Meet the apps hoping to be the Fitbit for your financial fitness
Everyone wants something different from the quantified self movement. Some delight in learning more about themselves; others want to use all that data to improve their lives. Members of the latter group are often disappointed.
But that doesn't mean the quantified self movement can't lead to self improvement. Just ask the people behind Level, a finance app, and Digit, a text message-based service that aims to help consumers build their savings.
Level makes it easier for people to know how much they can spend each month based on what it knows about their bills, paychecks, and any other financial information it's able to collect. Jake Fuentes, the company's chief executive, says he often thinks of Level kind of like a "Fitbit for finances."
"For a lot of people, just knowing where they stand is actually an end to itself, because that relieves a lot of stress," Fuentes says. But for others, "What we want to do — and what we’re working on, actually — is give intelligent recommendations about how they can improve their finances."
Digit already makes some of those recommendations. The service allows people to hook up their bank accounts to its system, which then analyzes the account and learns over time how it can help people save some money. It also sends a daily message telling people their account's current balance.
Ethan Bloch, the company's chief executive, says the company's users are saving six percent of their monthly incomes. That figure can rise after Digit learns more about how people spend their money, he says -- Digit starts off with savings of a few dollars or so, but then it starts to get increasingly bold.
Fuentes and Bloch both point out that it's easier to improve finances than it is to improve health. And their companies benefit from the fact that they don't have to create data to function, like Fitbit does; all they have to do is take existing information and make it easier for people to view and act on.
They have another advantage over fitness apps: their realm is digital.
"You could start using digital services and improve your financial health without having to do the work," Bloch says. "One day health will get there, when we can swallow a pill" filled with nanotechnologies that improve our bodies for us, he says. "But that day, I think, is now, for finance."
So perhaps SoulCycle founders Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice are right in thinking that becoming fit doesn't require people to quantify every moment. But that doesn't mean the quantified self movement can't help people improve their lives; it just means some things are easier to fix than others.
Finance, as opposed to fitness, could be one of those things.
[Editor’s note: The Go On With Your Quantified Self series is being sponsored by New Relic, so you’ll only see their ads around “Go On With Your Quantified Self” pieces. But the series was conceived, commissioned and edited entirely by Pando. New Relic had no input whatsoever in the editorial. For more on our policy towards single sponsor series like this one, see here.]
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