Capitol Hill Style: Resolutions, 2011: Managing Your Money

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 by Belle

Resolutions, 2011: Managing Your Money

31

From getting out of debt to building savings, one of the most common New Year’s Resolutions is to improve your financial situation.  A few months ago, I started using LearnVest, a financial planning website designed for women, to help me get a better grip on my finances.  And in just a few short weeks, the site has helped me develop a financial plan that will have my considerable student loan debt paid off in just 54 months, instead of 22 years.

Yes, that’s right. If I follow this budget, I’ll have my loans paid off by the time I’m 34, instead of 52.  Not bad, right?

Like most women, I am not a financial whiz.  So when I heard that a company was offering financial planning services at a reasonable price, I leapt at the chance to try it. 

Our mission at LearnVest is to empower women everywhere to take control of their personal finances so that they can afford their dreams. We’re here to help by giving you the information, tools, and support you need to earn well, save well, and spend well.

We believe that financial planning should not be a luxury, and that’s why we’ve created the LearnVest.

The website links to your bank’s website to monitor your spending.  It also allows you to plug in the information for your creditor’s, so that you can keep track of your debts.  Using these tools, you can determine where you need to cut back on your spending to pay off your debts.

The site also offers tools and bootcamps that help you understand your credit score, build your 401k or save for a major purchase like a home or a car.  They also have a news and blogs section that offers articles on how to save money on clothes, how to dine out on a budget and how to get deep discounts on travel.  And last, but not least, they offer career advice, counseling for new Moms and other valuable mentoring for women.

But, as far as I’m concerned, the best thing LearnVest offers is access to a financial planner.  Usually, my taxes are a pretty simple affair, but next year, they’re going to be more complex than Euclidian geometry.  Thanks to LearnVest, I can e-mail a financial consultant with questions and get referrals for local tax preparers in my area. 

The financial planner has also helped me determine how much money to put in my 401k (whatever my company will match), and how to have an old, erroneous delinquency removed from my credit report (I’ve never even lived in the state where the account was opened in my name). 

So if you’re a financial newbie or a professional woman looking to get a better grasp on your money in 2012, LearnVest is worth a try.  When you sign up, you’ll get two weeks free.  (So wait until Christmas is over and your focus is back in check.)  After that, the service costs $129 for a year, $69 for six months or $39 for three months.  Not bad considering that the financial planner I had been seeing cost $175 an hour.

Whether your a check-cashing lobbyist or a Ramen Noodle-eating intern, it’s always good to know where your money is going and where your debts stand.  LearnVest helps you keep track of everything in one place and helps you build the financial future you want.

*No one paid me to write this.  I just love the product.

31 comments :

  • love it

    I use LearnVest too.

  • love it

    Also: “the blog is gaining 15% a month in readership since June” …. congrats! : )

  • S

    “Like most women, I am not a financial whiz.” I try not to take offense to your blog posts, but I think “most” in this case is slightly demeaning to women. I hope that most women in this day and age understand their finances just as well as men. But I'm glad you are offering a recommendation to help those who do not :)

  • Ellen

    Very interesting on the student loans because that is something I have been really needing to tackle. Was there a particular bootcamp you used or tool to figure that out?

    Thanks!
    Ellen

  • Jenny

    “Like most women, I am not a financial whiz.”

    Uh, what? Speak for yourself.

    What is the benefit of gender-specific financial planning?

  • Zoe

    I agree with S. That line really stuck out to me and disappointed me. I don't think that was your intention but it came across as kind of demoralizing.

  • Cassandra

    For those of us fortunate enough to have a friend or family member as our financial planner (my father is a literal genius when it comes to these things — he does taxes “for fun” every year), I'd recommend Mint.com. Except for access to financial consultants, Mint has all the benefits of LearnVest without the cost. You can easily track your spending each month, set up budgets for shopping, alcohol & bars, dining, etc., and even set up goals for future spending.

  • Rose

    While I appreciate most of the tone of this post, and I generally love the blog, the “Like most women….” line is pure insult to me. I am a woman, and while I am not a financial “whiz,” I carefully manage my own finances – quite well, I might add.

    Money management isn't innate for most people. You have to work at it, and think about it. Read personal finance blogs, if that's your thing. Hire a planner. Or just sit down once a quarter and review things. There is a LOT of material out there available, and someone's knowledge, or lack thereof, has nothing to do with being a woman. It has to do with being a person who has not educated themselves about their options.

  • Belle

    Everyone- Chill. The site is dedicated to women. So this was a women specific post. So instead of saying that most people are not financial whizzes (which I think our nation's debt problem proves), I said most women…because, again, it was a women specific site and a women specific post.

    I'm glad so many of you are good with your money. But I was not always, and I know many women who are not. And if you're resolving to take better care of your finances in 2012, it's probably because you're not Warren Buffet's female clone.

