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Beyond the Transaction: Every Transaction Has a Story

What Millennials Can Teach Us About Innovation

At Higher One, we learn from millennial students every day. Students are the reason Higher One exists and we love to find ways to make their days easier. We’ve recently been doing a ton of work with students around how they budget money. One of the most eye opening things we’ve learned is that students push off budgeting because it stresses them out. To them, thinking long-term around money and budgeting means having to have long-range vision (monthly and annual pictures) of their future.

What we’ve also learned is that they need tools that help them get through the next day or two – not the month.  What is helpful for millennials are quick, accessible (a.k.a. mobile) tools that help them make decisions about spending money (or not).  Big personal finance management (PFM) solutions with pie charts and transaction sorting are not interesting – or helpful.


Instead, point solutions that help them better understand their balances and upcoming expenses – so they can make informed decisions about even the smallest purchases – would be a huge step forward. Students tell us (and our data reinforces) that they check their balances on average 5-10 times a day, and do a form of “mental gymnastics”: deducting upcoming expenses to obtain a true balance to know what they can spend today!

What do these findings mean to us from an innovation perspective? Clearly, the time horizon is different for millennials, and something that we as an industry need to realize and address. At Higher One, we are working on solutions to help millennials make faster, better decisions about purchases, and set financial goals that mean something to them right now versus how they’ll want to approach spending and saving as adults. We’re making money management and other day-to-day activities easier and less stressful for students. And in doing so, we’re allowing them to focus on their classes and ultimately to their success in graduating!

If you are a student – or a parent of a student – what other financial tools are important to you?