The California State University (CSU) system launched a partnership with HelloWallet, a Washington, D.C.-based company, to provide online financial guidance for CSU faculty and staff.
The complimentary benefit is available now until Dec. 31. After December, the service is $4 per month.
“It was supported by the Chancellor’s office in response to the economic conditions of today, not so much our system, but other family members who have lost jobs or reduced hours,” said Bob Foldesi, CSUN associate vice president for human resources.
The partnership started with HelloWallet CEO Matt Fellowes, said Geraldine Le Roux, manager of digital media for HelloWallet.
Fellowes, who used to be a consumer financial expert and a fellow at the think-tank Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., connected with the CSU Chancellor, who agreed to start the partnership, Le Roux said.
She said Fellowes built the tool for HelloWallet to provide an affordable way for all Americans to get access to financial guidance, which is something traditionally reserved to the middle and upper class.
“Financial planners traditionally charge around $150 an hour, so the goal of our product is to place it online and have it accessible for a really wide variety of people,” Le Roux said.
The company wanted to test the product with the CSU because it is one of the largest public institutions, she added.
The CSU is the first educational system that HelloWallet is partnering with, Le Roux said.
HelloWallet works by linking a user’s financial accounts. If a user has a checking account, a credit card and loans, that user can connect all the data with the tool in one place.
From there, HelloWallet conducts analysis and informs the user how much money is left over at a month’s end and recommends how the user can better spend the money, Le Roux said.
Many free online financial tools have a business model that is heavy on advertising, which lets them charge banks when they recommend products to users, Le Roux said.
HelloWallet is independent of banks and other financial institutions. The independence allows the company to give “completely unbiased guidance,” Le Roux added.
HelloWallet also has “really powerful analytics in the background that help users achieve their financial goals. It’s kind of a hand-holding tool,” Le Roux said.
Foldesi said he is signed up for HellloWallet.
“In my office, we are supportive of HelloWallet because it’s a voluntary benefit,” Foldesi said. “People can go on and look at it for several months and see if it fits their needs.”
CSUN classics professor John Adams heard about the program’s trial period and $4 per month fees thereafter.
“My bank does it for free,” Adams said. “My credit union does it for free. Well, nothing is for free. One pays for it in having to pay for your own checks and so on. But they don’t charge me for their advice.”
Adams, who is two years from being eligible for social security retirement, said it might be helpful to someone who is just starting in the school.
“My nest eggs have already been laid and hatched, or are about to hatch, I should say, to keep the metaphor strictly on track,” he said. “So for me, I don’t think it would be very useful.”
With concerns about security, Le Roux said that in some ways, the product is much safer than banks because money cannot be transferred through the tool.
HelloWallet is a “read-only” system, she added.
“If somebody gained access to my HelloWallet account, they wouldn’t be able to see my account numbers and they wouldn’t be able to move any money,” Le Roux said. “They would really just see that I went to Starbuck’s a lot last week.”
Le Roux said the company does not have access to the information of any member.
“You could sign up as Mickey Mouse and just do what you want with the tool,” she said.