Want to manage your money better? Ditch your banking apps

Want to manage your money better? Ditch your banking apps

People who use PFM tools on smartphones to track their spending and manage their budgets are more likely to rack up debts and make poor financial decisions, according to a study conducted by Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center at the George Washington School of Business.

Proponents of whizzy money management apps lay great claims for the technology in helping users to better manage their finances, whether setting goals for savings or keeping their spending on an even keel.

According to the GFLEC research, conducted among 1000 adults, the reverse is often the case. The study among millennial users of smartphone banking apps found that those who use mobile payments are more likely to overdraw their current account, and those who use their smartphone to track spending are not doing better in this regard than those who do not.

The research found that one-quarter of people who use their phones to track spending reported overdrawing their accounts, compared with 20% of those who didn’t use their phones.

"While smartphones are a tool of convenience — 80% of millennial smartphone owners use their device to some degree for transactional fintech purposes and 90% for informational fin-tech purposes—it is not clear whether fintech use represents a net gain for better personal finance outcomes," the paper concludes.

The truism appears to lie in a financial literacy gap among older, more savvy mobile users and younger consumers entranced by the sheen of the technology, rather than the message it is intended to convey.

States GLEF: "Fintech users benefit from being financially literate, as those with higher levels of financial literacy are less likely to overdraw their checking account. It seems that fintech is most appropriately viewed as a complement to, not a substitute for, financial literacy."

Users may also be falling into the recall accuracy trap, a term used by a research team at the University of Cologne and the Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, which found that people tend to up their spending when paying by card rather than with cash. The trait appeared particularly entrenched in multifunctional cards that incorporate non-payment functions such as bonus programmes and ID, and more so for smartphones and wearables.

Comments: (3)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 12 November, 2018, 09:551 like 1 like

Heres the problem, the apps in question only tell you what has happened, not what will. A new breed comes to the market that predicts the cash position say a week on Tuesday. Knowing when I wnet for dinner is not anywhere as valuable as knowing when I can go for dinner. www.theslideapp.com

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 12 November, 2018, 19:191 like 1 like

LOL this totally resonates with my long-held belief that the only PFM advice I need is "earn more, spend less". Boy, am I glad that I never wasted my time and my smartphone storage space to install any of these PFM or MoMMA apps.

That said, that's only me. As I highlighted in A Killer Feature For PFM On The Eve Of PSD2, there are a few valuable use cases for these apps, with the common theme being "make money by capitalizing upon external factors" e.g. auto switch to higher yield accounts, auto redemption of reward points so that they never lapse, etc. But I haven't come across any PFM / MoMMA app that supports these features. 

Ian Ogilvie
Ian Ogilvie - Ogilvie Advisory - Sevenoaks 13 November, 2018, 09:271 like 1 like

The research does not seem to address the behavioural segmentation of people vis-vis managing their money.  Simplistically, people can be segmented based on lifestyle (spending / earning balance) and orientation to managing their money (careful v laissez faire).  It is this that tends to best explain financial outcomes.  The question which needs to be addressed is whether use of a PFM improves finanical outcomes.  As those who opt-in for using a PFM are almost certaintly behaviourally different from those who do not, it seems that this research is flawed in comparing the behaviour of two non-comparable groups.  A proper control test (before and after) is surely required to establish whether use of PFMs leads to better financial outcomes.