on their wall to to a financial accountability "sorority" platform. For starters, we focused on getting millennials to talk to each other either in person or online about money. After getting feedback from our classmates and our friends we realized that although millennials wanted to learn more they didn't really want to talk about it with others. As a result we took a step back to better understand how we wanted our users to feel when they interacted with our product.
We wanted our users to feel healthy, happy, and confident about their relationship with money, and our app to be personal, intelligent, and friendly.
We went ahead to focus on a conversational UI that helps people understand their spending habits and how they affect their future.
We started our first prototype by SMS texting. We asked them to record that day's expenses for us. The next morning we messaged them with a summary of their expenses of the previous day. Additionally, we provoked them to ask us questions like "where's the nearest cheap coffee?" or "how did I do on my budget this month?". This made them feel comfortable to ask us questions. We didn't want to overwhelm them with messages, so we decided to stick to a couple of message type that we would sent out.
From the feedback that we received on our prototype, we learned that millennials liked the conversational UI. However, they needed something that was less text with more visuals. Guided responses instead of manual responses, and hacks to save money.