    I apologize to those that were offended.

    Cassandra-I tried Mint and there were two things that I didn't like about it: First, getting an email every time I exceed my monthly food budget or my monthly clothing budget or my monthly entertainment budget was demoralizing. It was like being told I was a failure for stepping a toe over Mint's invisible line. The other thing that I didn't like was that there was no one to ask when I had questions. Sure, I could go to the forums, but those people were usually just as clueless as I was. I like this a bit better, but Mint is a good choice for people who don't want to pay the coin.

  • r

    Hey Belle– does LearnVest have any good resources on investing? I do just fine with managing the money I have, but I'd like to put it to work a bit better.

  • Belle

    r- I just started my 401k, so I've been reading a lot of articles on LearnVest on managing my investments. they also have live webinars where you can ask questions and there's always the planner if you get stuck. I found this article to be helpful for a newbie: http://www.learnvest.com/money-tuneup/balancing-act-its-time-for-some-portfolio-management/

  • Cheryl

    “Like most women, I am not a financial whiz.” Regardless of how this was intended, it comes across as a very sexist generalization. In light of the fact that, as you note, your site is dedicated to women, you should make a better effort not to offend us! A statement like that isn't helpful for those of us in the finance industry who are already fighting an uphill battle against stereotypes and an almost entirely male C-suite. Belle, I don't think your response to commenters' criticism was acceptable, and I think you can do more than tell us to chill. Perhaps changing the statement to “Like most Americans” (if that was your intent) or explaining the comment in your next entry would help.

  • w

    This is a pricey service for younger staffers….

  • Belle

    Cheryl-Not my site, Learnvest. This probably isn't a site men would use since it's designed for women. When I edited the piece I changed it from people to women because LearnVest is a women's site.

    w-That's why you try it for the two weeks and see if it's worth the money to you. And it shakes out to about $10 a month, so that's not too bad. But as Cassandra mentioned, if you want something free, try Mint.

  • BN

    People are always shocked when they hear my husband is a wiz in the kitchen and does 99% of our cooking (the 1% I do involves a microwave). Oh, and he does the dishes too. Why are they shocked? Because gender stereotypes exist. It doesn't offend me or him when people are surprised by the seeming gender reversal involving our kitchen.

    It is a stereotype that women are not financial gurus, which is why sites like Learnvest and books like “Shoo Jimmy Choo” (a book for women about managing finances that is, no joke, bright pink with pink and purple spreadsheets inside) exist. Let's not pretend Belle was the first person who ever said this or who ever admitted that sites/books/articles/blogs/etc. focused on helping women understand and handle finances could be beneficial to some people.

    Like everything on blogs, take what you like from them and ignore what you dont.

  • Helena

    Belle,

    So, I am a newish reader and I want to love this blog because I think your fashion sense is fantastic and the sets you create are really practical yet stylish. But your “lifestyle” posts, for lack of a better term, seem to create controversy. Whether this is intentional, I don't know, but I doubt it, as you often post justifications and defensive statements after readers comment to complain. Perhaps you should consider an editor for these posts. Someone to catch the typos and, more importantly, to rephrase things that don't properly convey what you are trying to express. After all, you seem to be consistently claiming that people have misunderstood or mischaracterized your writing.

    I realize that the scale or scheduling of this blog may not allow for someone else to come in and work with you. You may not want another voice in here. But frankly, if your desire is to have people read the blog and stick with it, you should consider it. Telling people to go read another blog if they have issues isn't going to solve the problem unless your solution is to lose, rather than gain, readership.

    Helena

  • Belle

    Helena-This happens from time to time. This is just a bad stretch. If you're going to write your opinions on the Internet, you need to expect that people will disagree some of the time. If it starts to look like one commenter disagrees all the time, I always wonder why they bother.

    As for your suggestion, there's no way I could employ an editor and finish even a single post per day. And given that the blog is gaining 15% a month in readership since June, I don't think I'm losing that many readers. But losing traffic is also part of the deal, I stop reading blogs that I don't agree with and there's no reason mine should be any different if you feel that way.

  • KC

    I have a degree in Finance and I am not offended by this post. I would hope that no one smart enough to read this blog would actually belive that their personal skill set is in any way lessened by a general introductory sentence. As for the suggestion that Belle go out and hire an editor to avoid typos and unpolitical correctness in the blog she writes as a hobby, I am almost offended for her. Perhaps by telling people to go read another blog she is exactly expressing her desire that easily offended individuals not read her blog. And, if the most controversial things you read on a regular basis involve women-specific sentences, recommendations against wearing colored tights, and an opinion that pajamajeans are not professional, you need to expand your world.

  • saba

    I am an avid reader and this is my first comment just to say kudos to KC. I couldn't agree more.

