Strapped for cash?

The personal financial assistant will help you budget. A test.

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22.07.2014, Sandro Pfammatter (text) and Patrick Hari (photo)

Once upon a time … that’s how fairy tales start. Money often plays a fantastical role: in the Grimms’ “The Star Money” it falls from the sky; in “Rumpelstiltskin” straw is spun into gold; in the story with the “gold ass” it’s virtually an animal by-product.

Once upon a time … there was a lot of month left, and not much money. Nothing magical about that situation for me. I simply found it unsatisfactory. So I decided to give a new tool a chance: the personal financial assistant in UBS e-banking and the Mobile Banking app. “The assistant will help you monitor your expenses,” promised the UBS ads.

Whenever I used my Maestro or credit card, or issued a payment order, the trans­action was categorized for me. There are 12 main categories available, such as “Household,” backed by 85 subcategories like “Food and Beverage.” In addition, I could plan my budget – monthly and yearly. If the automatic categorization failed to work, I could tell the tool how to assign the individual expenses. So now it also recognizes “driving lesson” and “sauna.” As soon as I buy anything, I can check my budget via smartphone.

The result after six months: after living expenses, taxes were my biggest budget item from December to May. Now I’ve set a savings goal to cover this – another function of the personal financial assistant – and have one less worry. The arrival of winter brought a big surprise: my restaurant spending shot up. Building up fat reserves for the cold weather? The body obviously has its own budget assistant at work. In April, a big fat “gym membership” appeared under my “Health” expenses in UBS e-banking.

Health costs money

My household spending remained in balance during the test – apart from in December. After I moved home, new furniture burned a big hole in the budget. My outgoings for health were surprisingly hefty, although this category also includes medication, hair care and massages, alongside doctor’s visits. Nevertheless, I’m considering lowering my health insurance deductible.
Conclusion: the personal financial assistant may not make money rain from the sky, but it’s great at managing money you’ve put aside for a rainy day. And maybe I will run into a gold ass one of these days …

Using the assistant

  • You can manually assign entries filed under “not categorized transactions” in the personal financial assistant. This helps it learn.
  • Under “Settings” you can assign certain ­accounts and cards to a separate budget – a vacation budget, for example.
  • When you start the assistant you’ll see a ­forecast of income and expenses. The longer you use the tool, the better it works.

Find out more about the personal financial ­assistant in UBS e-banking or the Mobile Banking app at 0848 848 064 or:


The tester

Sandro Pfammatter is a ­journalist, freelance author and PR editor.