By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
“We want to help you save money in a way that gets you closer to living a life you love,” Peak Money declares on its webpage.
For Jay Kelley, President and Chief Executive Officer of the start-up, the goal is to motivate individuals to set realistic, achievable financial goals for something they want to do like taking a special trip or making a down payment on a home and then systematically make progress until they achieve their goal.
It’s all tied to motivation, something Kelley learned while working at a health and wellness app development company. Now, he and his colleagues are applying the knowledge they gained in that work to their latest undertaking where even the product name – Peak – symbolizes what they are helping individuals achieve.
The app resulted from hundreds of conversations with individuals that focused on the role money plays in terms of achieving their long-term goals. The result was an app named Peak Money that is described as “an entirely new approach to saving that combines financial functionality with a mindful mentality.”
Kelley makes a key point to underscore what the start-up is trying to address. “Fifty-eight percent of full-time workers in the U.S. have not saved at least $1,000,” he says. That’s a shocking statistic until you consider the steep decline in personal saving rates since 1960 when the figure stood at 10.4 percent and is expected to drop to 5.2 percent of disposable income by 2020.
Peak Money is a spinout from Spire Labs Inc., a Chattanooga-based digital innovation company that builds products to foster wellbeing. Its platforms include Spire, an enterprise social wellness platform for employers and health plans; and Rove, an automated step tracking and competitions app for individuals and organizations.
Kelley, who grew-up in Chattanooga and continues to serve as President and CEO of Spire Labs, now devotes about 95 percent of his time to Peak Money. He lives in Nashville and commuted to Chattanooga weekly until the company shifted to what he describes as “a fully remote working scenario” in February. Most of the other six full-time and one part-time teammates with Peak Money remain in Chattanooga.
How did the latest undertaking come about?
“A bank challenged us to use everything we had learned about digital products in relation to health and fitness to create Peak Money,” Kelley explained. The result was the beta product that rolled out at the beginning of the year and has already been featured four times in the Apple Store with the first mention occurring two days after its release under the “New Apps We Love” category.
Kelley told us in a recent interview the name was carefully selected to connote a challenge that would have milestones that individuals could be celebrated along their savings journey before reaching the peak or goal.
“Customers download the Peak app, link it to their checking account, and start setting and achieving financial goals,” he explained. The user sets the goal with a target completion date and the amount of money needed. Automated deposits at pre-determined intervals help ensure progress toward the goal.
The funds (for the goal) are housed in a separate account from their regular banking one so the dollars cannot be easily raided,” Kelley adds, noting the monies are insured through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
As the funds begin to build-up, there’s a tangible feature built into the app that helps reinforce in a positive way the progress that the individual is making toward his or her goal.
“Peak Money is the first savings app that incorporates 3D-animated visualizations,” Kelley explains. That feature, which shows progress on the journey to the top of the mountain, so to speak, is particularly powerful for visual learners and young professionals.
“As you move closer to the peak, there’s a gratification effect,” Kelley says. That’s important for those who might be experiencing financial stress that impacts productivity at work and happiness outside the work environment.
The Peak Money app also incorporates a magazine called “Northbound” that provides inspiration, tactics and tips.
“We’re growing,” Kelley says, noting that most of the growth is organic as a direct result of the spotlighting by Apple. “It’s a significant and really exciting venture right now.”