Decision Fish Financial Wellness Program
Decision Fish supports financial wellness and inclusion with uniquely effective and scalable programs that help people plan a happy future.
Desi, the Decision Fish, helps guide users through our app, offering jokes and encouragement.
Decision Fish was awarded as a 2017 Best for NYC Changemaker in the category of Financial Empowerment.
“It’s fun! It has a little sense of humor. Everything has an explain button. It helps you to understand better.” – David E.
I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
I am over 18 years of age
My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States
Where are you making a difference?
New York, NY, 10025
Focus Areas (required)
Development & Prosperity
Health & Fitness
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Start-Up (first few activities have happened)
Website or social media URL(s) (optional)
1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.
In late 2015, Brett learned from a friend at work that he was likely to be laid off as the bank he worked at planned to sell the public sector and non-profit business he supported. While the bank offered to work with him to find a corporate finance role, he had a strong gut feeling that it was time to do something better, something bigger, and something more meaningful. He recalled all the awful decisions he saw organizations and individuals make during the financial crisis and the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle of his single-mom as he was growing up. Also inspired by the social justice passions of his kids, he decided to apply his financial-economic skills and knowledge to help people make better financial decisions.
2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
Too many people today are financially unwell, due to poor financial decision-making, financial illiteracy, misinformation and behavioral hurdles. 40% of Americans have trouble making ends meet. 47% can’t meet an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing or selling something. On top of all this, people are bombarded with financial marketing noise, and since only 37% have basic financial knowledge, this exacerbates inequalities.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Decision Fish is an online financial wellness program that helps you decide for yourself: about a plan for your future, a budget designed to make you happier, and more. It's like TurboTax for financial wellness. We are excited by advances in technology and behavioral economics that allow us to address this challenge with an elegant, yet low-cost solution. Our unique approach uses a carefully crafted decision process, just-in-time financial literacy and our direct-to-employer business model. As an open-source and objective partner that does not sell advertising, financial products and is not otherwise conflicted, Decision Fish serves its users as a trusted partner on their way to financial wellness and financial inclusion. The mayor's office even named us "Best for NYC."
Through extensive market research, including focus groups, user testing and one-on-one financial coaching, we have gleaned a set of core life decisions where people need and want support. This has informed the development of a low-cost, high-trust, sophisticated and enjoyable financial decision support program to help people make better financial decisions independently and with confidence.
4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.
Consider Sean and Mona, a young couple who participated in a recent free, private beta test. Mona is a Bahai’i refugee from Iran who met and married Sean after coming to the United States with her family. They are both struggling to live on limited income while Mona completes her studies. They carry over $250,000 in student loan debt, but only have a middle-class income. While their education puts them on a trajectory to successful careers, they are burdened with additional home maintenance costs from Sean’s late mother’s home in North Carolina. Decision Fish helped visualize a future life: they reviewed and prioritized 7 categories of human needs derived from happiness research, to create a spending plan. With some care and attention to their financial savings and goals, Sean and Mona will be able to have the family they want, a key concern, and still be on track to retire comfortably.
5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?
Our goal is to create a product that is capable of reaching all manner of underserved users within the U.S. We are testing the product with a range of socioeconomic classes through employers, affinity groups and community organizations. We have presented Decision Fish to the NYC EDC/Best for NYC program, the CUNY Graduate School of Social Work and to science and technology officers with the Department of Defense as a potential tool for Veterans. We are seeking other, similar opportunities.
5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:
age - youth
age - elder
other (please specify on question 5a)
6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?
Most employer-offered financial wellness programs in the United States stop at small-dollar loans, advance access to wages via employers or support for 401K contributions. Moreover, financial literacy programs are typically presented in the classroom with little long term retention or behavior change and often serve as an on-boarding vehicle for financial planning services or sales. Decision Fish is innovative in that the app supplies just in time literacy and decision-support, as people are thinking about and planning their life choices, so they can make financial decisions with confidence.
7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
Decision Fish has served more than 200 people who have participated in our user testing or attended our in-person financial wellness workshops. We have recently launched our beta, receiving enthusiastic feedback from users and strong interest from employers. We measure impacts on employees, employers and society. For employees: we measure financial stress and financial wellness including saving, budgeting, planning, borrowing behaviors. With employers, we measure changes in engagement, job satisfaction, retention, productivity, 401(k), HRA, FSA and other benefits usage, wage garnishment and 401(k) borrowing. For society, we want to measure our impact on certain UN Sustainable Development Goals including 1. poverty, 3. health and wellness, 5. gender equality, 10. reduced inequality and 12. responsible consumption.
8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?
We are ready to scale. Delivered as Software as a Service (SaaS) Decision Fish is poised to reach 10,000 to 100,000 people within six months. Our sales effort is via networking, social media, email, workshops, conferences, and word-of-month.
To scale, we will work with larger employers and will need to upgrade to a dedicated server and increase development and customer service coverage.
8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?
Industry Standards (labels, certification, awards, etc.)
9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?
Decision Fish is delivered as Software as a Service to businesses and other organizations by subscription. Our fee is $5-7 per employee, per month. The rate is competitive and considered reasonable. Variable unit costs are low, which will allow us to scale economically. We expect Decision Fish will reach break-even and become economically sustainable quickly. We estimate breaking even at 10,000 users and being very profitable at 100,000.
10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?
Noreen, COO, (BA/Psychology, MSLIS): 25 years in research, operations, user experience design and inclusive mentoring programs. Brett, CEO, (BA/Economics, MA Philosophy): 27 years developing the app's underlying financial technology while working in investment banking for municipal and large non-profit clients. Sergei, CTO, (BS/MS in Computer and Information Science): 16 years of technical development experience. We plan to grow our developer, behavioral science and sales team as we scale.
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)
White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French)
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)
Religious minority (non-Christian)
How did you hear about this challenge?
Recommended by others
Word of mouth
If you replied "Other" in the question above, please specify. (optional)
Email from Mark Carr stating that John-Paul Parmigiani of the Impact Hub NYC nominated us.