September 18, 2017 Personal Finance 37

I am a self-proclaimed money nerd.

While I was never a math genius, I enjoyed playing around with numbers as a child and had a blast learning Excel in a high school business/accounting class.  After graduating from college, I stepped into a role requiring a fair amount of data analysis and numbers presentation.

Then I found personal finance blogs and a whole new world opened up for me.  Suddenly, I found reason after reason to play with my financial numbers and a plethora of scenarios to run in my glorious, color-coordinated Excel sheets.

Personal Finance = Mrs. Adventure Rich’s Heaven

Five years later, I am still gung-ho about our finances and personal finance philosophy in general.  I have, however, become a bit more strategic about my approach to money management.

Enter my money management tools.  I have several tools I use to help me manage our money on a daily or monthly basis.  These include Mint, Personal Capital, and my trusty Excel sheets (of course!).

 

Mint

View from the corner of our property

Mint was my first official money app.  I believe I downloaded Mint in 2013 and never looked back.

Mint is a money management tool which allows users to link all of their accounts into one place, providing a one-stop shop for balances, transactions and bills, along with an updated credit score.  Mint is available as both an online site and as a mobile app.

How We Use Mint

I use Mint on a nearly daily basis (and sometimes several times a day).  Mr. Adventure Rich and I have many of our accounts linked there, so we have a consolidated view of all account balances and do not need to log into each account separately for an update.

I also use Mint to keep track of transactions on our credit cards, banking accounts and savings accounts.  The transactions tab gives me peace of mind as Mr. Adventure Rich and I ensure we recognize all of the items listed.

Another useful Mint feature has been the “Goals” tab.  With the Goals feature, users can set a goal, link accounts and track progress (updated automatically through the linked accounts).  While I often track our goals other places as well, this tab is helpful as a quick check in on those goals.

What We Don’t Use on Mint

Budgeting- While I use Mint to check in on our transactions, I do not use it for budgeting.  Mint does have a budgeting tool, I found it a bit clunky for my liking.

Bill Pay-  Mint has a Bill Pay feature.  While it is a cool idea, I prefer managing our bill pay directly with the vendor or lender.

Investments-  Mint has an Investment tab as well, but I prefer other tools for my investment analysis (see Personal Capital below!).

Ways to Save-  The Ways to Save tab on the Mint site provides credit card, banking account, insurance, loan and investment offers.  I typically ignore this tab and do my own research.

 

Personal Capital

Paddleboarding with AR Jr. during a Labor Day Weekend sunset

Personal Capital is another popular money management tool.  It includes the ability to link accounts into one place (similar to Mint), but adds a few key features.

Personal Capital takes the investments and advice aspects of their tool to a new level.  It includes a more sophisticated level of investment analysis, plus several helpful retirement calculators.

How We Use Personal Capital

Admittedly, I currently do not use Personal Capital to its fullest extent.  I have dabbled with it here and there, but I am likely missing many of the key functions (comment below with your favorites!).

I have, however, found great value in the Personal Capital Investing and Planning features.

Personal Capital Investing gives users the ability to see their portfolio allocation, performance, sector breakout and balances.  This level of detail (all in one place!) gives Mr. Adventure Rich and I a great resource as we sit down to consider our investments and plan changes.

The Planning portion of Personal Capital is my favorite!  The Retirement Fee Analyzer allows users to analyze the fees on their portfolio (and project the cost of these fees overtime!) while the Investment Checkup gives an overview of one’s allocation in comparison to their target allocation, sector balance and fees.

The Personal Capital golden egg in my opinion comes through the Retirement Planner.  When using the Personal Capital Retirement Calculator, I take our current portfolio balance and fill in several assumptions (such as estimated returns, big spend events like college or home improvements and annual savings).  I then add in our estimated retirement spending and age at retirement.  From there, Personal Capital runs scenarios and gives me a likelihood (as a percentage) of reaching our goal of sustainable funding in retirement.  It also shows where we could fall short and provides tips for improving our situation.

What We Don’t Use on Personal Capital

As I mentioned above, I am likely missing out on a few of the Personal Capital additional features.  We do not use Personal Capital for our daily check in or transactions list (Mint is our preferred method for these items) and I have yet to look into their Cash Flow or Bills features.

 

Excel Sheets

Moomers = Best Ice Cream around!

Despite all of the amazing functionality and new-fangled technology that goes into apps and websites today, there is still a place for my lovely Excel sheets near and dear to my heart.

Microsoft Excel (or any spreadsheet with similar functionality) gives me the ability not just to track and manage our money, but to create our own system.  I can choose what data to include, what formulas to run, what colors to adorn the various cells with… in sum, I can cater this tool to meet my needs!

How We Use Excel Sheets

I typically use Excel for several big items I don’t find as easily managed in Mint or Personal Capital.  These include Net Worth tracking, debt payoff/goal tracking and scenario number crunching.

I have tracked our Net Worth in an Excel document since January 2015, updating the numbers monthly and creating charts to show the progress over various timeframes.  While both Mint and Personal Capital have Net Worth calculations, I like my Excel sheet’s flexibility.  I can adjust when Mint and Personal Capital amp up our home’s value (based on Zillow estimates…), add, subtract and change accounts based on our current status, and track the balances of accounts at a point in time (the first of the month).

Mr. Adventure Rich and I dug our way out of $55,000 of student, car and credit card debt and tracked to goals such as a down payment for a house.  For each of these goals, we build Excel sheets to do the job!  I get satisfaction from the action of typing in a lower number (when paying off debt) or a higher number (when saving towards a goal) each month… the increases or decreases became that much more “real”.  By tracking our goals via Excel, I noticed that the changes became more motivating and less “routine”, psychologically helping us to stick with our aggressive goals (especially since failing to do so would mean updating an Excel with less than stellar numbers… major buzzkill).

Finally, I like Excel for scenario number crunching.  How much would Mr. Adventure Rich and I need for a mini-retirement?  How long would it take to save for X, Y and Z goals all at one time?  This list could go on and on.  I find that, despite all the amazing calculators out there, there are still some scenarios that don’t “fit” into the mold.  So, I need to make a new mold and crunch my own numbers in my own Excel 🙂

 

Cliff Notes

In sum, I use Mint, Personal Capital and Excel for the following money management aspects.

Mint:  Tracking transaction, account balances and daily check-ins.

Personal Capital:  Retirement fee analysis and retirement planning calculator.

Excel:  Net Worth updates, goal tracking (savings/debt payoff) and specific scenario number crunching.

 

Best Way?  Only Way?

Is this the only way (or the best way) to use these tools?  Absolutely not!

Honestly, some folks will read this and think that we are doing it “all wrong”.  But that’s okay!  My goal here is to share with our readers our top money management tools and the way we use them.

If there are little tidbits of info or suggestions that help you with your money management, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

And if you have additional money management tool suggestions or ways to utilize Mint and Personal Capital that differs from the above, please let us know!  We are here to discuss and learn 🙂

Always an Adventure,

Mrs. Adventure Rich

 

 

 

P.S.-  Personal Capital does offer an affiliate program, but I am not yet associated with the program, so no affiliate links here.