Money, as most people well know, cannot actually buy love or happiness. This fact, of course, breaks our hearts as payments experts — as we prefer everything in the form of a monetary transaction, much the way Alex Trebek prefers everything in the form of a question.
But while it cannot buy love or happiness, money, or usually the lack thereof, does have a way of popping up in close proximity to misery and relationship strife. Finances, more than any other issue, consistently causes problems in human relationships — beating out favorites like sex, religion and the appropriate division of household labor. Soap operas may thrive on infidelity to generate the drama of divorce, but statistically speaking, a cheating spouse is more likely to be forgiven than one who is dishonest, or even just unclear, about how much they spend and why.
Money’s nearly magical ability to cause misery among loved ones was a problem that Honeyfi Co-Founder Ramy Serageldin ran into headfirst a few years into his marriage, when he and his wife tried to figure out their financial future. They ended up having a big fight that left him on the couch.
“They were two rough nights,” Remy Serageldin told Karen Webster. “We were living in New York at the time, and it was a very small couch in our very small apartment. My wife, I should note, offered to sleep on the couch in my place.”
But what she didn’t offer to do was sleep in the same bed with him. Their small apartment in New York was what had tipped off the problem. Here was a couple who had managed to make it through the first few years of their marriage without really talking about finances or making a budget, despite the fact that they both worked in financial services. And why? They were fortunate enough not to really need to count their paychecks down to the last dollar, so they weren’t really all that proactive about budgeting.
Then kids came along, and suddenly they had a lot of choices to make.
“We got married, had kids and it was time to make a major life decision: stay in New York, move to the suburbs or go someplace totally different. And we realized that despite both being in financial services, we weren’t that prepared or organized to make that decision, even though we thought we’d done some of the right things, like start a college account for our kids,” Serageldin said.
What they didn’t do was buy life insurance or think about buying real estate or start planning for retirement — and when faced with the need to make a big life decision, Serageldin said, he and his wife found that there wasn’t really much to help them attack the problem in a more tactical way.
And so, the idea for Honeyfi — a personal finance tool that makes it easier for couples to budget and create a financial plan as a single unit — was born.
How It Works
As is the case with most things that are good for us that no one wants to do — i.e. exercise and diet, to name just two — getting started is the hardest part. So that’s where most of the effort on the part of the Honeyfi team has been focused.
Getting started means that each person has to link their accounts to the mobile app and decide how many financial details to share with their partner.
But, he noted, the app is also designed to let users customize what transactions they want to share and what they want to leave private. The app can encourage and facilitate transparency between spouses, without spoiling every birthday gift by publishing the receipt upon purchase or making that necessary emergency Louboutin shoe purchase a matter of public record.
“Everybody needs the Louboutins sometimes,” Serageldin joked, adding that creating that customization makes it easier in the long run for couples to communicate with each other about how they’re doing financially.
From there, each couple can see all of their finances — organized and categorized — in one place.
“The app then takes all that information and creates a household budget for them based on their historical spend,” Serageldin said, explaining that creating a budget in the first place is one of the biggest obstacles to getting started. So, removing that friction was key.
But was not the biggest hurdle to clear, Serageldin said. The biggest hurdle is keeping users on track, something he said is manageable given that it’s pitched to couples, which builds in the encouragement and reinforcement of another person to keep things on track.
Also key, Serageldin noted, is that Honeyfi isn’t trying to be the financial planning app for everyone, but rather keeping its focus on older millennials who are making big lifestyle transitions and actively seeking guidance for how to manage them.
Accommodating the Household “CFO”
Generally speaking, Serageldin noted, every family has a household CFO — the person whose job it is to make sure the checking account is in the black, the bills are paid and the credit score is above board. Serageldin said that Honeyfi’s goal is to help that household CFO have the information he or she needs to make decisions.
The “non-CFO” gets data in a format they can understand and better visibility into what the household budget actually looks like — a much less stressful alternative than having to constantly ask, “Can we afford this?” — which Serageldin said is stressful for both parties.
Honeyfi is a very new company that at this point is running on the money they’ve raised from friends and family as they are gearing up to go out for their seed funding round.
The mobile app officially launches today, but Serageldin said that he and his team are already working to expand what the platform can do for its users, including offering an allowance feature for both users that will allow money to be put aside for “whatever” spending, aka those emergency Louboutins, so as to further lower the odds that buying them will initiate a heated conversation about the so-called “emergency” that drove the purchase.
As for distribution, at the moment, Honeyfi is pursuing a direct-to-consumer channel: download the app from the App Store, and personal finance bloggers, social media and other influencers will get the word out. They are also exploring relationships with financial planners and financial institutions to introduce Honeyfi to users who can benefit from their budgeting services.
“Financial planners will tell us that they aren’t marriage counselors, and by using us to help people get the day-to-day planning down, they can do much better on the long-term stuff.”
The Honeyfi app is free to download and use, although plans for monetization will mean allowing access to third parties with relevant services who pay for access to its users. That, Serageldin said, will come with moving from just a tool to help with budgeting to a tool that helps consumers make their financial plans — and then move them to the right services and providers to help them best execute it.
The good news: It all happens without anyone having to sleep on the couch.