Keep a caring eye on your loved one’s finances through text messages

Many of us care for loved ones who need a bit of extra support when it comes to managing their finances. Whether that’s because of dementia, a learning difficulty, mental health problems or any other impairment, managing money can be a challenge for some, and often it’s better to ask for help from a carer to make sure everything’s on track.

Getting that support can be a struggle though. Money matters are, after all, a bit of a taboo. It can make many feel anxious or ashamed to even think about asking someone they trust to keep an eye on their finances for them.

Getting the balance right

There’s a delicate balance between allowing a loved one their own independence and privacy and being able to offer them the right level of support when they’re struggling financially.

On the one hand, many carers end up taking risks to support those they care for with managing their money, like using their debit card and PIN, or logging into their online banking on their behalf. These methods expose the person needing care to potential fraud, breaking their bank’s terms and conditions, but also means they have to give up all their privacy to get support. It’s all or nothing.

Now there’s a way to set up light touch support with spending alerts, delivered to carers through text messages. It’s called Toucan, and we’ve built it as a mobile app in the first instance.

Building Toucan

I started Toucan because, having experienced mental health problems myself, I knew how much of an impact it had on my ability to manage my own money.

I saw that there weren’t safe, flexible tools available for people to share their own banking data with someone they trust, such as a carer or family member. Having worked for many years in financial technology, I knew the underlying tech was there to solve this problem. It just needed to be built and tested.

At the beginning of this year, Toucan set out to build these tools, armed with evidence from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute that said that third party alerts – text messages sent to a family member or carer when there is unusual or problematic spending – were something that lots of people wanted, but no banks were offering.

To make sure we were building the right product it was vital that we sought out feedback from potential users and domain experts. We were grateful to be able to work with Money and Mental Health in order to recruit testers from their Research Community. The pilot lasted for three months and last week we released a research report outlining the huge benefits we saw when testing these alerts.

Starting supportive money conversations

It’s hard to talk about money, particularly with a family member who lives some distance away. Toucan’s spending alerts helped our pilot testers have those open, supportive money conversations at a time when they needed support the most.

The app works very simply. The account holder downloads it to their smartphone and sets up an account, securely connecting to their bank. They can then choose rules-based alerts to set up, such as when their balance goes under a certain amount, or a certain amount is spent in one day.

Finally, they can nominate someone they trust to receive those alerts simultaneously through text message. Someone like a close family member or carer, who can offer timely support.

For the carer, getting a Toucan text message created an opening to start a supportive money conversation with their loved one. Since both parties received the alert at the same time, both were expecting to chat about it, meaning that it didn’t feel like an interrogation. 

By having supportive money conversations, those living with mental health conditions who tested Toucan found that their wellbeing improved as well as their financial health. They felt better supported by family, and more able to open up about their struggles. And they found that conversations led to practical help with budgeting and money saving, as well as improved financial habits, such as being more aware of spending.

Light touch support

Giving support with managing money doesn’t need to be all or nothing for the person you care for. You don’t have to break the bank’s terms and conditions by sharing online banking logins. Lighter touch ways to get support now exist, like Toucan.

If you think you or a loved one could benefit from third party alerts, the first version of the Toucan app is now available to download on Apple and Android. Toucan is funded through banks, making it free to use for you or your loved ones.

We want to hear your feedback. Whatever your story and whatever you want from third party access tools, get in touch through our website or on Facebook. We’ll do our best to build tools that work for you, and take your feedback to the banks who can roll them out.

Bailey Kursar is Co-founder and CEO of Toucan. Sign up at usetoucan.com, give them your feedback on Facebook or online and download their research report at usetoucan.com/research.