By JENNIFER SARANOW SCHULTZ (New York Times)
Personal finance tools have traditionally acted as money manager and financial product advocate. Now, a couple of new tools claim another role: financial planner.
Last week, a former Brookings Institution consumer finance scholar introduced one such new service called HelloWallet. For a monthly subscription of $4, HelloWallet performs the traditional budgeting and money tracking functions found at free sites likeMint.com.
But HelloWallet will also recommend customized financial plans for everything from saving for college to saving for retirement. Based on tuition cost trends for the particular college you expect your child to go to and your saving history, it will give you recommendations, for instance, for how much to save monthly and where.
In addition, it will help estimate how much you should save to buy a house using local home prices; will forecast your home’s likely worth in the future; and will identity and provide recommendations about gaps in your finances, like having no rainy day fund or emergency savings plan. It will also identify ineffective savings vehicles you may be using, among other functions.
“Mint.com is fundamentally a money management service,” said Matt Fellowes, HelloWallet’s founder and chief executive officer. “We are more of a money guidance service.”
Besides the detailed financial planning advice, he said what sets HelloWallet apart from a site like Mint.com is that it is independent from banks and doesn’t take any advertising dollars. Instead, it makes money through subscriptions. “We are totally agnostic of where people go to bank,” he said.
The site is particularly aimed at lower- to middle-income consumers who may not otherwise have financial advice resources. For this reason, HelloWallet is providing the service free to at least 300,000 low-income families over the next five years, and the Rockefeller Foundation is providing funds to nonprofits to provide 10,000 subscriptions to HelloWallet for low-income Americans.
Elsewhere, The Wall Street Journal’s SmartMoney last week also started a free online service called LifePlan that asks users a series of questions about topics including income and savings and then provides tailored articles, financial to-do-lists and tutorials. The tool, whose advertising is sponsored by Fidelity Investments, doesn’t appear, however, to offer the account aggregation and budgeting tools found at sites like HelloWallet or Mint.com.
Would you turn to online tools for financial advice? Why or why not? What are some of the best financial advice tools you’ve found online and why do you like them?