To those saving for retirement💰,

As someone who is trying to be more financially responsible, you told me you needed a system for you to make regular contributions to your Roth IRA.

I know you tried doing this every month through your brokerage account, but found yourself forgetting often, and just not having enough money to put away when you remembered. The process is also extremely difficult, and you question yourself each step of the way every single time. At this time, you just want to save ~$6,000 every year, but as it currently stands, it’s just too complicated.

After our conversation, I sought out ways to make it easier for users to contribute, and ultimately, how to support users in saving consistently.

In analyzing Schwab’s site map and capabilities, I found that we can reorganize existing features to account for the unique way Roth IRA contributions work. We came up with a Roth IRA feature within the mobile Schwab application that can help you put away smaller amounts every month, to meet your contribution goal for the year.

I’m really excited for you to try the Roth IRA feature – let me know how it works for you!

Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Only the best,

Roth IRA Feature

26% of all US households own traditional or Roth IRAs, but did not contribute in the 2021 tax year. Still, Americans across all generations remain hopeful; an overwhelming majority are confident they will be able to fully retire with a comfortable lifestyle.

This project seeks to uncover behavioral and process related reasonings for gaps in contribution that can be better supported by their accounts.
The Challenge
A student project to discover user needs and design a new feature for an existing application. The existing UI is to be used to build out the new feature, consistent with the brand.

I chose to solve an area of need in the finance space, and to expand on a feature within the Charles Schwab application.
The Scope
Schwab mobile app, to add a new feature
July — Aug 2023
80 hours
My Role

The Solution

Users are excited about the new feature: bundling transfers and investments

This streamlined approach to both saving and investing, provides confidence to the user that they’re on track to meeting their goals.
My usability tests suggest that the bundling transfers and investment is not a feature that users are familiar with, but is a feature they are excited about and interested in using.

Next, we a/b test usability of bundling vs separate

In a future iteration, I would consider A/B testing the transfer and investment layout; how a decoupled approach might work with users, in relation to the current coupled approach.

Thank you to all who have made this work possible

This project helped me understand how we can, through design thinking, make small contributions that can compound into exponential dividends.

Primary Research

Competitor analysis

Competitor Analysis

Key takeaways and questions

📈 Educational content, data visualization, and curated lists are strong selling points for Schwab’s competitors.
If incorporated, would these be attractive features for a Roth IRA account?
🔎 Competitors are marketing towards niche investor types: aspiring savers, DIYers, micro-investors.
Which type do Roth IRA Contributors fall under?
🔲 Lastly, competitors are cautious about giving advice or best practices. Educational tools and automated services are carefully kept separate and opt-in.
How can we guide users without giving advice when implementing Roth IRA Contribution features?

User Interviews with 5 participants who have contributed to their Roth IRA account in the last year, to answer:

What do users need from a Roth IRA account?
What kind of investors are Roth IRA Contributors?
What should we be cautious of when providing a new Roth IRA Contribution feature?

Life gets in the way, and it’s already tax season, and I find myself having to find a couple thousand to contribute during tax season.”
User comment on Roth IRA Contributions

Research synthesis with an affinity map of user comments organized by:

The Process → What works → What doesn’t work → What it can be

Themes uncovered from affinity map

Theme 1

All-in-one 🧰

Users like having their investment and retirement accounts in one place
Theme 2

Save and invest often 💾

Users suggest saving a little whenever possible and to be consistent
Theme 3

Check-in adjust 📐

Users’ circumstances change, and they adjust their portfolios accordingly
Theme 4

Be consistent 💎

Users try to keep w/ their plan despite inevitable downturns; avoid recency bias

Overall learnings from research

Users admit that contributing to their Roth IRA account as well as purchasing stocks is difficult on their current applications, due to unfamiliar language and lack of instructions. This friction point for users, affects their progress towards regular saving and discourages confidence to commit to their financial plans.

User personas by Investment approach, Portfolio strategy

Persona 1

Simple Market,
🏛️ S&P 500

To retire early
  • Simple investments
  • Tried and true tips and tricks
  • Auto investing
Pain Points
Remembering to make a contributions each year
Persona 2

🎯 Target funds

To be consistent with saving
  • Desktop features translates well to mobile
  • Quarterly planning, save regularly each month
  • Target funds
    Pain Points
    Too many steps per transaction
    Persona 3

    📊 3 Fund strategy

    To “roll my own” collection of funds
    • 3 fund strategy on auto-buy each month
    • Stream real time updates on rate of return, growth, value
    Pain Points
    Remembering to rebalance each year

    Key research questions answered

    What do users need from a Roth IRA account?
    🗓️ Users are aware of the importance of contribution a little at a time, but oftentimes forget. For them, success would mean that they’re contributing a defined portion of the full contribution amount, about once a month.
    What kind of investors are Roth IRA Contributors?
    🚀 When it comes to Roth IRA Contributions, users are simple market and low-effort users. They are not ones to spend too much time tinkering with their portfolios, and want to find the easiest solution that is considered a safe and industry standard option.
    What should we be cautious of when providing a new Roth IRA Contribution feature?
    ℹ️ Contributors have their own trusted resources for financial advice- therefore, none should be provided. Information provided should be close to the task at hand, only serve to encourage completion of tasks and avoid mistakes.
    Project Commitment
    For this project, I would like to explore ways to make it easy for users to contribute. Search for areas in the depositing/investing flow that would have an outsized effect on the number of times someone deposits money & percent of yearly cap contributed to an account yearly.

