A big part of getting a clear picture of your financial situation is seeing data. Throughout this blog, I’ll use a mix of financial tools to show my situation. Likely in a past, present, and forecasted view. I wanted to provide just a quick overview of the financial tools I use daily to evaluate my situation. If you’ve never been exposed to these tools, I hope you experiment and find some value in using them. If you’re using something yourself that you’d like to suggest, I’m all ears.
Quick clarification on these financial tools, or any tools. Financial tools and services provide great information that help us make decisions. But, we need to be reacting to that data. If we’re trying to reduce spending, grow savings, or pay down debt, we want a tool to track and measure progress over time. Without that measurement, how do we know we’re successful? These tools don’t actually make the decisions. Only we do that. I think that tends to be the hardest part. The actual change in behaviors we’re looking to alter, or improve, doesn’t come easy. I certainly recognize it. If nothing else, think of these tools as a way to become informed. Being informed with the right data helps make unemotional decisions. While all financial decisions aren’t the same, money seems to always come down to simple math.
Mint is a personal finance tool that tracks some great data. First, its a single pane of glass for accounts and transactions. There is both a website and mobile app available for us. The tool will categorize transactions and provide insights into both savings and spending over time. Not to mention, it has alerting based on budgeting we can configure. If you are trying to build credit score, or want to keep a laser focus on any changes to your score, Mint has you covered. All in all, the tool is great for understanding where your money is being spent. The best part? It’s a free!
Like all things, there are some areas of improvement. In my opinion, Mint really drops the ball on getting integration with a lot of the new financial services in the world. Both Robinhood and Wisebanyan, which are by no means small use services, have not been added. While the Mint team has been getting an ear full for some time, not much progress has been made on this front. Hopefully, Mint will continue to work on this problem.
Personal Capital is an investment focused service. Much like Mint, they offer both a website and mobile app. And, just like Mint, the service is free. However, Personal Capital is all about the investing details. The tool gives insights into your investment diversity, and fees. It provides some basic planning for retirement with forecasting. It also breaks transactions into categories and shows some basic budget details. Personal Capital even supports more accounts than Mint (like Robinhood), but again, its much more focused on the investing side of your financial health.
Another part of Personal Capital’s approach that’s different is the use of licensed financial advisors. The tool you’re using is actually the communication tool between you and a potential financial advisor. Keep in mind that part is optional. If you think this “investing on your own” thing isn’t worth it, its certainly an option to consider. On the other hand, you can politely say “No Thanks” and continue to use the tool freely.
I have a lot of spreadsheets. I mean, a lot of them. Most of the tracking I do on this site is published google docs. Its a free tool, available with an internet connection, and always saved in the cloud. Google Docs have a ton of integration options. Its hard to argue not using it for a spreadsheet you pay for, but honestly, they all function pretty similarly.