How to Build an Effective Personal Finance Application
How to Build a Successful Personal Finance App: Tips and Insights

How to Build a Successful Personal Finance App: Tips and Insights

We are constantly spending and earning money, which forms the eternal financial cycle, inevitable in our days. This encourages us to manage our budget, plan and organize expenses and look for the best sources of income.

Previously, doing personal accounting wasn’t easy. Such a task demanded our full attention and a fair amount of effort. However, today, thanks to different types of money management apps, the situation has changed for the better.

These services have greatly simplified the budgeting process, which resulted in their increased popularity. Today more and more people are enjoying various financial planning apps, so we have a prepared target audience. 

That’s why fintech development is a good startup idea. With the right approach, such a project will bring you good profit. The only question is how to build a personal finance app. 

In our new article, we're going to answer it. Moreover, we'll discuss the most effective ways to monetize these services and give you many other useful tips.

Personal Finance Apps: The Basics

There is no doubt that these applications are very useful tools in the light of present reality. With them, we have a great opportunity to save money, keep track of expenses, and perform many other tasks in managing our budget. Moreover, we deal with our financial matters with maximum comfort, where and when we want, literally on the go.

With all this, such services are well monetized and can become another source of profit. So it makes total sense to find a financial software development company that will take on your money management app project. You won’t be able to handle this job on your own, it requires experience and expertise.

But it's too early to get into specifics. We have a few more issues to discuss first.

Financial Planning App Tasks

There're various types of money management apps, and they can do a lot. Some photograph checks, others recognize mobile bank transactions or provide shared access to general budgeting... But if we highlight their basic functions and tasks, we’ll get 4 main points (see below).

Indeed your attention is drawn to the last item on the list above... right? Let's clarify it: the application won't help you earn much, but an extra penny won't hurt anyone. What's more, the money-making feature is a good chance to attract a greater number of users. Prime examples are Acorns and YNAB (we discuss them later when detailing top personal finance apps).

But remember, the more tasks your service performs, the higher the personal finance app development cost. So if your budget is limited, start simple and small and scale up the project over time.

Key Types Of Finance Apps

These apps can be grouped and classified in many ways. And first, we'll deal with the most popular one.

Simple Financial Management Software

Such an application doesn't offer any advanced features and has the simplest functionality. With its help, users plan their purchases, manage expenses, and perform other similar tasks. 

There is one more thing we should probably mention: users have to enter all the data themselves, that is, manually (on the bright side, the process of personal finance mobile app development is cheaper and faster in this case, which makes it a good idea for most startups).

Pros:

  • greater confidence in the app's security. Since the bank card isn't connected to the application, financial data is completely safe;

  • a simpler development process (which we’ve already indicated earlier). This means the project can be implemented in less time and on a smaller budget.

Cons:

  • the process of manually entering information may seem too boring and tedious to the user;

  • it is more difficult to compete with top personal finance apps that offer a variety of features for smart budget management.

The last item on the mini-list above might make you anxious, and rightfully so. However, the small number of personal finance app’s features can be made up in other ways. One of the ideas is cool interface design and special attention to user experience. Thus, you’ll increase the competitiveness of your service.

Let's say, pay attention to the finance app concept below, such a design has every chance to attract the attention of users, what do you think?

By the way, the Wally app offers manual data entry and is quite successful. So don't dismiss a simple application type as non-working, it can definitely benefit you.

Advanced Money Management Apps

If you have the resources and budget, we advise you to consider releasing a financial planning app with more advanced functionality. Most importantly, you save users from having to enter all the information manually. The best way to do this is to allow them to link their bank cards to the service. As a result, the application will receive the necessary data automatically.

Pros:

  • such an application is very user-friendly, as it requires a minimum of manual work. Budget management is automatic;

  • it becomes easier to stand out from the competition (or at least you can adequately rival similar services).

Cons:

  • financial data protection is your focus (an issue we’ll discuss below);

  • the project takes longer and requires more effort to implement (which in turn increases the personal finance app development cost).

There is also another approach to finance app classification, based on the nature of the task being performed:

  • Effective work with financial habits;

  • Personal budget management;

  • Investment software;

  • Full-service financial application;

  • Financial projections.

Of course, the above types of money management apps can be combined with each other: the more tasks an application performs, the easier it is to keep users interested.

Features For Financial Planning Apps

We've discussed the basic software tasks, now you need to convert them into the personal finance app’s features. We offer the following options (although, of course, everything depends on the specific project, its goals, and your budget):

  • User Registration & Authorization. Sometimes the registration step can be skipped or made optional, but it doesn't apply to financial applications. When dealing with money matters, it is very important to create a personal profile containing all the user information. This is especially true for finance apps that allow attaching bank cards: in such cases, you need to take proper measures to protect the profile and secure the process of user authorization. 

