Fixing financial planning and analysis

I’ve been thinking about the results of the budgeting poll.

I had a go, before the poll, of pulling out one idea that could help improve budgeting, but it’s clear that much more needs to be done.

i thought I’d use this thread to summarise the broad areas of change that seem to be needed - and maybe come up with some mock ups to see what it might look like in the app. A man needs a lockdown hobby, right?

This might get involved quite quickly and will need more than one post. So I’m gonna use this post to signpost more detailed posts below but also to highlight what I think it the core things to address.

Edit: for clarity, I don’t work for Monzo and this isn’t an official thread! As far as I’m aware no one is working on this at Monzo - and even if they were it almost certainly wouldn’t look like this. This is for fun, to spark a bit of a debate and for a bit of lockdown distraction.


So what needs to be done?

Summary version: I’ll pick up on these in greater depth in separate posts if I get time

  • Kill the Summary screen! The features are useful, but should be surfaced elsewhere

  • Net worth and manually connected accounts looks like an easy win: add up all the balances of connected accounts and display it on the accounts screen. Then let users manually add a balance for accounts that can’t connect.

  • Introduce a new budgeting screen that brings together various budgeting functions (category budgets, permanent home for salary sorter, permanent home for end-of-month sweep, set your budgeting period, new functionality for line-item future budgeting

  • Introduce more pot types (like offset pots) and allow users to pay from pots.

  • Introduce a more powerful search and filters on the transaction feed. Maybe including something like this. That’d fix a lot of the issues about analysing previous spend.

  • Introduce an ‘account health check’: something that users could use to mine their data for insights. It might be a bit of a questionnaire then traffic light system to show if you could save money on bills, or put your money to better use.

  • Combine the Summary previous period spend screens with the insights from Year in Monzo to give deep insights into previous periods’ spend.

  • Finally, tidy up some basics (for example, the 20 pot limit isn’t effective for those really into envelope budgeting, the way that “Left to Spend” is presented is confusing; assigning multiple categories is actually a sticky plaster for the real problem (splitting transactions), upcoming transactions don’t properly reflect the figures in bills pots (and elsewhere), transaction screens don’t have a running balance or ability to transfer that transaction to a pot…)

More detail in posts to come (assuming lockdown remains a thing and I have time on my hands). There might even be a mock-up or two.


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Reserved for a poll.

:bar_chart: :eyes:

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So let’s pick up on the first of these in detail…


Net worth and manually connected accounts

This strikes me as fairly straightforward and can be done by a couple of tweaks to the accounts screen (the one you get from pulling down on the card on the feed).

Firstly, I’d add a net worth balance at the top of the screen, adding up the connected accounts.

Secondly, I’d let users add manual accounts. So for the ones that can’t be connected by open banking you’d be able to enter the current balance manually. Excellent for tracking things like mortgages etc. Bonus points for being able to store history.

Thirdly (and this is more complicated) I’d add a bit of intelligence. Let me enter the amount I have on a loan, find the payment from Monzo that repays it, enter the interest rate, then have Monzo approximate the current balance based on transfers from my current account. This would also work in the inverse way for savings accounts. Pick your savings sort code and account number, set the current balance, and have Monzo automatically change your savings balance on the basis of transactions in and out of your Monzo account. No connection needed.

What might this look like? I’m glad you asked!

Only one other thing to add: I’ve taken the liberty of having this as a separate tab. Anecdotally, the discoverability of this screen is pretty poor. And by making it more important (effectively the home page to your financial life) I thought it definitely deserved its own tab.

More :soon: . In the meantime, thoughts? Is this going on the right lines?

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+1 for manual accounts. :+1: This would be huge.

And could be available on the free tier? This would allow people who don’t want Plus/Premium to also ‘connect’ their accounts into the app, albeit on a manual basis.

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I wish I had the same enthusiasm and motivation you have for this stuff! Me? I just turned to plants. That’s my hobby now. At least one of the Monzo Plus offers turned out to be quite useful for me after all!

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I’d love this, but I can’t see it happening (in the short term - I’d hope that free customers get more once profitability has been achieved). I still like the multi-tier idea, though, with limited connections for those who are #fullmonzo.

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More than along the right lines. Absolutely needed. And nicely thought out/mocked up.

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Introduce a new budgeting screen

This will probably need more than one post. But let’s start with the basics: there is a whole bunch of stuff in the app that doesn’t really integrate well with each other or (in many cases) doesn’t really have a permanent home in the app. For example, we have budgeting (which you get to from the Summary screen) and salary sorter and end-of-period sweeps that only appear in certain circumstances and which need manual intervention.

