Solid at Multiple Levels
So, I've been helping some friends/family members use YNAB and the level of confidence with math and understanding of finance has varied widely. Widely.
For example, one person has been managing a complex financial life for years, and they are quite comfortable using math. I recommended many features of the Toolkit (like all overspending is red, goals are blue, and more), as well as the INM workflow to really help YNAB function as the powerhouse it can be.
At the other end of the spectrum, another person is very uncertain of math implications (though thankfully straight up operations are solid), like why certain operations are used in certain situations. This person is also rather uncertain about some basic finance principles, like the difference between cash and credit spending.
There are also some people in between, of course.
I am posting to compliment YNAB on making their interface accessible to the math and finance challenged. I was blown away by its simplicity, because I've been using some of the more advanced features (you know, things that save time) for so long.
The only Toolkit features I turned on for this person were the automatic running balance, reports, and the SFTF warning (but when the color adjustment for making the current month header stand out is fixed, that will be useful, too). Well, there were a few more toggle buttons, but nothing really functional. This person didn't need to be confused with setting up goals, using the quick budget, using the Move Money Tool, or anything automatic (except scheduled transactions, and only as they came up). We entered transactions manually, and moved money manually.
It was really important that this person had practice adding and subtracting in the budget column to see the "vertical math" and how it affected each category's "sideways math" individually: if you subtract $10 from cat. A, there will be $10 less available in it, but $10 more in TBB. Then, you can add the $10 to cat. B and turn its available green or $0 because of that sideways math. Only after that was understood and demonstrated successfully many times did I show the move money tool. You know, right after they started thinking that this was going to be a lot of typing all the time. 😋
I also found the difference of color for CC/cash overspending very useful for this person. This way, they can build the understanding of how things work in the real world by having to record and interact with those processes in YNAB. Also, without using goals, there's not a lot of similar signals to confuse. It helps that they're using a very basic budget with minimal categories so the yellow won't get lost.
The only thing that I think needs to be changed in the stock YNAB (aside from SFTF, of course) is that you've absolutely got to show the running balance by default. This person knows the concept of balancing a checkbook, but doesn't have a lot of practice. Combine that with weak math skills, and when it came time to reconcile, they had no idea why YNAB's cleared balance matched their bank's balance. They really thought that we could just type any number in until it matched... It was the strangest thing to try to explain until I remembered to turn that running balance on!
So, anyways, YNAB is helping this person feel like they can actually understand what is going on with their money when they didn't have that before. I know they won't get on the forum, so I wanted to pass on the win.
It was a bit surreal because that person's experience was so different from my own in terms of workflows used, but still quite powerful. As they develop stronger math skills and financial understanding, they may wish for some of the more efficient workflows and features. We shall see.
Move Light Sound Life said:
The only thing that I think needs to be changed in the stock YNAB
For the record, I am NOT rescinding my other previous feature requests (notably, future committed transactions, better follow-through for reorganizing categories/reassigning transactions, and the ability to reorganize (and show hidden categories) in reports, among others). While the lack of those features doesn't optimize the YNAB experience, my point was that SFTF and the running balance are more integral to the success of newbies when learning the interface/method.