Many couples find that loving each other is easy, but sharing their financial situation is not. In fact, a Policygenius study found 20% of people keep their finances separate, which can be a stressor that causes people to break up. But when couples manage their money together, financial issues are rarely a reason they plan to leave their relationships.
My husband and I are part of this latter group. We share a lot about our finances and regularly talk about money, spending and savings habits. That said, our finances are a complicated mesh of joint and individual accounts for checking, savings, retirement, investments and credit cards. It’s hard to know exactly where we’re at money-wise at any given moment, and if one of us manages the money, the other doesn’t always know what’s going on.
Then we found Zeta, a financial tool for couples that’s designed to get you both on the same page financially, whether or not your accounts are shared.
What is Zeta & how does it work?
Founded by Aditi Shekar and launched in 2018, Zeta is a website and app that allows you and your partner to track cash flow, net worth, budget and financial goals.
Each person in the couple has to register for the site to use it as it’s meant to be used. Zeta is free, but Shekar said it makes money from product partnerships and plans to have a tip jar in the future.
You both add your accounts: checking, savings, investments and debt, marking each account as shared or personal. On personal accounts, you can mark whether your partner is allowed to see balances and transactions, so if you have a personal savings account for your own fun spending, you don’t have to let your partner know what you’re using that money for, or even how much you have.
Zeta links your financial accounts with Plaid, which uses end-to-end encryption to transfer your information and keep your account passwords separate. Zeta only has the information in your financial accounts; it never has access to them.
The transactions section tracks spending in real time. You can assign categories and write notes to each other on each transaction. If you’re sharing bills, you can also split the transaction to show who owes what portion.
The spending section shows your overall cash flow and how it stacks up against your budget for each spending category. A calendar feature shows when bills are due.
The goals section is an area to track financial goals, like vacations or buying a house. Zeta will tell you how much you’ll need to save each month to reach that goal.
What’s Good About Zeta?
A complete picture of your finances
Zeta is a great tool to have a complete picture of your finances individually and as a couple. It updates in real time, so you’re able to see how your spending stacks up against your budget at any moment. Tracking spending by category also allows you to fully understand where your money is going every month, and it allows you to create realistic budgets and avoid debt. (Learn how to pay off your debt in 30 days.)
Similar web and mobile experiences
Although setting up a budget is easier through the web interface, the mobile app is similar to the online version. The app lets you update your account on the go, which is great if you’re trying to track cash transactions.
Help is fantastic
Zeta offers a 25-minute product demo. Set up an appointment and a member of their team walks you through the site. Zeta is intuitive, but the demo gives you tips you wouldn’t be able to figure out on your own. Product Manager Jessica Skeete ran my demo, and not only did she solve my frustrations with tracking cash transactions, she also sought my feedback. I also had a problem connecting one of my credit cards, and she was responsive in rectifying the situation.
What’s Bad About Zeta?
It takes a lot of time to set up
Setting up a profile is definitely a weekend project. Give yourself plenty of time. Although the site says the help desk isn’t open on the weekend, Skeete said they’re just slower to respond during that time.
Zeta can connect to more than 10,000 financial institutions, but that’s not all of them. If you have to add an account manually, you’ll only be able to see balances, but you can use Zeta like a check register.
Zeta is not as intuitive as it could be. For example, if you take money out of an ATM, and spend it on groceries and a haircut, you have to go into the ATM withdrawal transaction and split out your two purchases to track them accurately.
The cash flow snapshot shows a pie chart of category spending, but you need to click on each piece to see what the category is.
On the mobile app, it can be difficult to see your personal accounts without the tool getting caught in a loop.
Goal savings isn’t automatic
You have to update your goal savings manually. It would help if you could see trend lines to show you how well you’re keeping on track with your plan.
Is Zeta worth it?
The initial time investment is no joke. It can take a lot of time to set up your profile. If you’re not used to it, it can be frustrating to develop the habit of tracking your spending accurately.
Shekar said future improvements include automatically deducting bills from your income to show a more accurate view of monthly cash flow.
If you give it time and stick with it, Zeta has a lot of potential to be a helpful tool to understand exactly where your and your partner’s money is going every month.
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Image: Matheus Ferrero