The first step is to put all of these these things together in one place. I realise that the Accounts screen might be doing a bit of heavy lifting in these mocks, but I think that’s the best place to bring these things together. Maybe something a little like this:

Before we get to the detail, a quick (important) aside about the Accounts screen:

Like a few things in the app, the accounts screen seems (to me, at least) to be a little inconsistent in its approach. It boils down to the “Your Account” section, which is relevant to only one of the accounts of the screen - the Monzo current account. It would make more sense, and be intellectually consistent, to move those options to somehow be on the main feed screen, leaving the Accounts screen to cover things that are global. To return to the previous suggestion, making it a tab in its own right (or even the ‘Home’ screen) would clarify that hierarchy.

That said, here’s a brief explanation of the mock. Because it’s on the accounts screen, I’m assuming that everything that sits under the buttons would apply to all the accounts hooked into the app.

In order:

  • I’ve renamed the section from ‘Your Account’ to ‘Make a plan for your money’ (h/t to @BritishLibrary)
  • Create a pot and Earn Interest… are the current options in the app. I’m envisaging that you could create pots for external accounts, too (you might see £2000 in HSBC app, but that’s logically divided in Monzo so you can see what you’ve earmarked it for).
  • Set your payday: does what it says on the tin. It replaces the functionality currently in Summary in an easy to locate place. More powerful options under this, please - including logic to integrate with Get Paid Early (i.e. if you’re paid the last day of the month, it’s actually the day before the last day of the month with Get Paid Early…)
  • Create a budget brings into one place the existing budgeting functionality lodged in Summary.
  • Savings Sweep creates a home for the (hidden) function to move any leftover money in your account into a pot once you’ve been paid. I’d envisage you being able to set this up in advance, it becoming automatic and (for paid for customers) the ability to sweep to an external account.
  • Salary Sorter again, this is a home for something that already exists. And again, I’d envisage this being automatic, with options to set up what payments it applies to (account it comes from, value, time etc). Like savings sweep, it should also work to external accounts (for paid customers).
  • Recurring and future transactions may or may not actually belong here. I think it’s probably a short-cut to something that should live on the feed - and would lead to something like this idea. It’s a biggie, so I’ll probably come back to this :eyes:
  • Finally a home for Get Paid Early. I’m envisaging an option for paid customers to receive their money automatically the day before - no more pull downs.

Does it feel right to get the Accounts screen to do the heavy lifting here? Anything missing? Superfluous?

Keen as ever for thoughts!

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This is fantastic stuff - and well on the way to more consistent, refined and logical grouping of the many banking actions possible. I hope :monzo: are keeping a close :eye: on this set of winning ideas.

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Managing future transactions

So previously, I suggested a big tidy up of the UI, and to put budgeting features in an easy to find place.

I thought, though, that now is the right time for a deep-dive into ‘recurring and future transactions’. But to do that properly, let’s step back and look at what problem we’re trying to solve.

We’ve seen from polls that the Left to Spend figure is really important to people. But we’ve also seen lots of folk wander onto the Community confused about what the figure means. It’s confusing for two reasons: firstly it’s not really clear what you’re looking at and what the various figures mean (I’ll come back to how to better present the different forms of balance in a separate post). Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the Monzo app goes some way in predicting future spend - but doesn’t get it right, and doesn’t let the user have total control over their future spend.

To solve this, I’m suggesting that again we take some of the functionality that currently lives in Summary, polish it up properly and (in this case) significantly add to it. We’ll also need to find a better, more natural home, in the app.

A few principles:

  • Users should be able to easily see all future transactions in the app, for whatever period they choose. It might be nice to give a rolling option (e.g. next 30 days) as well as pay periods.
  • Unlike recurring transactions at the moment, we should be able to manually add and edit them.
  • Future transactions must cover debits and credits. It’s a waste of time if you can’t tell Monzo that you have a transfer from your savings account coming in tomorrow to cover and unexpected bill - or if it doesn’t know that you’re getting paid next week.
  • Future transactions should elegantly match up with real transactions, or otherwise disappear when it’s clear that it’s not going to happen. That includes merging future transactions with upcoming BACS transactions that haven’t hit yet.
  • The Left to Spend figure should add up future transactions then subtract that from your balance. There seems to be a bit of logic at the that tries to estimate your daily expenditure: bin that - it’s confusing. Just keep it simple.
  • It should integrate with envelope / pot budgeting: if you add in a future transaction (e.g. a new car in December) then it’d be cool for the app to suggest that you need to set aside £200/month to be able to afford it - and then go ahead and set that all up with a tap.

