The Inclusive Economy
Can mobile technology inspire a new habit of saving for the future?
By Vince Lampone on 06/22/2012 @ 02:00 PM
As any smartphone owner can attest, mobile technology continues to transform us at breakneck speed. In particular, the glut of mobile apps – nearly half a million for the iPhone alone! – allows us to waste time, and spend impulsively, in ever more creative ways.
Yet while instant gratification may be flourishing, it’s also true that mobile apps have the potential to kick-start a positive “high-tech behavioral revolution”, empowering us with highly personalized tools to manage our physical and financial health – ones which previously had been the province of the well-heeled alone.
In our field, popular apps like Mint.com continue to offer wonderful tools for savvy Americans to manage their personal finances. However, most share Achilles heels – they rely on Internet access, as well as records from official bank and credit card transactions. Great news for those of us tapped into mainstream financial institutions… but not so much for people without credit cards or smartphones.
Thankfully, a new player is stepping in to help fill this gap. Juntos Finanzas, a Stanford-bred startup, is harnessing the power of humble text messages to help cash-based families track their finances. These users can text the amount and type of their expenses to a dedicated phone number, and get a handsome mailing each month that tells them exactly where their money went. (They also receive simple budget updates by text, at any time they want.)
Since credit cards often encourage impulse buying, an electronic budgeting system that looks favorably upon cash usage is a definite plus. Also, I can’t help but suspect that the act of manually texting the dollar amount of every transaction is another helpful check against rash purchasing for many users.
As their name suggests, Juntos Finanzas is especially geared towards the Latino community. But their simple, text-based product concept could have potential appeal to a much wider swath of Americans – including anyone who can’t be bothered with paper, or those who think of financial websites like Brussels sprouts – “good for you”, perhaps, but hopelessly boring and best avoided.