Saving By Stealth
If you’ve been following the world of finance in any capacity over the past 10 years, you have witnessed the rise of the apps. In 2018, finance apps hit 3.4 billion downloads, showing a 75% increase from just 3 years before. It seems that as people move online in every aspect of their life, they’ve embraced using their mobile device to manage their money. It’s difficult to say how these apps impact the financial habits of their users but the experts seem to be in agreement: at the very least, financial apps help people re-evaluate where their money goes.
As with much of the conversation around personal finance, saving is often the major focus of these apps. With technology that is far more robust than human impulses, mobile applications have introduced the idea of saving by stealth: saving without ever really realising you’re doing it.
The Psychology of Saving
When we save, we’re often hoping that it becomes second nature; we want to cultivate a savings habit that is so optimised that we don’t miss the money that we no longer have available to spend. We talk about it as if it’s a lifestyle, or a club that we’ll never be apart of, due to the unique circumstances we find ourselves in. It’s a huge area of research for psychologists and economists: why and how we save the way we do, the pitfalls we might encounter and the factors that contribute to a healthy savings account. Regardless of research that suggests we have no control over our predisposition to save or spend, saving is on our minds a lot.
In Australia, the average savings target is $11,234 and according to ASIC, 85% of us have a target in mind when we resolve to start saving. 53% of us are saving for a holiday, 40% of us are saving to buy or renovate a home and 46% of us save to have some kind of rainy day fund. We save because we need to in order to get the things we want from life, whether that be a mental health break in the immediate future, or financial security in the long term. What we want is for the impact of that saving on the everyday to be minimal.
Cue the finance apps.
Previously Acorns, the premise of this micro-investing app is simple. Linked to your bank cards, Raiz rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar and puts the change into an investment account. Every time that account reaches a certain balance, say $5, it’s invested into the share market.
The genius of Raiz is that it’s collecting money you never even notice you’re missing. Never more than 99 cents, it’s the digital equivalent of a spare change jar or collecting coins in the center console of your car. It’s also the perfect way to enter the often scary world of investment, taking baby steps to help users grow their savings and even improve their financial literacy. Since its launch in Australia in 2016, more than 1.1 million users have downloaded the app, which holds more than $331 million in funds under management.
A digital, mobile-only bank, Monzo claims that “by solving your problems, treating you fairly and being totally transparent, we believe we can make banking better.” Born in the UK, Monzo has a lot of draws but in the early days, it was the neo-bank’s saving pots. ‘Pots’ allowed users to divide up their money within their main account with Monzo, securing them against accidental spend. You can label ‘pots’ however you’d like, set up automatic transfers to them for forced saving and even lock them to protect your balance. It’s similar in concept to setting up multiple savings accounts but with Monzo, it feels less complicated; they feel in-tune with millennial habits and needs, and all their banking happens within the app on your phone.
Incent has a lot of philosophical background, courtesy of our CEO and co-founder Rob, but essentially we were built off the idea that we wanted to help everyday people build personal wealth. Knowing how difficult the average person finds it to cultivate a savings habit, we loved the idea of saving by stealth; with the right tech, your balance would grow without you even realising.
Incent rewards you across your spend, from purchases like your coffee to credit card repayments. It’s changing how we look at loyalty. Instead of rewarding customers with store-specific points when they complete certain behaviours (ie. buying), Incent rewards with a real-value cryptocurrency – INCNT. As you accumulate your rewards, they re-value according to the worth of INCNT. You’re saving without it impacting your daily life and without you expending extra time and energy. It’s a finance app (albeit a web app) like none we’ve seen before.
When approximately 3.3 billion people on the planet have a smart phone, it’s only natural that everything is becoming mobile optimised – even our finances. Saving by stealth might just be the way of the future. What do you think?