The economic downturn has prompted users of online aggregation and financial management Web sites like Geezeo Inc.'s to request new features for keeping track of their money.
Shawn Ward, Geezeo's co-founder, said people are especially interested in tools to help them manage their cash flow — a feature in which few people expressed interest when his Framingham, Mass., company launched its site in mid-2007. His company plans to start offering such tools today.
"Cash flow is traditionally a younger person's issue, and with the economy, it's broadened," Mr. Ward said in an interview Monday. "They like the tracking of budgets, but the overwhelming feedback is … 'Cash flow's my biggest issue, and I really need a look forward.' "
When Geezeo launched its site, it surveyed users and found that fewer than 10% wanted such tools. Within the past six months, new surveys have shown that "almost 50% of users are looking for cash flow tied to a budgeting tool, and we believe it's definitely related to the economy," he said.
Geezeo's new tools will allow users to see what funds will be available in future months, according to information they have submitted about recurring bills and income. Earlier tools enabled users to examine only their past spending.
In October, Intuit Inc. made changes to its Quicken Online financial management site, dropping the monthly fee it charged users and added tools to help people monitor cash flow. At the time the company said the changes were meant to appeal to users living from paycheck to paycheck. It also said the revamp was a break from its earlier strategy of marketing Quicken Online to the same people who use its Quicken desktop software — a group with more complex financial needs.
Mr. Ward said that users of other financial management sites, like those run by Wesabe Inc. and Mint Software Inc., are likely demanding similar changes.
"I would bet that Geezeo is a pretty good cross-sampling, and some of the issues facing Geezeo users — some of the requests they have — are similar across other products," he said.
However, Marc Hedlund, the chief executive and co-founder of Wesabe, said that some users of his San Francisco company's site have sought a cash-flow forecasting feature, but the demand not been overwhelming among users.
In addition, there are challenges in making such tools useful, he said. "It's so hard to be accurate with that. It's so hard to say that finances are this regular thing that you can easily predict."
Next week Wesabe is planning to add a feature that Mr. Hedlund said would help users who are sensitive to recent economic pressures, though he would not say provide details.
Representatives from Intuit and Mint did not return calls for comment Monday.
Geezeo's new tools also will let users categorize expenses as either fixed (such as rent and mortgage payments) or adjustable (such as groceries), Mr. Ward said. Users can also split a transaction into two categories — a single trip to Wal-Mart can be divided into grocery and clothing spending, for example.
Edward Woods, a senior analyst for Celent, the Boston financial research arm of Marsh & McLennan Cos., said cash-flow projection is something that "banks have talked about for a long time" but have been unable to implement.
The reason, he said, is that it is easy to make inaccurate projections, and this is one of the "things I can get away with as a PFM provider that a bank can't," since consumers have higher expectations of accuracy from banks.