    Ideation & Definition

    Storyboarding how a user might come to use this feature

    Trying to contribute to their Roth IRA account
    Application is too banky, alot of steps
    New feature helps users to complete the contribution process with ease
    User can personalize their contribution goals
    User can then automate contributions accordingly
    User can check progress, and automated systems keeps them on-track
    Project Direction
    Now that we’ve uncovered that users want to save consistently, but find this difficult, we can frame our exploration:
    How might we support users in saving consistently?

    Priority Roadmap

    Connecting business problems with relevant user goals, to align our project goals

    ​​1. Facilitate saving and investing often
    2. Encourage regular check-ins with account
    3. Guide users in completing their contributions & investments
    project goals

    Feature Roadmap of features that would give users confidence to make and keep financial habits

    Each feature is organized and tagged from high priority to inessential based on its role in helping our users achieve their goal of confidently choosing a doctor. Prioritization nomenclature is as follows:
    1. Must-have
    2. Nice to have
    3. Surprising and delightful
    4. Can come later
    feature map

    Project goals and priorities

    Goal based investing is a must-have feature as it motivates users to stay focused based on their changing needs.
    Users often forget to contribute and invest. Therefore, automating recurring deposits and investments is another must-have feature as it reduces a user’s effort to actively complete these tasks every month.
    All following features are ones to consider in a later iteration, if our user testing suggests they are necessary to meet our users’ goals.

    Information Architecture

    Sitemap shows where the feature resides, and organization by the proximity to the new feature

    All the areas (2) that users might engage with the Roth IRA feature were determined in the existing application to place new features.


    site map key
    site map

    User flow shows opportunities in guiding when making contribution automations

    Task flow shows opportunities in coupling these two features and giving suggestions based on limits and available funds

    Interaction & UI Design

    Lo-fi Wireframes

    Motivate users to stay on track with their finances
    Goal-based investing
    and automation
    Structure & Flow
    1. Goal
    2. Transfers
    3. Investments
    Give users confidence to make sound financial goals
    Inform users about latest contribution limits
    Structure & Flow
    1. Contribution goal
    2. Limits guide
    3. Deadline
    Make it easy for users to put financial goals into action
    Transfers and investments can be completed as 1 task flow
    Structure & Flow
    1. Automate transfers
    2. Automate investments
    3. Review

    Hi-fi Mockups

    Design pattern 1
    Purpose and function
    Make it easy to complete the automation task by breaking down into transfer and invest features
    Design pattern 2
    Set completion
    (Pseudo-set framing)
    Purpose and function
    Bias users towards finishing both steps by framing it as a set to be completed
    Design pattern 3
    Goal-Gradient Effect
    Purpose and function
    Increase motivation as user approaches their goal using a progress bar
    Design pattern 4
    Toggle switch
    Purpose and function
    Give users assurance that deactivation of automation will take effect immediately
    Design pattern 5
    Inline hints
    Purpose and function
    Give users confidence to complete their task by providing assistive information close to the interaction they’re about to perform

    Testing & Iterations

    Moderated usability tests with 4 participants who have Roth IRA accounts

    Goal of test
    To assess success of users' ability to set up auto transfers and investments, and gauge impact towards their goal of regular saving
    Participant details
    1 user did not regularly contribute,
    3 users contributed monthly or by the tax deadline
    Test details
    Participants who had experience with banking applications and Roth IRA in the last year were asked to work through the following tasks: set contribution goal, set auto-transfers, set auto-investments, and check on progress.

    Results and key takeaways

    score card
    1. Goal setting, and auto- features, are attractive features for users, as they simplify the Roth IRA Contribution and investment task.
    2. Progress dashboard does not encourage users’ desire to regularly check-in with their progress.

    The most frustrating thing is constantly going into your brokerage account or doing research on companies, wondering where to invest.

    This was just a lot easier.

    We kind of cut out all that noise with this preset; I know the amount that I'm going to invest, I know the breakdown of how much is going to a fund.

    This takes the mental angst out of investing.”
    User comment on the Auto-Transfer and Invest feature

    Persona Reflection

    Our Roth IRA contributor can be best represented by the ‘Low-effort, Target fund’ user.
    This user’s goal is to be consistent with saving; The results show that they are likely to be successful in consistently contributing and furthermore, reaching their goal within the contribution year.

    We will break down the elements that led to our users’ success in the next section.


    Usability analysis of feature 1

    Set Goal

    User success! ✅
    Using personalization to motivate further engagement and completion of tasks
    Research Insight
    Users look forward to / are curious about the features that may be unlocked upon adding these details
    Usability analysis of feature 2

    Set Auto-Transfer

    User success! ✅
    Pre-filled form fields based on answers from ‘Set Goal’ task reduces redundant actions
    Research Insight
    Users feel guided by the pre-filled fields and examples given, and feel as though they’re getting along with the task faster.
    Usability analysis of feature 3

    Set Auto-Invest

    User success! ✅
    Inline hints and set completion, to give users confidence and urgency to get to the finish line
    Research Insight
    Users understand at this point that contributions transferred into this account are being used for investment.
    Usability analysis of feature 4

    Check Progress

    Needs improvement ⚠️
    Progress bar and status cards of automated transfers and investments will update as the months progress and automated activities occur
    Research Insight
    Though all features are essential and delightful to their goal of contributing and investing regularly, users feel that this page doesn't represent the magnitude of the task at hand.

    Priority Revisions

    Previous design
    Previous Design Detail
    High contrast
    Research Insight
    Prioritizing visual hierarchy to most current details only
    Previous Design Detail
    Toggle switch
    Research Insight
    Ways to search and browse doctors
    BackgroundThe SolutionPrimary ResearchIdeation & DefinitionPriority RoadmapInformation ArchitectureInteraction & UI designTesting & Iterations