  • Bank card connection. We're talking about the just mentioned linking of a bank card to a user account so that all financial information is automatically entered into the application database. Of course, when creating a finance management app with manual data entry, the feature isn't needed.

  • Access to transactions. The user should be able to view the history of his transactions, track each one if desired, and obtain relevant information about them.

  • Smart budgeting. One of the important tasks of all types of finance apps is to provide the user with the ability to set an acceptable budget for a day, week, month, or another period.

  • Planning expenses by categorizing them (say, Food, Hygiene, Clothing, etc.) and setting deadlines (which is necessary for mandatory payments).

    • By the way, a calendar with planned expenses and payments would be a good idea too. Such a feature will make your application more attractive to users.

  • Template payments. You can simplify the user's life even more and offer him to create payment templates so that he could make regular transactions faster and easier.

  • Statistics. It's about statistics on expenses, the possibility of comparing them, and so on. These features for financial planning apps should help the user get an idea of how he managed his budget during the specified period. 

  • Notifications: any alerts and reminders regarding recurring payments and other financial tasks.

  • In-app search. The feature is designed to help users navigate the application and easily find the information they need.

These are basic features for fintech app development. But there are also advanced ones, which can add value to your application:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). If you have a good budget, be sure to supplement your application with AI and ML elements. Using these technologies, you can offer users many more cool features: smart expense grouping, receipt recognition, AI-based chatbots, and so on.

  • Advanced analytics tools. Don’t confuse this feature with simple statistics, which you should provide in the basic functionality. Advanced analytics tools are able to make real financial forecasts and help users with budgeting.

There's a flip side to that coin: the implementation of the above features requires more resources, which means more time and money. So it's up to you what to choose.

How To Build A Personal Finance App

Let's start by listing the key features of a customized finance app development. More precisely, it’s about technologies, which could help you bring a fintech project to life.

Tech Stack For Creating A Finance Management App

What you see is the tech stack that our team uses for fintech development projects. Of course, you can choose other solutions, but we consider our approach to be the most effective. 

Anyway, these technologies may sound unfamiliar, incomprehensible, and, perhaps, intimidating to you… which is natural, as you aren’t a development expert. That's why you should hire a personal finance application development company and entrust it with your project. Other reasons to opt for professionals are listed below.

Why Collaborate With an Experienced Financial App Development Company?

Let's discuss the stages the project goes through:

  • Discovery Phase (activities for a successful project start). The tasks include conducting market research, analyzing the target audience, considering the must-have app functionality, choosing a tech stack, developing a user flow, and performing other similar steps.

  • UI/UX. Among the deliverables of the Discovery phase are often prototypes (sketches, wireframes, or detailed ones, depending on the project). The next step is to turn them into a full-fledged interface design capable of delivering the best user experience.

  • Development. This is one of the most difficult and responsible stages of the project. It requires special attention and expertise.

  • Testing. Before a product is released to the market, it must be properly tested. QA engineers need to make sure it will run smoothly and without failure.

  • Product launch and support. And finally, the software takes its place among other solutions. If necessary, the dev team offers its follow-up support.

As you understand, the implementation of these stages requires the participation of many experts: business analysts, UI/UX designers, front-end, back-end, and mobile developers, QA engineers, and others. Moreover, it is desirable that these specialists have experience in personal finance mobile app development.

Let's discuss how to create a p2p payment application. Interesting? Then follow the link right now!

Tips, Insights, & Features for Fintech App Development

Hopefully, you'll choose among the financial software development companies the one that suits you the most. If they help you implement your project, you won't have to do anything yourself. On the other hand, you may want to be on the same page with the team's experts, don't you? In this case, you should understand the very basics... which we're going to discuss right now. We'll share some useful tips and insights with you so that you know what's what.

#1. User-Centric Thinking

Focus solely on your target audience. Don't think about what YOU would like to get from a personal finance app: think about what your users want.

But how do you know what they want and need? You can read the tea leaves, of course, but there is a high risk of being wrong. So you had better conduct the Discovery phase, which we mentioned above, and get accurate information about your target audience.

  • In this article, we reveal the essence of the Discovery concept and explain what its benefits are.

#2. Focus on Security

Yes, we've already talked about the security problem more than once, but the re-discussion of such a сrucial topic won't hurt. Data security is of great importance, especially if your application is linked to the user's bank card. After all, an insufficiently protected system can end with the theft of money, which won't do you any good either (you risk losing your reputation along with users).

