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Gamify Finances to Encourage Positive Beahviors

Providing easy to understand & fun feedback (like Apple Watch's Activity app) towards good financial goals will encourage better choices.

Photo of Josh Anon

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Who does this idea benefit, who are the main players and what's in it for them?

This idea benefits individuals by implicitly teaching them how to make smart financial choices, and the reward is that they will be making smarter choices, paying off debt and increasing savings. It's targeted at people ages 18-40 who interact with at least some of their finances electronically, as there's a potential social component (see the power of communities question).

How is your idea specifically using the power of communities to improve financial opportunities and resources?

Many of us are both competitive by nature and seek the approval of others. Providing simple feedback and progress indicators, towards general goals (having enough savings) and specific ones (saving towards a trip) gives us a shareable indicator (whether by showing someone or by sharing on social) of how we're doing. We can compete with ourselves (how we did before) or others (I reached my goal faster/achieved more badges) and get support from those we share our goals/progress with.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

A very simple app/website to test how well this works would be a savings goal tracker with a leaderboard. You list your goal (e.g., trip to Hawaii) and update the app with how far along you are. Rather than showing how far people are towards their goals, the leaderboard shows a momentum view: who's most continuously making the best progress towards their goal (plus % of goal achieved). This could aggregate across goals, too, so that you're higher up on the leaderboard for using it more.

What skills, input or guidance might you be seeking from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

Poke holes in this, let me know if there's anything like it, give thoughts about what a momentum view might be like, and if people like this, maybe there's a designer, Android dev, and web dev (I can probably handle the iOS side myself, time-permitting) who'd like to build it with me.

This idea emerged from:

  • An individual

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Photo of Shuai Chen
Team

Great idea. I love the concept of gamifying savings. Could you somehow integrate it with someone's bank accounts so that they don't have to manually input the information? I also think milestones are great. It would be great to have some kind of point system where you get x points for saving 25% of your goal, 50% and 100%. Also, something that can poke people "you haven't signed into the app or saved any money recently, come back and pick up your goal". I'm not sure what they have, but you might want to check out Mint, I heard they are trying to gamify financial savings.

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Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Nice feedback Shuai! Josh, this is a cool way of nudging people to adopt better financial behaviors through peer to peer interaction via a social app. As you continue to develop this idea, it'd be great to think about what the user experience will be. i.e. what will be the incentives to keep people engaged, how will users interact with their peers, how will this idea work step by step?

For inspiration, Check out this top idea from the Renewable Energy Challenge that made recycling into a social and collective activity: https://openideo.com/challenge/recycle-challenge/winning/less-is-more

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Photo of Nicole Stempak
Team

Josh,

Your idea certainly is timely from a technological and financial aspect. It’s devastating to see otherwise intelligent people be burned by financial illiteracy.

My idea was focused sharing education, but I like showing the rewards. Those are great feedback mechanisms that social media was built on. I know seeing my friends’ vacation photos make me want to go on vacation!

I like your idea, but I just want to make sure it’s serving the audience it was supposed to serve. I was under the impression we were targeting people who didn’t have these kind of technological resources.

Shane, can you weigh in?

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Photo of Josh Anon
Team

FWIW, smartphones are everywhere. Many 3rd world countries are bypassing laptops/desktops and going directly to mobile. Heck I've been in 3rd world countries where I had much better cell signal than I get in the US! Because they can take advantage of our developments and bypass a lot of the in-between stages (e.g., they could skip TDMA/EDGE cell tech and go right to GPRS/LTE), there's surprisingly more tech around the world than you might guess.

And at home and in other first-world countries, I actually think there are a ton of people who could benefit from better financial behavior even though we might not realize it or traditionally think about these people. I can't find the link right this second, but ~a year ago, someone ran an ad on facebook targeted at people around 30 saying if you only have 30k saved for retirement at age 30, you're not going to be able to retire. The comments on the ad were surprising! Thousands of people commented that they wished they had $30k saved--they often had 0 and were living paycheck to paycheck.

