Quicken launches Simplifi money management app for millennials, Gen Z

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Quicken, one of the first companies to come out with money management software — it started with an MS-DOS version that ran on the Apple II in 1983 — launched Tuesday a stripped-down app for millennials called Simplifi.

“In this day and age, it's so easy to spend and not think about it,” said Kristen Dillard, director of product management at Quicken. “This app is geared towards helping those customers manage all of their finances in one place, but really keep an eye on their spending so they can make sure they're spending less than they're bringing in and spending on what's important to them, in a way that helps them achieve their longer-term financial goals.”

The original Quicken app also focuses on these things, but it was designed to be a desktop app “for people who really wanted to tinker with and have their hands in the app and do detailed financial management,” she said. Quicken has detailed budgeting and investment tracking, for instance. The app is used by 2.5 million people.

By contrast, Simplifi was built to be mobile first. It has many of the features of other personal finance apps. It shows customers the activity in their bank accounts, using data aggregation from its former owner and current partner Intuit. Transactions are automatically categorized, but the customer can modify the categories. Customers can also modify dates, for instance, if their rent payment cleared early or late on a given month. Users can see how their balance will be affected if they pay off their bills partially or completely. They can set savings goals, such as vacation or summer camp, and allocate multiple savings buckets within one savings account.

One unique feature is called Watchlist. It lets users closely monitor an area of spending, such as dining and drinks, without restricting it.

Quicken hopes to reach a younger demographic with Simplifi. It plans to promote the app through social media, email channels, paid advertising, a blog and influencers. It’s following the subscription model trend — the app costs $3.99 a month.

“Our testing shows that customers would prefer that to a free app that they have to weed through and decide what's the financial information versus what's an ad,” Dillard said.

Quicken also tested behavioral finance elements like automated savings.

“Beta users didn't like that it took them out of control,” Dillard said. “They wanted an app that would suggest to them what to do, but they didn't like it when it did it for them. They wanted to know how that was going to happen. The reason was, only the user truly, truly knows what they have happening tomorrow and if it's OK for that money to leave that account or not.”

Beta testers also expressed annoyance at certain kinds of alerts.

“Users say, you sending me a text to tell me I’m $1 over my target in food and dining is not helpful,” Dillard said. “It's annoying telling me that a bill is overdue because you didn't know that I actually paid it yesterday via check — it's not overdue and I feel bad. We want our app to be encouraging and motivating and helpful, not something that makes people feel like they've done something wrong.”

A recent survey sponsored by Quicken found that nearly 70% of respondents identified money as one of their top three sources of stress over the last several years, and money ranked second as the cause of arguments with spouses/significant others, just after “annoying habits.” Arguments about money center on spending (61%), saving (43%), credit card debt (35%) and planning for bills (32%).

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