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New Online Financial Web Tools

There are a number of great online financial tools that can help organize your financial life. Here is a brief review of some of the more promising online financial tools:

Mint.com – this website provides users with a means for viewing all of their accounts on one website, including checking, savings, and credit card accounts. The aim seems to be to provide a single source to track and review your expenses. The value proposition for this website is that it makes it easy to track and see where money is going. The pie charts look great.

The interface for adding accounts is relatively painless, as you can import your financial transactions automatically if you have the ability to access your account via the financial institutions website. We did notice that the website was not able to locate Charles Schwab checking accounts, as it directed us to log in to the American Express website rather than the Charles Schwab website.

The website has a broad array of expense categories, which allows users to change the expense categories if the website miscategorized the expense when it was imported into the system. The number of expense categories might be a bit much for the average user.

The website also provides suggestions for saving money, such as credit cards that have lower interest rates and savings accounts that pay a higher rate of interest. These suggestions appear to have little value, as even the least financially sophisticated consumers will probably be able to find better credit card or savings accounts on their own. The website is free, so I presume that referral fees from these sources are how the website generates revenue. It might be worth patronizing these companies to help keep mint.com free.

Wesabe.com – this website also a free website that provides users with a means for viewing all of their accounts on one website, much like mint.com, the above cited website.

Compared mint.com, wesabe.com has a better user interface. It is simpler. The process of categorizing or tagging particular expenses is easier to manage, as there are no set tags (users create their own).

Wesabe.com is different in that it provides financial tips, which means that it suggests financial articles that users might find useful. Currently the tips or articles are not very helpful, but they will no doubt get better as time goes by.

Wesabe.com also allows users to set financial goals, assign what expense categories are associated what that goal, and discuss the goals with other users. For example, creating an emergency fund might be a goal and the expenses tagged “savings” might be tied to this goal. By clicking on the goal, you would then see a total of the expenses that went towards that goal. Assuming that you make the goal visible to other users, the other users with the same goal could give you kudos for meeting your goal or for making progress on the goal. This could be a great feature; however, many of the goals did not correctly import the expense associated with them.

Wesabe.com doesn’t seem to be selling anything (including users financial information) and it doesn’t have any paid advertising on it, which leaves one wondering how it plans on generating revenue. Hopefully it will continue and get better, as it appears to have a lot of potential.

Geezeo.com – this is yet another free website that offers a service very similar to mint.com and wesabe.com. The user interface for editing categories is not as great as wesabe’s interface; however, it is not as complicated as mint.com’s interface. The layout is better than mint and wesabe’s as geezeo provides different tabs for student loans, car loans, etc. Unfortunately, many of these categories are not functional yet. Geezeo does provide a short summary of the users net worth which could prove to be very useful; however, the net worth isn’t really net worth as it accounts for unused credit (which is not traditionally counted in figuring a persons net worth) and it doesn’t account for many non-online assets (such as houses, jewelry, etc.). As with wesabe, it is not clear how geezeo intends to earn revenues.

NetworthIQ.com – this website provides users with a free and simple way to track and compare their net worth with other user’s net worth. Users enter their assets and liabilities, which, with multiple entries over time, enables users to view a graph showing whether their net worth increased or decreased. Users can then compare their net worth with other users by various categories, such as age, occupation, etc. This is a very useful website.

Each of the websites raise potential identity theft and fraud issues, as they require users to turn over some financial information and even usernames and passwords. It would not be too far fetched to assume that banks, credit card companies, etc. will not extend any protection to users who opt to disclose their information to these services. To allay these concerns with regard to usernames and passwords, wesabe provides a downloadable tool that stores the usernames and passwords on the users computer. This might be more secure than having them saved with the website, but who knows these days. Also, it is worth mentioning that NetworthIQ does not seem to require users to disclose usernames or passwords.

Combining NetworthIQ and wesabe (or a more functional version of geezeo) into one website might prove even more useful for users, especially if the resulting service were provided by one or more financial institutions directly. It would be great to see an etrade or fidelity offer this type of service.

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