Using Design Thinking to Fix Your Money Problems

Hadassah Damien
13 min readFeb 14, 2020

Ever feel like you’re just not getting anywhere with a financial goal or problem? You may be going about working on it wrong — and designing a different approach could help you get the traction you want.

In order to have the financial outcomes you seek, first aim to make better financial decisions. I imagine hearing you say “duh!” — but most people aren’t making money decisions based on their current situation.

Instead, many people use old habits from former financial realities or random bits of information gleaned along the way, which can only take us so far as our lives change. When we pair that behavior with the increased complexity of new life experiences (partnership! careers=income changes! Kids! Social and climate change!), our old-school methods can fail us, compromising both our financial futures and our current values.

There’s a slew of ways to make better decisions. The one I apply and teach most often is design thinking because it helps us make decisions faster, focused on what’s valuable presently.

This article summarizes a few design thinking methods that apply to personal financial decisions — I’ve used them with clients, taught them in workshops, and this guide aims to synthesize them into writing.

As both a financial educator and design strategist I spend a LOT of time observing and improving decisions with people.

Over my career I’ve grown parallel paths: one, as a progressive personal finance educator, and another as a human-centered designer. As I’ve gone deeper into both roles, big crossovers in methods like design thinking, frameworks like behavioral economics, and the importance of strategic decision-making stand out to me.

I am fascinated by decisions about money, which are ultimately decisions based on our understanding of systems and relationships — economic and exchange systems, relationships with others, and our relationship with our own sense of value and values.

First though, what is design thinking and why incorporate it into the yarn ball that is personal finance?

Design thinking is a way to identify and try out high-impact ideas that truly matter.

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Hadassah Damien

design strategist & facilitator // economics researcher @rffearlessmoney // progressive technologist // performer