Archive for May, 2009

Can usability pay off your mortgage, part 3

house-smlMortgage-ometer report

Back in March I wrote about some usable software from United First Financial called the Money Merge Account that helps you pay off your mortgage faster. I started using this software in March and by the end of April, we’d made an extra payment of $13,994.08 on the mortgage. I’m amazed and excited. With a few tweaks in our monthly spend plan that haven’t really affected our cash flow or living style, the time to pay off the mortgage has gone from 14 years down to 3.17 years!

The software is overall very usable, as I thought it would be. The learning curve to use it is short, help is readily available and it’s straightforward to implement the action plan.

Ease of building your action plan

My one point of confusion was on the credit cards because I always pay my balance off each month. The system does not allow you an option to do that. If you put in a balance on your credit cards, it will include monthly credit card payments, even if the interest rate is high on your cards. If you want to pay off your credit cards, you have to enter in a balance of $0.00, then enter in a new action with the estimated monthly amount you normally spend. When you pay the bill, you simply replace your estimated amount with the real balance you’re paying.

It’s very easy to enter your budget items and action plan, but not so easy to know what changes would help you reach your goal faster. What I did was to play with different options to see how they affected the goal.

I tried adding a savings account with a higher interest rate, which I thought would make things go faster, but it actually lengthened the time to pay off the mortgage. It doesn’t make sense, so I’m not sure why that happened.

Implementing the action plan

Sometimes the action plan changes really fast and sometimes it retracts actions that it told you to do–the system can seem a little szichophrenic at times. After every action you take, the system recalculates the action plan. I wish it would be a little more stable–a couple times I was getting excited to make that big monthly payment and all of a sudden it had moved to two months out! Then when I came back later, that action had returned to the plan. It would be nice if the plan were a little more stable. 

Support

Their support is awesome–they have an live chat button on the main page of the application labeled “Need help? Live chat” which I was reluctant to click on, but I did get stuck once and decided to give it a shot. They answered my question quickly and I was on my way again. They might want to change the wording on that button. Users are generally reluctant to admit they “need help”, and I was the same way. I had to really get stuck before I’d click. Once I’d tried it and found it a good experience, I was less reluctant to click on it again, but still hesitant.

All in all, though, I couldn’t be happier with my Money Merge Account from United First Financial. My hubby and I are dreaming about what we could do with our lives once our house is paid off.  

Previous articles on the Money Merge Account:

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