In a personal finance forum I frequent, a person posted a link to a survey of what people are looking for in personal finance tools. There were a new member to the forum. Since they hadn't contributed anything to the forum, I didn't feel the need to help them out. In fact, I suggested that they pay for a focus group. It turns out that the company is three people looking to bootstrap a business by making a new personal finance tool. I wish them luck... I doubt anyone would give up their financial information to three people who can't afford a survey.
The forum thread author went on to say that they found the existing personal finance tools to be deficient. This made me take pause and think about all the tools currently available for personal finance management. There's Quicken, Microsoft Money, Wesabe, Geezeo, Mint, and my own personal favorite, a simple spreadsheet program. I don't mean to suggest that all these tools are perfect - they are not. There is plenty of room for new products to enter the space.
I asked myself a simple question, "Are people having problems with their personal finance because the available tools are not helpful?" I would love to believe that better tools could solve people's money woes. I think most people need to focus on two things to escape a life of little financial worry. Specifically I would cite education and desire to improve as those two most important things. If you are looking for more education, I would recommend this site and those in my blogroll.
If you are looking for a desire to improve, you should simply look at your income and your lifestyle. If you make a good income and still consider yourself poor, you might want to investigate if you are saving money were you can. Too often, I've seen people make a lot of money - only to spend it on many little treats or one big one (such as a luxury car or a McMansion). Conversely, people who find themselves on the lower income scale might find that saving money is not enough. For them, I would suggest looking for ways to increase income.
Going back to the team of three people looking to develop a personal finance tool. I often think the most successful tool would be a role playing game (like World of Warcraft) where your character's abilities are tied to a combination of your financial health and your financial knowledge. I get the feeling that a lot of America would think a lot more about personal finance.
Image Credit: Denislav Stoychev
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