I’ve always tried to create a budget for myself but have never been able to stick to it or prepare for all of the unexpected expenses that are constantly popping up. I’ve tried Excel, Mint.com, you name it, but I never felt regimented about it. Enter: LearnVest. LearnVest is the latest version of online money management which is targeted towards those of us (read: most of us) who would like to manage their finances without the expense of a financial planner. LearnVest provides a free online account for basic management, along with different account upgrade options, including a “Premium” membership, which includes pairing you with your very own financial planner for a fraction of the cost of hiring someone from say, Fidelity. Here’s how it works…
First step: Sync all accounts to the LearnVest Dashboard (this shows you every account from savings to student loans); most banks now have steps for synching accounts to LearnVest
Second step: Fill out survey with goals (buying a house, saving for retirement, etc.), lifestyle choices and things like that, which takes about 30 minutes.
Third step: Introductory call with your financial planner to talk about your goals and what exactly you want to get out of using LearnVest. The financial planners have typically come from bigger banks and want to hone in on this untapped market and also be part of an exciting/up and coming new business like LearnVest.
Fourth step: Your 5-year plan. Based on your survey, account analysis and conversation, your planner will create a 5 year plan to help reach (or at least get closer) to your goals. The plan includes a budget and helps you find ways to save, which is something I could definitely use help with.
Fifth step: Follow up and reassess. In the months after your plan and budget is created, your financial planner will follow-up with you via phone or email to make sure you’re on the right track and see if any adjustments or changes need to be made. Once you pay the initial fee to upgrade, each month you continue to work with the planner is only $19. Once signing up, you are not locked into a contract and so can cancel at any time.
Living in New York it feels nearly impossible to save money, but with the help of LearnVest, I actually feel like I am starting to get in control of where my money goes. I know some people say they need to go to a class or hire a trainer to get them to workout, and this is how I feel about saving money. In the past, if I walked into J.Crew and saw a shirt on sale that I loved, regardless of whether I needed it, I would buy it. Now I feel like I have a rulebook to play by and I am forced (in a good way) to pick and choose where I tap into my discretionary spending budget and where I hold back. It may be a small step but it’s a step in the right direction!