Money has been ranked as the biggest point of friction in relationships. In a 2015 Ally Bank study, over half of participants shared that they were attracted to those who had strong budgeting and long-term saving strategies. But discussing your finances with your significant other can still be tricky, even if you’re on the same page.
Sometimes you simply avoid the conversation, as Ramy Serageldin and his wife did. “We never really had an open and honest conversation with ourselves about monthly and household expenses, but also in the long-term, talking about college savings for the kids and wills,” Serageldin says.
They started splitting expenses as they got more serious, got married and had a child, then another, and a third. Eventually, the need to have the conversation came to a head — it was time.
“We were wholly unprepared for our financial future together and when we started to look for solutions, we didn’t really find anything [that could help us],” says Serageldin.
With over 15 years of experience in financial services at Ernst & Young, Bank of America, and lastly mobile-centric bank Moven, Serageldin realized that millennials would soon be asking the same questions he was asking himself.
He wanted a solution that would trigger honest money conversations earlier, at important relationship milestones like moving in together, planning a wedding, and having kids.
Seralgeldin brought in business partners Sam Schultz and Joe Stanish to co-found a couples finances platform, Honeyfi, to empower couples to make better financial decisions together.
The Honeyfi app addresses three life stages: first, when the couple is moving in together and needs to figure out a shared grocery budget and household expenses. The second is once they get engaged and/or married and need to get more serious about talking openly about finances. And the third is when the couple decides to try for their first child.
“These are three big buckets when people realize ‘oh gosh, we need help,’ and in each stage, we help you understand what goals you should have, how to build a household budget, and more importantly, how to communicate with each other,” says now-CEO Serageldin.
After downloading the app, the couple can link their bank accounts and select which types of transactions to share with their partner. This feature sets Honeyfi apart from similar finance platforms: it doesn’t require couples to have a joint account to work together on their finances. This allows the tool to be useful for those in different stages — from dating, engaged, married, to everything in between.
Once the accounts are linked, the app automatically categorizes transactions, builds a custom budget based on your needs, and tracks your spending together.
Serageldin says that during their customer discovery, they found that the most significant hurdle that couples experienced when talking about money was setting up a budget. The app takes that pain point away immediately and then continues to encourage users to stay on the path of good finances.
Within the app, users can see spending per person, tips on how to stay within the budget, alerts on upcoming bills, and incoming transactions. It allows users to tag their significant other on expenses and leave comments (a more intimate version of a Venmo-Like feature). It even helps users catch any fraud within accounts quicker.
“Honeyfi is very helpful to identify a fraudulent transaction, contact the bank and get it resolved. We’ve heard from a lot of customers that have seen the benefit of having two eyes on the transactions,” says Serageldin.
Once the couple has figured out their monthly budget, Honeyfi can help set up long-term goals. The startup has partnered with an FDIC-insured bank to offer a savings capability within the app.
“If you want to save for a wedding, we’ll help you understand how much you can save towards it and then pull money from your accounts to help you save,” Serageldin says.
The team deliberated on how to effectively encourage their users to change their behavior. They send weekly emails that recap the user’s activity to make sure they capture their attention throughout the month and help them stay on track.
“We’re focused on giving insights within the experience, so you can start to modify your behavior and achieve your goals.”
“After talking to our customers, we found that the app actually sparks a lot of offline conversations around money and helps those conversations be less emotional and without blame. It’s very clear. You’re just working toward doing better together,” says Serageldin.
Honeyfi is currently free to use. They have a referral fee model through a team of partners that offer help during the different life stages, such as a mortgage provider for couples looking to buy a home. They will soon release a paid tier for users who want a more in-depth experience.
The Charlotte-based startup has taken in some capital from family and friends, and received an investment through the Barclays Accelerator powered by Techstars. They have kicked off fundraising for a full seed round to finance customer acquisition. So far, they’ve managed to grow their customer base without spending any money on marketing.