LearnVest Review –
Income & Expenses, Budget, Goals and Financial Planning!
I’m a big fan of technology and personal finance as you may know from my recent post on saving money with Mint, Acorns and Qapital. I recently setup an account with another personal finance site called LearnVest and thought I’d pass along what I found out.
When people think of financial planning, they tend to think of a service only wealthy people can afford or need. LearnVest was founded in 2009 by business school dropout Alexa von Tobel, and it aims to bring financial planning to the masses at a low-cost (or free). The company has been so successful, it was sold to Northwestern Mutual for $250 million! In 2015 it was reported they had 1.5 million users and tens of thousands of paid subscribers. They must be on to something.
Through their website and apps, they offer a range of personal financial planning services and resources helping you stay out of debt, save money, and achieve your financial goals. Think of them as a high-tech fee only planner who help with your budget, financial goals and a detailed financial plan for success. They make their money by giving you a specific financial plan, and not by jamming a certain mutual fund down your throat. Can you tell I prefer fee only planners?
How They Describe Themselves
“Our mission at LearnVest is to make you feel amazing about your money. We strive to empower people everywhere to take control of their personal finances. We’re here to help by giving you the information, tools and support you need to live your richest life. We believe that financial planning should not be a luxury, which is why we’re dedicated to giving unbiased and trusted financial advice at an affordable cost and in an accessible way.”
It’s free to sign up and start using LearnVest Money Center features of the app and even get some personalized advice. If you want to get the full experience, I recommend signing up for LearnVest Premium which includes the following:
- A dedicated financial planner, available to you 24/7 via email. They are all CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals or Investment Advisor Representatives (FINRA Series 65).
- A fully customized financial plan that helps balance your wants and needs. This includes:
- Snapshot: They help piece together your entire financial life so you know exactly where you’re starting from.
- Goals: They tell you where you want to go and show you how to get there while helping to ensure you have your foundation covered to support the journey.
- Protect: They identify what insurance and estate planning documents you need to protect yourself and your family.
- Action steps: They tell you exactly how to put your financial plan into action.
- Online tools, classes, and articles to help you put the advice into action. I haven’t spent too much time on the content, but I always welcome any opportunity to better my personal finance IQ.
You can view a detailed sample financial plan here to get a better idea of what I’m talking about.
The premium plan will cost you roughly $299 to set up, then $19/month. For perspective, if you were to hire a fee only planner in your town, it’s reasonable to assume you would pay north of $2,000 per visit. You should be in annual or semi-annual contact with your planner, so you can see how this would add up quickly. As of the writing of this article, they are actually offering a $75 credit and you also have the option to spread out your $299 setup fee into smaller payments.
What It Does
LearnVest has a web interface and a free mobile app for iOS iPhones and iPads that allows you to connect to your financial institutions so you can manage and track your spending. Once you get the app installed, you connect to all your financial institution accounts (bank, credit, mortgage, savings, etc). This is a read only connection to your accounts and it uses bank level encryption, so your information is safe. No password or username info is stored by them. Once connected, it aggregates your income and expenses and presents some pretty slick graphical representations to paint a picture of your overall financial situation.
Once you have the big picture, LearnVest guides you to set up a budget which has some decent customization capabilities. As you proceed through the month, LearnVest presents up to date info on individual budget items (restaurants, entertainment, groceries, etc…). You can’t overstate the importance of knowing when you’re spending more than you’re making! Pick out some of the big money items, then spend some time figuring out how to reduce or eliminate them.
Custom goals are another great feature you should set up. Planning on taking a big vacation? Setup a custom goal with a dollar amount, then figure out how long it will take you to achieve. You can also see how increasing your contributions will shorten your time to achieving the goal. Out of the box you get three basic goals to get you going: credit card debt, emergency savings, and retirement.
What It Looks Like
I am a big believer that everyone should use a financial planner. What you do with your money is one of the most important things in life. Why wouldn’t you spend a little money to make sure you’re in good shape and on track to meet your financial goals? It’s no different from spending money on a gym membership or a wine of the month club. LearnVest gives you great tools for free to get you started and some very reasonably priced fee based support to keep you on track. Do yourself a favor and upgrade once you’re comfortable to really kick things into high gear.