I think the potential reach for a gamification system is pretty big.

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Photo of Nicole Stempak
Team

Josh, I didn't mean to insult. I was just concerned by the smart watch photo you used. With all the Apple ads out, I started thinking about a volunteer trip to a rural community in Ohio. There were a lot of empty houses with junk in them because people move in the middle of the night and squat in houses because they can't afford to pay rent.

I think it's a great idea and global potential because, as you say, in some countries people have cell phone towers rather than running water. What I was unsuccessfully trying to suggest is a way to engage people who have limited technology aspect, i.e., a desktop version for someone who goes to the public library to access the Internet. I think if the data is automatically updated like Shuai suggested, there wouldn't be a burden to be constantly updating and entering data. These people might provide another way to tap into the community through public assistance programs. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program uses debit cards. Maybe you could incorporate that data into your plan. Or expand that approach to other money sources to better track spending not only for the individual but for case managers or people who have declared bankruptcy. I'm thinking about how wages can be garnished when debts are owed. Your program could potentially help create a plan for repayment by showing people in real time where their money is going.

My aunt has serious income and money management issues. She bemoans her self-inflicted situation and any attempt to teach her new behaviors fails because as soon as she gets paid, she spends it. She has ADHD and an iPhone she doesn't know how to use very well. I think if you could design something that gave her goals about paying off her credit card and budgeted a little spending money and, combined with your other idea of turning off her credit card, would finally force her to change her ways.

I hope your idea makes it to the next round!

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Photo of Josh Anon
Team

No insult taken! Plus if people are seeing images of the Watch's activity monitor and marketing has put it in their head that they want it, that could only help something like a financial activity monitor.

And thanks :)

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Photo of Justin Bean
Team

Great idea, Josh! Gamifying personal finances will make financial planning and responsibility much more fun (and achievable for many). Here are a few ideas you might consider:
1. Perhaps adding a function for collaboration as well as competition. Let's say you and 2 friends, or a spouse are planning on going on a trip together. Maybe you could contribute to a shared fund or contribute points to a shared goal. In combination with a leaderboard you could activate the competitive and collaborative instincts to encourage saving.
2. A passive mechanism for saving could also be helpful - something like Acorns that rounds up every purchase to the nearest dollar. In this way you would have a baseline of savings that wouldn't include the pain of actively diverting funds.
3. Many savings programs only celebrate what you save, but what about the money you can responsibly spend? Many people would love the positive reinforcement of reaching savings goals, but could feel the crunch or insecurity of not having much left over that they can actually spend. If there was a way of presenting "disposable" income as another positive aspect, or increasing it, you might reduce the pain of saving. Maybe when reaching savings goals they earn coupons or discounts at their favorite stores, giving them a win-win feeling for saving and increasing their purchasing power.

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Photo of Josh Anon
Team

Thanks! Good idea about being able to connect directly with people to collaborate or compete.

You should check out this other idea I posted--it's the next generation of passive financial management (in my opinion). The core idea is to add an automated system to actually manage your finances for you and to coach you at purchase time. https://openideo.com/challenge/financial-empowerment-challenge/ideas/virtual-snl-don-t-buy-stuff-financial-coach

I could totally see badges/points for celebrating disposable income milestones. You're right that there's more to reward than just getting out of debt.

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Photo of Hao Hu
Team

Really cool. Good idea with the popular modern technology using Apple watch app. I think it could be more popular among the youth by using this app to manage financial issues in a simulative situation.
I like it.

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Photo of Josh Anon
Team

Glad you like :)

Yeah, I was imaging eventually it'd be integrated with banks, and perhaps there'd even be a dashboard to help move money. For example, from checking to savings within your bank, setting up a recurring transfer, or transferring to an external investment service like Wealthfront. First steps first.

Interesting with Mint. I don't see anything on their site about it.