(Mocking this one up is complicated. I think it should somehow be accessible from the feed, rather than a separate place in the app. I think @davidwalton was on to something, though - it just needs to be done elegantly in a way that can show/hide future transactions without introducing too much ‘busyness’ to the app. So this is me saying maybe a mock in the future, maybe not… :thinking:)

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@Peter_G for :monzo: CEO

Seriously, the amount of thought and effort that goes into these posts is commendable

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Post#10 :point_up: is fantastic.
(As is post #11 too :smile_cat: :+1:)

There are a few key points to this and I’m taking cues from YNAB here, as the web version does it so well.

  • The most important point to processing future transactions with accuracy is a Running balance against all transactions. If all future transactions are greyed out, then the latest ‘black’ running balance is what you have ‘now’. Then if you expand the future transactions to show them all (or up to a chosen point in time), you can see what you have left to spend up to any point in the future because the Running balance shows you - you no longer need the Left-to-spend feature
  • Manual entries can only be entered for a future date - in banking you can’t change history
  • Collapsing all future transactions into one ‘top-of-the-feed’ entry is common sense
  • A future-view (time) selection is also needed (eg. “How much will I have left just before the end of March payday?”, etc.), so a Time-Slider™ :eyes: is needed
  • Manual entries should have a visual indicator (like ‘:point_left:’) that shows it is a manual entry. Monzo already knows which repeating transactions will happen in the future from what has been set-up in ‘Payments’, so there will always be ‘auto’ future transactions displayed, and these shouldn’t have a visual indicator

This means the feed takes care of Left-to-spend as of ‘now’ and can be interrogated to show what will be available in the future. Summary is then used for looking backwards at what has historically happened.

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This is really good! I will wait until I’m at a computer as quoting different bits on a phone isn’t easy

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So I’ve had a go:

Flash poll! Without reading further, does this make sense?

  • Yes, I know what is going on here
  • I think so
  • No, I’m confused

0 voters

Having had a brief look at @davidwalton’s excellent post, I think this’ll need a tweak, but here’s my thinking:

  • From this post, I’ve borrowed sub-headings for the feed. “Timeline” gives us the feed we know and love (with an addition, explained below);’ “Future” brings up a feed of future transactions, the ability to select a time-frame, manually add transactions etc; “Breakdown” is my word to show spend by merchant or category - again, this would need a time period associated with it. I’d like to see calendar periods, rolling backwards periods, pay periods, or a user specified range.

  • On the timeline, I’ve changed the future transactions that we currently see in the app (those generated by the BACS process) to be hideable.

  • I’ve also added an extra section to show or hide future transactions for this period. The mock says “pay period”, but I’d expect this to change depending on what the user sets in the option in this post - so it could be calendar month, weekly, pay-cycle or whatever the appropriate budgeting period is.

  • The extra search button is on the feed for an advanced (I’m dreaming now) search and filter function for that account only. The top right search is still there because you need a way to search across all connected accounts (eventually).

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Just so I’ve got this right, the idea is that each item in the feed (past or future) would have a running balance next to it? And the future ones therefore let you know what your spendable balance at that point in time would be?

What balance would you want as the main balance? One that shows the running total for today? Or the figure that is for your unbudgeted spend until the end of your budgeting/pay period? (Or are these questions constraining thinking somehow?)

Yes, the Running balance is super important. The main figure at the top kind of becomes redundant if the transactions show a Running balance (even more space up top recelaimed - maybe have a Pulse there? I’ll get me :coat:)

The running balance shown in black by the very latest transaction is what is in your account ‘now’, so the top-centered £value shown in the mock-up could be a left to spend or budget figure, or even removed.

The calculated running balance for future transactions would indeed show you what would be in your account if/when they happened - so you could select a future reporting period of any duration and see what you’d have. This, coupled with manual transactions, allows a ‘what if’ feature.

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I really like the ideas and fin app Emma does predict future payments but obviously having it within Monzo would be better.

I really like all these ideas, hopefully Monzo may pick up on some of them.

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How does Emma do it? Can you add manual transactions the way that @davidwalton has suggested?

Emma tracks all your standing orders and direct debits across all accounts, it shows them in a list and also shows what it upcoming and also helps to indicate if you’re going to run into your overdraft or not have enough money to pay for it as well.

You can also add any recurring payment eg card based subscription to that list as well.

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Just too add, you can manually add accounts and payments and withdraws in the paid version. It also shows graphs across all your accounts, savings and investments.

If you get past the way it looks, it’s quite useful but I wish that was in Monzo

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