Ways to protect personal finance management software include the following:

  • Multi-factor user authentication (the need to perform too many steps to complete a transaction can be a tedious process, but it's worth it because your first priority is to protect the user's money).

  • Biometric authorization (through fingerprint, retina, or face recognition).

  • Data encryption (so that a fraudster, even if he manages to intercept data during a transaction, cannot use it, because in the encrypted form it tells him nothing).

  • Short-lived sessions. Client-server finance applications shouldn’t run in insecure mode, so it's best to reduce the session period.

  • Discreet display of financial data. Make sure that confidential information isn't visible to everyone around (so no bright and large fonts, no matter how appealing and stylish they may seem to you).

  • Caution with open source solutions. You must be 100% sure that the library or database you choose is secure (an example of such time-tested databases is Realm).

We talk a lot more about mobile app security in another article. Follow the link to learn how to protect your business from cyber scammers.

#3. Efficient UI/UX Design

Efficient design implies that you must create a UI (user interface) that can provide the best UX (user experience). The main task is to make your financial planning app pleasant and convenient to use. 

All of the above can be summarized in a few points:

  • user-friendliness. Don't give the user a hard time figuring out how to work with your application. The interface should be as intuitive as possible.

  • a small number of steps. Make sure that the user gets the maximum effect by taking a minimum of steps. Eliminate all unnecessary steps if possible (this doesn’t apply to transactions, which require verification of the user's identity).

  • compliance with UI/UX trends. Design trends aren't just plucked out of the sky: they reflect the current tastes and preferences of the majority of users. So keep in mind what's hot in UI/UX design at the moment.

Get some inspiration with this great UI/UX concept. What you see is also a finance app and it looks really cool!

#4. Smart transaction processing

A simple UI is always a great idea... except, as already stated, in the case of transactions. Of course, features for financial planning apps don't necessarily include the ability to make payments (smart budgeting would suffice). But if you do provide such an option, then think about how to combine ease of use and cybersecurity measures.

And first of all, choose the best way to organize the payment scenario:

  • single-screen scenario. You can have everything happen on one screen. Such an interface design, though, risks being overloaded with details, because it must reflect all the data for verifying the user's identity and making a payment itself.

  • multi-screen scenario. The second option is to create several screens and prompt the user to sequentially move from one to another when making a transaction. This payment scenario may seem more tedious than the previous one, but UI design wins.

#5. Convincing functionality

According to surveys, when choosing a financial management software, users pay attention to the following features:

  • a mandatory authorization step for secure application access;

  • saving personal settings and data;

  • connection with social media profiles;

  • the use of geo-settings;

  • smart alerts and notifications.

If the above options are included in the list of personal finance app’s features, the chances that your service will be in demand increase.

#6. Round-the-clock support

The user may have questions or even problems when working with your money management application. It’s natural and doesn’t mean your service is bad or ineffective; it means you must deal with these unpleasant situations as quickly as possible, that’s all.

By the way, if you can afford to implement AI elements, use them wisely. For example, why not develop a smart chatbot that will respond to user requests in real time? Of course, such a bot won't solve a serious problem. On the other hand, a digital algorithm is quite capable of answering a popular question, which could come in handy too.

#7. MVP/MLP to start

The high personal finance app development cost is hardly a reason to abandon the idea to bring the project to life. You just need to start small, namely, with the creation of an MVP. Such a product only has basic functionality, making it cheaper to implement.

Better yet, build an MLP, a minimum lovable product. It is similar to MVP and also has only the most important features. But in some ways, MLP is superior to MVP. The thing is, MLP has an improved UI/UX, thanks to which it attracts and interests users.

If you want to know what MLP is and how it differs from MVP, read our article. It covers the topic in detail.

Top Personal Finance Apps

Let's discuss the global personal finance management market and its main players. Who should you fear first? Whose strategy should you explore and adopt?

Mint

Mint is one of the most popular money management apps on the market today. It was launched in 2008 and has since managed to win and attract at least 15 million users worldwide. 

What is good about Mint?

  • great experience. After almost 15 years on the market, Mint has become a proven solution. Users are unlikely to be disappointed with their choice because Mint considered most of their wishes.

  • free access. Of course, Mint makes money in other ways, not as apparent as paid access to content (see below).

  • a passive approach to accounting. Mint shows the balance on each user account and illustrates the recent spending dynamics.

  • saving-money tips. These tips may seem too simple to some, but they would be handy for personal financial planning.

  • the high degree of cyber security. Mint is well protected from scammers (at the bank level, according to the company).

We've covered the Mint application from A to Z in our other article. In it, you'll find everything you need to know about this useful finance app.

Monetization strategy

Mint doesn't require payment from the users themselves. It acts better and smarter.

