Fixing financial planning and analysis

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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So here’s a tweak:

We’re not being explicit about predicted balances - and I’ve added an example of a manual upcoming transaction (I used the :writing_hand:emoji). I suspect that this might be the most technically complex bit: exact value matches should be okay, but fuzzy matching might be more interesting to calibrate…

I deliberately haven’t put a running balance under every transaction - I think that would make the feed too busy. But I think having it on the transaction screen so you can tap on a transaction and see the balance at that time would be super cool and should definitely be done!

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I voted no I’m confused on this, and I’ll explain why briefly for now, and come back to expand on it later when I have more time.

I think for me, problems are stemming from keeping the current feed interface as is and adding too many buttons, toggles, and information to it, that it’s gotten a little unruly and overwhelming. In essence, it’s significantly diminished glanceability.

I like a lot of your ideas, but I think they would require a fundamental redesign and restructuring of the feed interface in order to be implemented in a really nice and coherent way. With the way things currently are, this just adds too much complexity for me.

A time machine feature of sorts I think would be interesting to build into the interface where summary currently exists, and actually replace it. Or perhaps it could be accessed by swiping right on the cards pane at the top, rather than trying to bundle it all into a single feed interface.

ETA: for clarity, the bit that’s bothering me is this:

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I would agree that you might not want this level of information on the main page or possibly you would want this to be something you turn on as an overlay .

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Love this.

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Can we unpack this a bit?

I’m assuming you’re broadly on board with the concept and what we’re trying to do here (all the stuff in this post) but that it’s how we surface that in the app that you worry over?

On the flash poll, did you vote no because it’s too busy or because it’s genuinely confusing?

I think I see what you mean here. Is it the text? My app currently look like this:

I think the only (fundamental) difference is that there’s the triangle to hide these transactions - is that a bad thing? Or is it the fact we’ve duplicated it to show the rest of the period’s transactions? I’m thinking as I type, but I wonder if we lost the explanatory text (“Predicated Closing Balance”) and thought about a more elegant way of hiding/showing the future transactions (perhaps a pull down/up gesture could reveal them? :thinking:) would that be better? Or do you fundamentally think future transactions don’t belong on this screen?

Sorry for all the questions - I’m not challenging you, just trying to tease out what’s not working here!

One last thing (and I should have probably said this up front): I’d be very up for fundamental changes to the app. I’m trying to do these mock-ups as marginal tweaks to the current app, though, otherwise I think they tend to require much more explanation and can be difficult to follow. But I do get the point that sometimes going back to first principles is the better approach.

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I’ve been having a think. How about this as an alternative?

In this version, the ‘tabs’ live in the upper section, so the transaction list by default covers them. I’ve kept a summary of upcoming spend for tomorrow, but without the detail, so it’s slightly slimmed down from what we currently see in the app. But I suppose you could also get rid of that too.

Something funky that might be a possibility: swipe left and right on the feed to move from past transactions, to future transactions, to a breakdown (where you can see spending insights by merchant or category etc).

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I’m not 100% with N26 but definitely somewhat agree with what he’s saying.

I think this ‘above tab’ option feels a bit better!

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Flash poll! Which version works best, do you think?

  • Version 1a: Collapsable sections for tomorrow’s transactions and this period’s transactions on feed screen.
  • Version 1b: As version 1a, but future transactions are in summary only - go to the future tab for individual transactions
  • Version 2a: Tabs are under the card controls so can be hidden. Tomorrow’s transactions shown in summary only.
  • Version 2b: As 2a, but a strict separation between past and future transactions.
  • Some other combination (explain below please!)

0 voters

Edit: user error, poll rebooted, please vote again! (cc @Alexxxxx) :man_facepalming: