The Ends of the Month
Blog Series

The Ends of the Month

Over the course of a generation, electronic payments including credit cards, debit cards and Apple Pay removed friction from our wallets, but disrupted old habits and practices many once used to manage finances. Loss of these analog tools, as much as wage stagnation or volatility, helps explain why so many households struggle at the end of the month, using expensive short-term credit or gambling on transaction timing as their account balances approach zero.

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Dodging the Overdraft Bullet (So Far)

By Corey Stone Entrepreneur-in-Residence Back in early April, the Financial Health Network published a short piece of mine calling for banks and credit unions to grant universal forbearance on overdraft fees during the pandemic. I hypothesized that, as newly unemployed workers drained their savings to cover basic living expenses, many would overdraw their bank accounts…

Restoring Lost Tools, Reframing “Consumer Choice”

By Corey Stone, Entrepreneur in Residence, Financial Health Network I’ve tried to mount a case that the new fintech apps that seem to have the greatest potential to improve consumers’ financial health represent “retronovations,” innovations that actually restore old practices. Earmarking income, adding fixed installments to revolving credit lines, digitizing and automating the check register,…

Something Old, Something New

By Corey Stone, Entrepreneur in Residence, Financial Health Network I recently tried reconnecting with a college friend I hadn’t seen for decades. We’d each settled on different coasts, married, and raised families. When I first reached out by email I found our communications jarring. The clipped, efficient sentences and abbreviations we typed on our devices…

Retronovation #4: Compartmentalizing Emergency Savings

By Corey Stone, Entrepreneur in Residence, Financial Health Network When it comes to saving and borrowing, our financial system sends conflicting messages. An example: Many banks offer tips on building an emergency savings fund to buffer against loss of employment, a period of disability, or large unexpected expenses; and they offer promotional rates on CDs…

Retronovation #3: Installments to Tame Credit Card Debt

By Corey Stone, Entrepreneur in Residence, Financial Health Network  The Sears Catalog was the Amazon of its time, containing just about everything one might want. In its heyday, large ticket items came with a monthly price and term for those who needed or wanted to pay for their purchases over time. Beginning in 1892, the…

Financial Retronovation #1: Earmarking Income

By Corey Stone, Entrepreneur in Residence, Financial Health Network Unless they have time to kill, on-street parkers who forget to bring enough change for the meter place themselves in a land of limited options. They can keep their appointment, but risk a parking ticket, or they can run in search of change and be late….

Technology is Making Parking Tickets Obsolete. Are Overdrafts Next?

By Corey Stone, Entrepreneur in Residence, Financial Health Network My last post highlighted how those who are trying to buy necessities and pay their bills while keeping their bank balances just above zero are often navigating in the dark when it comes to avoiding overdrafts. Lag times between when payments are initiated and when they…

The Riddle of Overdrafting

By Corey Stone, Entrepreneur in Residence, Financial Health Network  My last two posts highlighted a subset of consumers who struggle at the ends of the month: the 9 percent of checking account-holders who overdraft more than 10 times per year and who pay four-fifths of the $15 billion in overdraft and NSF fees banks collect…

The Convenience of Blaming The Other Guy

By Corey Stone, Entrepreneur in Residence, Financial Health Network My last post described the surprising cost — and inexplicability — of chronic overdrafting in the lives of households who struggle at the ends of the month. The small amounts and short periods of borrowing that overdrafts constituted led me to wonder why these consumers weren’t better able to avoid…

The Elephant in the Room

By Corey Stone, Entrepreneur in Residence, Financial Health Network My last post described the experience of serving cash-strapped consumers who needed to pay their bills at the last minute. Our business gave them a “faster payment” channel (before that term came to refer to next generation ACH). And we charged a small premium ($1 in…

What I Learned From Bill Payers

By Corey Stone, Entrepreneur in Residence, Financial Health Network In my introduction to “The Ends of the Month” I described the growing unease I felt in the consumer payments business to which my career had led me. In the ’90s it was an exciting place to be, full of innovations and central to the early…

The Ends of the Month: A Blog Series

By Corey Stone, Entrepreneur in Residence, Financial Health Network For over 25 years I worked in the consumer payments and credit businesses — first as a management consultant, then as a payments technology executive. During that time I became increasingly uneasy about how the infrastructure we provided was serving the consumers who used it to construct their…

About the Blog Series

Many of the most successful fintechs aiming to improve financial health by tracking spending, paying debits and building savings are actually “retronovations,” apps that revive the old habits in digital form. The new digital tools enable consumers to:

  • Earmark and set aside income to cover recurring expenses.
  • Use AI to depict “safe-to-spend” more accurately.
  • Cap their revolving debt by structuring repayments like installment loans.
  • Accumulate savings for emergencies and replenish these funds when emergencies happen.

In this blog series, Entrepreneur-in-Residence Corey Stone discusses how banks and credit unions can make these “retronovations” a part of basic checking accounts—and charge for them, better aligning their business models with improving their customers’ financial health.

About the Author

Corey Stone has had a long association with the Financial Health Network, first advising on its inception, then leading one of its early fintech investees (Pay Rent, Build Credit), and then as a Fellow. Now, as Entrepreneur in Residence he supports Financial Solutions Lab cohort companies, advises on consumer data sharing and our other research and policy development efforts, and writes about the consumer finance ecosystem in blog posts and elsewhere.

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About the Author