3 money-management apps built for couples

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We know. There are all sorts of reasons to avoid sharing all of your financial transactions with your partner — beyond nefarious ones. There are the presents you want to keep as surprises. There are the questions you may want to avoid about this or that indulgence. There is also the general independence you may want over your earnings.

For some of us, joint bank accounts will never appeal; they’re laborious to undo. Already, there is some evidence that millennials — who are getting married later — prefer to have separate bank accounts from their partners more than past generations. But that’s only one more reason we’ll need help managing our money in pairs.

“Whether you like it or not, money will affect your relationship a lot,” says Sam Schultz, co-founder at Honeyfi. “It’s a leading cause of divorce, and it’s one of the biggest stressors on a relationship.”

In fact, 71 percent of the 500 millennial couples surveyed by Honeyfi said they feel stressed, overwhelmed, nervous, frustrated, and/or confused about saving for financial goals with their significant other.

But there is promising news for couples seeking to manage their money together without having to share a bank account or credit card: It’s an emerging area of interest among banks and fintech companies. Over the past couple of years, several built-for-two apps have popped up to help modern couples collaborate on their finances — with or without getting a joint bank account. While some, like Namu, are still under development, others are ready for download. Here’s the skinny on three of them.

1. Honeyfi

A couple of years ago, Schultz saw a gap in the market for financial tools built for two. Sure, there were joint accounts, but he thought couples needed something that didn’t require them to share an account to communicate about their money.

“We really thought there was an opportunity to help people make decisions and handle their finances the way they actually do it in real life,” Schultz says.

Honeyfi, founded in 2016, aims to do just that: It lets couples quickly create household budgets as well as receive alerts about upcoming bills and transactions. It also lets you comment on each other’s transactions the way you might on Venmo.

As Schultz sees it, the app is another option to managing money in a relationship without all the apprehension that a joint account could cause by revealing all of your transactions. “It’s uncomfortable feeling like you’re being watched,” he says.

That’s also why Honeyfi lets you control what you share through the app. You can share some of your bank accounts, but not all of them. You can also just share your bank balance — and opt out of revealing your transactions.

So far, Schultz says most app users are millennials who are pretty comfortable sharing most, but not all, of their accounts.

Cost: Free to download. Requires you to share your bank data.

2. Honeydue

Eugene Park knew there had to be a better way for couples to ask each other questions about transactions beyond sending screenshots of a mysterious purchase to one another.

“We thought, ‘Wow, that is so ridiculous,’” Park says. “We can build simple, collaborative features that allow couples to communicate with the same question without having to use (several) apps.”

In 2016, he founded Honeydue — another app for couples seeking to collaborate on money matters. Like Honeyfi, you’ll link your financial accounts on Honeydue. Then, you can use the app to make comments on a specific transaction much like you might make a comment on an Instagram post. If you share an account, the question might be: Is this your transaction or is it fraud?

Through the app, you can also set up budgets, set household spending limits as well as send a thumbs-up — or another emoji — to give your partner feedback. You can also pepper in privacy settings, including hiding transactions or limiting what data your partner can see. Perhaps you only share your bank balance, for instance.

Like Honeyfi, Honeydue’s typical users are millennial couples.

Cost: Free to download for iOS and Android. You choose what’s fair to pay — including $0. You will supply the app with your bank data.

3. Twine

Twine is a robo-adviser and personal finance tool under the umbrella of life insurance titan John Hancock. The big idea of the app is to help pairs work together on what often seems daunting: saving or investing at a time when most Americans struggle with money, coupled or not.

To start saving together on Twine, you will link your bank data to the app and establish shared goals, like saving for a wedding or making a down payment on a house. Then, you will select an investment portfolio or opt to save toward the goal in cash. While you and your partner will make contributions to shared goals, you are both opening accounts.

Steve Dorval, Twine’s CEO, says the experience creates an opportunity for couples to engage in a conversation about money, a subject still often considered taboo. As he sees it, the app is particularly effective for people who are just starting to think about how to patch their financial lives together, such as a newly engaged couple. “This is the way to dip their toe into the water,” Dorval says.

The majority of its users are in relationship. But if you’re single, the app still has utility: You can create individual goals. Over time, Dorval says he hopes the app is used in all kinds of relationships, including friends who have a mutual goal.

On Twine, you will earn 0.95 percent variable interest on your deposits held at an FDIC-insured sweep vehicle — it’s not an eye-popping rate, but it’s better than what many big banks pay.

If you open an investment account through Twine, you will be investing in a series of funds that are targeted toward your time horizon and risk profile. Remember, this is an investment account; therefore, it could lose value depending on market conditions.

Cost: If you’re investing on Twine, you will pay $0.25 per month or $3 per year for every $500 you invest. You can save in cash for free.

Caution in using these apps: Avoid overwhelming your partner

It wouldn’t be surprising to find one partner leading the charge on managing money in the relationship. Stay mindful of tensions that could present themselves while using these kinds of collaboration apps. Your partner may want to keep close tabs on transactions, but you may view that behavior as too controlling.

It’s a risk. But the greater risk, as the startup execs see it, is waiting to engage with your partner on important financial discussions, such as whopping student debt.

“Like with many things,” Honeyfi’s Schultz says, “they don’t get better by ignoring them.”