Many of my clients know that I am a big fan of Mint.com. Mint is an online portal that allows users to aggregate financial data from banks, credit unions, credit cards, loans, mortgages and investment accounts under one roof.
Mint is a great way for individuals to quickly get a picture of income and expenses on a monthly basis without much legwork. Users provide Mint with online bank or credit card login information and Mint brings in recent transactions and automatically categorizes spending based on the name of the transaction, usually without many problems. This process is imperfect but effective, and all categorizations can be changed manually.
My favorite part of Mint.com is “Trends,” which provides a wonderful breakdown of budgeting, spending by category and spending over time to help the user have a better handle on where the money goes each month. Trends can be useful for someone looking to budget for the first time, as it gives a nice starting point for how you’ve been spending money in the recent past.
Individuals considering retirement may find that Trends can provide a great jumping-off point when working with a financial planner to evaluate retirement income needs. Mint.com also offers users a quick way to put together a balance sheet with all liquid assets (checking/savings/investments), liabilities (mortgages/credit cards/personal, auto and student loans) and real estate assets accounted for in one place.
These two tools, an income statement (income & expenses) and a balance sheet are the first building block of understanding your personal finances. Mint also offers some basic investment data, but I find it lacking relative to asset allocation and performance tools. This is very common with online tools as the data is more complex than a simple piece of software can typically handle. Despite these shortcomings, Mint offers a valuable free resource for individuals to track income, expenses and their net worth.
The software is secure (RSA supported, verified by VeriSign 128-bit encryption) and only allows read-only access, no money can be moved through Mint.com. I recommend giving it a try as you may find that it provides an easier way to manage and track your personal cash flows. I am also happy to work with clients directly to help them establish their accounts on Mint.com.