Ever since Quicken was first offered by Intuit in a very basic way in the early 1990s, personal finance has been revolutionized by technology. Easy technology lets you see all your financial accounts in real-time, create spending plans, and be alerted to overspending – from a variety of products and forms.
Traditionally, Quicken has resided securely on your desktop, allowing secure bill payments and money movements. But instead of buying a new version every year, it’s now a “subscription service” with an annual fee. And even if you forget to subscribe, your information remains secure, waiting for you to get on board again.
But over the years, the world changed – and money had to become mobile to be relevant. So Intuit acquired Mint in 2009 – a web-based app that sits not on your desktop but on your mobile advice – at the time another revolution in technology. Mint not only categorizes your spending, but pings you in real time if you’re overspending one of your pre-set categories. You can track not only spending but investments and progress toward your goals in Mint. It’s a “read-only” service, meaning you can’t pay bills using it.
And other players entered the personal financial management game, notably robo-advisor Personal Capital which has more sophisticated features of investment management. This part of their service is free, and offers investment and retirement planning software.
And now we have the next step in technology. In 2016, Quicken became an independent company, separating from Intuit (which still owns Mint) several years ago. The independent Quicken developed a new, more modern cloud platform and simpler interface for its subscription desktop program.
But as mobile access became an essential tool, Quicken has just unveiled its own new app: Simplifi by Quicken, which is offered as a stand-alone app and as a web-based service, both sharing the same new features and security.
Simplifi is clearly aimed to compete with Mint, but has an entirely different approach and revenue model. The Mint app is a free service, supported by ads and a click-through revenue model. You’ll pay for Simplifi – a nominal $3.99 per month or $39.99 annually – but you won’t receive those annoying ads for refinancing your home or a low rate credit card, which pop up on Mint.
But the other big difference between these two mobile personal finance apps is harder to describe. It’s in the approach they take to handling money. As Jeff Parker, VP of product strategy for Quicken explained: “Simplifi is designed for a generation that has no idea what a check register is, don’t want a comprehensive budget to track every cent, and don’t want detailed reports about where the money went. They just want to see what’s coming and how much they have left to spend after the bills are paid!”
And Simplifi is set up to provide this generation the view they want. Spending can be tagged in ways not obvious in other software, using spending “Watch Lists.” The program looks inside transactions to search for categories like “coffee” or “kids” – or whatever the user wants to follow, things that are important in his or her mind. There is no rigid budgeting, instead it offers a customized “spending plan.” It allows the user to track saving for multiple goals – within a single savings account.
While you can’t pay bills directly from the Simplifi app, it does figure out your regular bills and projects the due dates and amounts, balancing pending transactions and expected income. It’s just an entirely different approach to “managing” or “controlling” money. Frankly, it would drive me crazy, because I live in absolutes, not projections. But then, this isn’t your parent’s money management tool!
Kristen Dillard, director of project management who led the team that brought Simplifi to market explains that explains that this program is based on celebrating success, rather than chastising users for their failure to accomplish goals. She notes that Simplifi is designed for a generation driven more by positive reinforcement than punishment. After all, they were the generation who received trophies for simply participating!
Let’s all hope they use Simplifi to manage spending and debt, and saving and investments, because for sure they are “participating” in our economy and need help. And that’s The Savage Truth.