“Working in the financial planning industry for over a decade, I’ve found many inefficiencies in the business, which lead to obstacles and roadblocks for people receiving the financial guidance that they need.” - Carl Consing, Product Manager
The typical financial plan costs $2,000 and up and most financial advisors will only work with client’s with a minimum of $500K+ in assets. This prices out a majority of the population.
Most people can’t afford or won’t want to pay a high price for a financial plan. However, what most people need are just the basic foundations of money management. They just want to know How should I manage my money? But most of them don’t know where to start.
So what are the problems
- There is no personal finance or money management taught in school and it can be too intimidating and complex to learn on your own.
- There is a high barrier to entry to get professional help. It’s too expensive and professionals are selective.
What do we believe?
- We believe most people aren’t being served or even offered financial advice, but anyone can use financial advice.
- Software can serve personalized financial advice to anyone.
Landing on the Solution
Common is a web app that allows the user to select their financial goal, answer a few questions, and receive a step-by-step guide tailored to their personal situation.
Just like traditional financial planning, we start with the user selecting their financial goal. According to the Personal Finance sub-Reddit, the most common question is: “How should I manage my money?” and we call that the “Foundational” goal. The user can also select a more specific goal like: Retirement, Pay Off Debt, Emergency Fund, or F.I.R.E. (Financial Independence / Retire Early).
Everyone has different financial goals, so rather than forcing the user down a specific path, we allow the user to focus on the financial goal that is most important to them. This keeps them more engaged and less likely to drop off.
Once the user selects their goal, we ask only the relevant questions needed, so the user can provide as little data as necessary. This minimizes friction, which allows the user to receive value quickly and keeps the user from becoming disinterested.
While the traditional financial planning process can cost over $2,000 and take up to 3 months to get a plan, Common can create a basic, personalized financial plan in less than 2 minutes, for free.
From here the user can continue to dive deeper to get more specific advice, such as specific dollar amounts for their emergency fund or how much to contribute to their retirement plans or in what order to pay off their debts. The more data the user provides, the more detailed their recommendations will become.
Iterative Design Learnings
After conducting user testing on Maze with our prototype, we found that 5 out of 7 users’ said they felt more confident about managing their money after going through the initial flow. This convinced us that we were heading down the right path.
We also learned that we should clarify some terms, specifically what the difference is between high vs moderate interest rate debt. It’s important to provide context when it comes to this topic.
Users reported that having a visual breakdown of their goals would be useful. This is something we plan to add in future iterations.
- Where is it hosted? Github Pages
- What was the hardest part of development? Building the calculations' logic to make app can be scalable.
- Build out the various goal pathways
- Allow users to select additional goals
- Add more financial education and visuals to give the users more context
- Allow users to save their data or create accounts
Product Manager Learnings:
- How to be flexible and resilient when the unexpected happens.
- How to listen to negotiate with the devs and designers to prioritize key features and descope when needed.
- The importance of communicating early and often in order to make sure the project moves along and to meet deadlines.
- How vital it is to understand the problem and constraints since I was brought on half way into the project
- Design with the end user in mind by exploring different solutions
- Importance of a detailed design document to handoff for development
- How to take user stories and turn them into technical tasks.
- How to minimize the project to build efficiently. Use only the frameworks needed to get the job done.
- How to communicate with a team of product managers, designers, developers and mentors.
Full Team Learning
Overall, we learned how to adapt when things changed. We lost our first 2 designers in the first 2 weeks and had to push forward by hacking together initial prototypes and shifting to a developer led product. We recruited another designer to join us in the middle of the project, which gave our product some much needed fine-tuning and polish.