DEMOfall 08: Rudder offers an effortless personal finance snapshot

I used to be a Quicken devotee. But years ago, I tired of typing in data about my daily purchases. And even with automatic updates of credit card purchases, it merely offers a rear-view mirror of my finances. Rudder addresses this problem with a web-based personal finance solution that lets you look ahead.

The Houston, Texas-based company, debuting at DEMOfall 08, pushes an email financial snapshot to you so you can manage your finances at a glance. You can see whether you’ve got enough money to last through the next few paychecks and billing cycles. It presents this to you in a single page of numbers that aggregate your credit card and bank balances. Most useful: it tells you “What’s Left” after all the bills are paid as of a certain date in the future.

You can also use it to track your spending on a daily basis. It doesn’t break those amounts down into specific spending categories. Rather, it tells you how much you’re spending on a daily basis and whether you’re spending within your means. This tells you whether you can afford to add a new monthly payment or buy a new refrigerator. The consequences for your cash outlook for the next six weeks will be clear.

You don’t have to categorize things because Rudder can figure that out on its own. It looks at your past bills and figures out when you pay certain bills, such as your cell phone bill or your automatic mortgage payment, and then builds that into its forecast. You don’t have to enter a thing. Other measures show you what bills are due and your most recent credit card purchases. The setup takes about five minutes.

Nikhil Roy, chief executive and founder of Rudder, says the software is all about tailoring a personal finance solution to user behavior and spending less time managing finances. For those who have to be vigilant about not spending ahead of their paychecks, Rudder tells you when you’re going to run out of money. You can move the timing of bill payments around to stay in the black.

Since Rudder sends you just a one-page email, it doesn’t drown you in data. But you can add additional “widgets,” or custom programs, that can appear in the lower part of the page. Some of those are subscription-based premium widgets, but others can be created by third-party developers. If you’re shopping for a home loan, for instance, it can give you an update on interest rates.

The company has a partnership with CashEdge to gather bank information for its users. CashEdge has deals with a variety of banks, credit unions, brokerages, and wealth advisors. Rudder raised a $2 million first round from Meakem Becker Venture Capital last year. It has five employees.

The company competes with Intuit as well as big personal finance web sites and a variety of other personal finance startups, including MoneyStrands, Wasabi, Mint, and Geezio. Also appearing at DEMO is Green Sherpa. The Rudder software looks out about 45 days ahead, so it’s not useful in planning a years-long budget outlook. Rudder is free and ad-supported.

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