Future of Money: Habits

Austin is booming. With companies like Apple and Tesla relocating or expanding operations and others transplanting from the coasts, demand for Austin real estate is at an all-time high. Houses don’t buy themselves (yet), and saving for a big purchase can take many forms, but fundamentally it’s about doing more with less. You can cut coupons, shop for a lower credit card rate, get cashback on the purchases you already make, downsize to reduce expenses, or even move back into your old bedroom with mom and dad. Ultimately we prioritize forgoing today for a better tomorrow.

To activate a better tomorrow is to decide. Former poker player and NSF Fellow, Annie Duke, describes the objective of making a decision as “to choose the option that gains you the most ground in achieving your goals, taking into account how much you’re willing to risk.” To further expand on this framework, one can activate a decision by aligning ends and means to accomplish within the available time. Decision and approach are inextricably linked. 

But how do we objectively assess our approach when it’s inflight? From friendships to fitness plans, we crave proof that confirms prior investment and derisks future returns. Feedback loops provide insight into the effort-meets-efficacy black box. Shorter feedback loops generate benefits, which grow into habits that feed our personal dopamine treadmill as the action (and result) compound. Psychologically, we respond to event-driven, behavior-driven, or conditional behavior optimizations, snowballing the outcomes of small habits into aggregate benefit. 

Whether we invite it or react to it, money starts to control behavior based on the goal we declare and our understanding of efficiencies. What if you subscribed to a service that could introduce friction in your life if you’re acting counter to your goals? (e.g., your car won’t start at 7pm on a Saturday night if you want to spend less money going to restaurants). What if you had a friendly AI guide (like Siri, Alexa, or even Flo from Progressive) to monitor your personal financial system and suggest more efficient allocations based on your goals? None of this is out of the question based on current technology.

The power of habit is real. The same money habits that build us up can also impede us if left unbounded. Without motivation, feedback, and transparency, habits are less likely to be integrated into your daily routine. Outsourcing financial judgment enables template-based management and connects seemingly innocuous decisions with long-term outcomes at the point of action, taking away some of the subjectivity and emotionally-based decision making that can derail our goals in favor of short-term gratification.

By examining our relationship with money, we can think about new ways to interact with it. The following vignettes offer a glimpse into a different relationship with money habits that provoke new ways to think about money in an exaggerated if not contemplative manner. The real question is whether tools like these would make us smarter about money or just do smart things for us.

Icebreaker Financial Literacy App

Money operates in plain view and yet we don’t understand it. Business adopted a common language to convey specific aspects of money. From cash flows to income statements to balance sheets, each document tells a unique story and is made richer when examining a complete fiscal narrative. When it comes to personal finance, we still struggle to convey money’s meanings. This discomfort gap further complicates attention investment, participation, and decision making.

Let Icebreaker mediate your hard money conversations with a simple yet comprehensive view of your financial footing. Whether sharing a home with roommates, managing your college student from afar, or have recently married and merged finances—Icebreaker makes sense of the numbers for everyone.

Applying business reports to a more personal context, Icebreaker facilitates conversations about money that are approachable and inclusive. Not sure how to begin? Use an Icebreaker prompt to get started without getting heated. Icebreaker helps roommates reconcile, parents manage college students from afar, and newlyweds tie the fiscal knot—with confidence, curiosity, and insight.

  • When vacationing, do you plan every second (and dollar) or leave gaps of serendipity?
  • When navigating, is your trusty companion a GPS or your wayfinding intuition?
  • What’s worse—balancing a checkbook or searching for online coupon codes?

Icebreaker uses your answers and builds the bridge to financial confidence. Let our award-winning economists recommend the plans that work best for your situation and goals. After using Icebreaker, you’ll be confident that you understand your finances and know what to do next—without spinning out of control or getting lost in the details.

Calibr8, Balancing your Finances

To get the clearest view of your financial life, let Calibr8 show you the way. Use Calibr8’s smart suggestions to achieve financial  goals by linking all your accounts and purchase behaviors across your entire life to help you make smart(er) choices.

Say you want to build a deck and be able to buy materials in 6 weeks—you blocked off a long weekend to DIY it. For the next 6 weeks Calibr8:

  • Adjusts your Nest thermostat by 2 degrees
  • Disables your car when you try to run unnecessary errands
  • Swaps out expensive brands for less expensive (and Wirecutter approved) options and deposits the savings into your deck goal account
  • Keeps track of your interest rates, moving resources around to optimize your goals and tax situation so you don’t have to.

Get immediate feedback from Calibr8’s suggestion engine by wearing a smart ring that signals when your spending is burning hot (red), has been recently augmented (flash), or is on the money (green). Always know where you stand with Calibr8, your 24/7 personalized financial habit wayfinder.

Otto, your Automatic Reinforcement Machine

Do you have a habit you want to break? Meet Otto, the good influence on your shoulder that helps keep you honest (and uses financially motivating prompts to achieve it).

What motivates you? Start a virtual swear jar and set it to naughty or nice. Dropped a dish on the floor and slipped a $&*#? Depending on your mode, Otto makes a deposit to your child’s college fund or a micro-donation to the political party that you didn’t vote for.

And Otto can help with other aspects of your (digital) life. Dwelling on your ex? Get a positive reminder to boost your self-worth. Every time you say or type designated phrases, Otto reminds you that you’re spinning and need to be more present, meditate, and breathe. Use your own custom settings or get started quickly with presets for pessimism, talking over others, or the seven cardinal sins.

Connect real-world reinforcement to make yourself a better person while simultaneously building personal worth with Otto.

Our relationship with money is complicated. Using new ways to talk about it without alienation or outsourcing financial decisions to AI that keeps us on track could provide relatively simple integrations for our daily lives. The vignettes presented here—with more to follow in our Future of Money series, focusing on culture, society, and finance—offer a glimpse into self-imposed manipulations about money. Whether tools like these make us smarter about money or just do smart things for us, there is no one size fits all standard combining intent translation, environment assessment, and behavioral modification. 

At Modernist Studio, we’re optimistic about the Future of Money. Recent events have entertained us with the rise of activist meme stocks, encouraged us with policies that acknowledge the unheard, and enlightened us with behaviors that benefit us all. We’ll continue thinking about new ways to interact with money—ways that account for not only what we want to achieve, but who we wish to become. Stay tuned.

Interested in hearing more ideas about the future of currency, finance, money, and value? Watch our roundtable discussion on “The New American Dream” and our “Why Design?” fireside chats with leaders in design and tech.

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