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With a lack of financial education as a requirement for graduating high school, many young adults are left in the dark about how to be smart with their money. When I graduated high school, the only thing I knew was that credit cards exist and I wanted one! I had no real-life knowledge of all the fees associated with credit cards, how damaging missed payments are, why a credit score is so important, and so forth. It’s important to get ahead and keep your finances in line instead of playing catch up and trying to fix damaged credit scores.
The following money management sites were chosen because they are free, informative, innovative, and provide a single place for college students and young adults to streamline all of their expenses, income and more.
With this being the last week in April for financial literacy month, we took the time to review the following sites geared specifically towards young adults. They’re free so you have nothing to lose to at least try it out for a month or so. We chose to compare the following against Mint.com, since they seem to be the most-used and most-trusted, free money management site out there today.
Mint.com is a highly recognized site and quite possibly the leader in this industry for forecasting and budgeting. I personally use it and love the email reminders I get about upcoming bills. It’s great for simply tracking your budget and ensuring you never miss a payment. It allows users to set up alerts for upcoming bills or large purchases made, for example, and allows you to connect all of your accounts to Mint so everything is viewable in one place. Mint comes with a reporting feature and is completely safe and secure. Another bonus is that Mint does have an app available for those frequently on-the-go.
Some things people don’t like about Mint.com are that some accounts are unable to link up due to security walls and balances aren’t always displayed in real time. It may show you your current balance today, from 2 days ago. This is a poor program to have if you’re a waiter, for example, and frequently make purchases strictly with cash. Check out this in-depth review from PCMag. So, how do the following add up? Let’s take a look…
Buxfer is very similar to Mint.com in that it does everything you would expect a money management site to do; streamlining accounts, goal setting, tips and advice, and has a smartphone app available for download. What sets it apart is the IOU feature where it helps you track who owes you money and whom you owe money to. That can be convenient if you’re a nice guy that frequently helps friends in need. It’s also better for on-the-go management with their SMS features and allows for social integration. Some things Buxfer lacks is a loan planner, foreign currency support for the traveler, fee flagging, detailed reporting, and an annuity calculator, to name a few. Check out this review for more information.
Ready for Zero has a unique spin the other sites don’t have; the first step in using this website is to create a plan to pay off your debt. This site was created to help those already in debt, get out of debt and back on track. Ready for Zero identifies your highest interest bearing account so you can focus on paying that account off as quickly as possible. Payments can be made directly within your account (a fee is attached), unlike other services, and provides support for mortgages, loans, etc. Similar to Mint.com, accounts are connected to Ready for Zero for streamlined analysis and alerts can be set-up to keep you on track. This site updates on a daily basis, provides positive reinforcement, is secure, and there are proven results that Ready for Zero decreases the length of your debt-payoff. Read this review for a better understanding of this service.
Personal Capital has a different element to bring to the table than the others because it has a focus on investment planning and retirement planning, taking the sole focus away from just budgeting. This site still places all your accounts in one place for easy viewing and analysis. Some unique features include their Universal Checkbook, Tax Optimization, Fund Transfers, Asset Allocation Targeting, Stock Option Tracker, and others. My favorite tool is the fee analyzer that breaks down all the fees you are paying per year so you can decide if there are better options out there for you. Personal Capital does all the organizing and categorizing of your investments and provides really cool tools specific to investment tracking. The downside to this program; some investment services have fees attached to them and you must have over $100k in total assets to open an account with them. Check this review out and see a breakdown of any fees charged for additional services. Two apps are also available for download.
There are many sites out there for proper money management and some have more unique features than others. It’s up to you evaluate what these sites offer and decide if Mint.com is the way to go, or to try out a different, maybe even better, option.