In addition to simple earning methods such as in-app ads, the company is quite wise in using the collected consumer data. It analyzes all the information and offers each user something to interest him. It can be an investment project or good loan terms... depending on what a particular customer needs according to his financial behavior.

If the user agrees to the offer made, Mint receives its commission from the company that provides this particular financial service.

YNAB

YNAB stands for You Need a Budget. This personal finance app sets itself the task of making budget planning manageable. With YNAB, users can synchronize all their accounts, track monthly expenses, save money for emergencies, and more. Also, the company offers online seminars aimed at teaching users to deal with old debts.

The essence of these rules is simple:

  • The first rule means that YNAB helps users spend money wisely. It mainly refers to the smart categorization and systematization of expenses;

  • The second rule suggests that the user save some money for a rainy day (after all, you never know what can happen!);

  • The third point reflects a popular rule in boxing when a boxer follows an opponent and his punch, using it to his advantage. What does it have to do with all types of finance apps? It's very simple: YNAB focuses on flexible budget management and adapting to any financial surprises;

  • And finally, the last rule deals with the ability to live on the money earned, without exceeding the monthly income.

Monetization strategy

For a month, the user can enjoy YNAB features without paying (just to make sure he has chosen the right personal finance management software). After 30 days, he’ll have to give up YNAB... or buy a monthly or annual subscription.

Acorns

The Acorns app is more focused on savings and investments. To be precise, its main task is to help users save money and automatically invest change.

The company was founded in 2012 by a father and son (Messrs Cruttenden) who wanted to promote passive investing. Therefore, the main feature of Acorns is micro-investments.

Today, Acorns is used by at least 10 million people.

What is good about Acorns?

  • Emphasis on automation. Acorns fully automates the process of passive micro-investing. Users link their accounts to the finance app and the rest runs its course and comes naturally (i.e. purchases are rounded to the nearest dollar).

  • Ease of use. Even novice investors can understand how Acorns works. No special skills are required.

  • Several types of accounts. Acorns users can deal with a variety of accounts: individual (taxable) investment accounts, individual retirement accounts (IRA), custody accounts for children, and more.

Monetization strategy

Acorns offers a simple pricing system: $1, $3, or $5 depending on the subscription level.

How To Monetize Personal Finance Management Software

  • Paid access. The easiest way to earn on any application is to make it paid. There is a downside, though: convincing users to spend money on lifetime access to your program won't be easy! At least, without a trial period... what if they don't like what they buy? So the next monetization option on our list has a better chance of success.

  • Freemium approach. The basic functionality is provided to everyone, and some special features should be paid for. Of course, the application will work well in its basic version too, but if a user wants to get access to even greater features, he has to buy premium access.

  • Subscription model. The third monetization option is similar to the previous one, with the difference that the user must renew a paid subscription every month in order to freely use the finance app content.

  • Advertising is another way to make money on any application. However, to succeed, you need to follow a few rules:

    • find those advertisers whose products or services may be of interest to your users (which means you should resort to research data on the target audience when choosing brands advertised);

    • advertising should not be too intrusive, otherwise, there is a risk of scaring off users. According to statistics, an excessive number of ads (especially of an irrelevant nature) is one of the reasons why users abandon a particular personal finance app.

  • Monetization of financial information. Your users inevitably leave a lot of information about themselves regarding their financial habits, money behavior, habitual spending, and more. And all this data could interest different marketing or research agencies. Of course, the information sold should be of a general nature, without the ability to track a specific consumer.

  • Special personalized offers. Also, gathered financial information on consumers can be used for personalized offers. It's what Mint is doing (we've discussed its monetization strategy earlier).

  • Paid access to SDK/API. Also, by creating a finance management app, you get a chance to collaborate with third parties and sell them your SDKs/APIs. They can use these tools to improve their own products (say, Dwolla offers the opportunity to connect mobile apps to American banking services).

Summary

Let's briefly recall the main things to consider in order to ensure the success of your project:

  • Focus on users. Think about your target audience and don’t overload the application with ads (otherwise the user will remove your app after a while).

  • Functionality matters. According to statistics, users pay great attention to the features of financial planning apps when choosing a particular solution. The main task is to make sure your application is really good at budget management.

  • Security comes first. If you decide to go the hard way (by allowing a bank card to be linked to your mobile service), you need to increase your security measures as much as possible. 

  • Test! Another reason forcing the user to abandon a money management app already downloaded is technical problems. So make sure your software works as it should and there won't be any nasty surprises. 

Our Agilie team has successful experience in working with fintech projects. That's why we offer our services as a qualified personal finance application development company.

 

 

Helen Vakhnenko
Helen Vakhnenko

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