  • AD

    Hey Guys – I love LearnVest, have done several boot camps, enjoy the weekly emails on both relevant financial topics and the stock market and I have never paid any money to use the site or its resources. The only reason why you'd need to pay any money to LearnVest is if you choose to utilize a financial planner. I'm sure the financial planner option is awesome and worth the money – and I may look into trying it out post in the new year – but it's not like you HAVE to pay the money and use the financial planner.

    And while most of their posts/info is targeting women-ish issues, I forward their emails to my boyfriend and other mail friends on the reg.

    Also – Mint.com sucks. Anyone who has tried LearnVest would know this.

    Additionaly – sorry if this sounds like gaslighting, but you're really being too sensitive about Belle's “Like most women..” comment. While you may be an exception – and good for you for being an exception – most women simply are not finance gurus.

    Happy Holidays.

  • Belle

    AD: Please explain how you can use the site without paying. I didn't realize you could, and don't know how (even though I'll keep paying because I like the planner), and I'm sure some people would like that.

  • Belle

    love it: Thanks. And thanks everyone for all the word-of-mouth, most people find CHS through other readers.

  • Lisa

    If it is going to be like this always your site will really be known, for the readers are already right here to support you. :)

    __________________
    Lisa | National Labor Relation Act

  • AD

    Go to http://www.learnvest.com

    On the right side of the start page/home page is a box that says “Become a Member for Free”

    [If this site looks different for you and does not have a “Become a Member for Free” box, then I can't really explain that.]

    Enter your info, create an account, and click around to your heart's content!

    It's been a long time since I've signed up (I discovered the site via Real Simple emails maybe a year ago?) so it will probably prompt you to sign up for the LearnVest Financial Inbox where you link all of your accounts (sort of like Mint.com) but you are not required to do this in order to use the other aspects of LearnVest.

    Across the toolbar at the top are your links to the Bootcamps (I've done Take Control, Cut Your Costs, Get Out of Debt and Personal Finance Basics) There used to be a Bootcamp on Investing that cost money, but it seems to be gone now, and I never tried it.

    If you look in the top right hand corner, there's a grosgrain ribbon that says Upgrade. If you click on that link, you can check out the different options for personalized (keyword personalized) financial support. I'm assuming that means one on one counseling from one of their financial planners.

    But you don't have to pay a CENT to use the Financial Inbox, the Bootcamps, sign up for the emails (I subscribe to the LearnVest Daily and The Market), read the posts, use the Budgeting tool or the checklists.

    This site (and some good ole' Dave Ramsey) has played a huge part in teaching me about the stock market, retirement, savings accounts, cutting costs (unplugging the toaster, changing the temp on my fridge and themostat) and working to aggressively pay off my debt. Thanks to LearnVest and Dave, I should be debt free by my next birthday.

    Three cheers for LearnVest. [Oh, and no I do not work for LV, nor was I paid to sing their praises.]

  • JR

    Bravo KC! Well said. The awesome thing about being a woman in America…you are allowed to have opinions…unedited. Love your blog Belle.

  • SF

    You may also want to check out Dave Ramsey. His book “The total money makeover” has completely changed how I handle money. My husband and I have been on his plan for nine months and have paid of $25,000 in student loans so far. We will be debt free except for our home by this time next year. He also has a radio show that I listen to during my commute home. It is inspiring to hear people call in to yell “I'm debt free” and to hear how they did it.

  • Belle

    SF-I'll have to check that out. That's impressive.

  • Lisatella

    I use LearnVest and love it. I get the daily e-mails, read 80 percent of them, and have found so much of their info to be really valuable. The only thing I've paid for (so far) was a one-day pass to ask questions of the financial advisers. It was definitely worth the $4.99 or whatever nominal fee it was. I had a pretty complex question and got a detailed, kind note back in no time. Whoever's behind the curtain at LearnVest, they really seem to care about each and every reader who seeks help.

    So thanks for plugging them, as I'm a huge fan. And I'm a total math dunce, so I appreciate having the backup. :P

  • ~M

    I paid off tens of thousands of dollars of debt in car and student loans and credit card debt in a year and a half. I am now debt free. It's an accomplishment I'm extremely proud of. There have been some big raises and advancements for both my husband and I which obviously helped a lot, but one of the things that really helped was the “How soon could I pay off all my debts” calculator at this website. The others are good too.

    http://www.providentliving.org/content/display/0,11666,6657-1-3438-1,00.html

    CAVEAT: This comes from a religious website so if you read the articles, they are VERY basic and have a religious bent, but the calculators are not religious and are CRAZY helpful.

  • E

    Thanks for sharing such a great resource. I hated Mint for many of the same reasons. LearnVest looks very helpful – particularly interested in the student loan repayment resources.

  • Ashley

    I'm thankful that I came across your blog and got such learning, It really gave me something that made me realize things.
    — ~ — ~ –
    ashley | personalized baby gifts

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