Review: LearnVest

LearnVest-logo

After years of using Mint.com as my preferred PFM, I decided, due to various bugs and lack of support from Mint, to try to find a better solution for managing my daily finanances, while also helping me to plan for the future.  I looked everywhere and tried everything I could find.  Newer online PFM tools such as Bundle, HelloWallet, as well as oldies such as Yodlee and mvelopes were taken for a spin.  Each one had its pros, but too often were lacking the key features that I really needed:  solid budgeting!  While trying each one, I knew that I had yet to find the one that I wanted, the one that reminded me of what I had with Thrive back when they were still operating.  That is until I found LearnVest.

My stumbling upon LearnVest was an interesting one.  I had previously checked out their service a year or so ago, and noticed that it was almost 100% marketed towards women and how they could manage their money.  Nevertheless, I took their service for a brief spin and passed, due to some features that were lacking, instead opting to stay with Mint.  However this go around, something was different.  I noticed right away improved UI, updated functionality, and simple navigation within the site.  With that being said, below is my review of LearnVest.

REVIEW

Accounts

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 9.53.00 PM

Given that LearnVest uses Yodlee for their back-end, the majority of the accounts that you can use with the Yodlee MoneyCenter PFM tool, can be added to LV.  This includes Banks, Credit Cards, Loans, Mortgages, and Investments.  In addition to these accounts, you can also create manual accounts for any asset or liability that is currently not offered by LV.

Manual-Accounts

Budgeting

Having always struggled with budgeting (Thanks Mom!), I was on a mission to find a tool that could allow me to set a budget and easily see where I was blowing all of my hard earned cash.  I thought Mint’s budgeting feature would allow me to do this, but for some reason, it never stuck.  While on my quest to create some form of a budget, I would often stumble upon mvelopes, a site/service which utilized the concept of envelope budgeting to form a budget.  I liked the idea of mvelopes, however was not a big fan of the UI.  Now back to LV…I love their budgeting module, it just makes sense.  The breakdown of Essentials, Lifestyle, and Priority Goals was well thought out and very easy to use.  The defining of your budget via folders is quite easy, easy enough that I actually convinced my wife to spend 15 minutes with me to create a budget within LV to start 2013.  If that doesn’t scream success, i’m not sure what other criteria is needed.

Some of the little bits on the budgeting module that I really like and felt I should call out are near the bottom of the app.

1.  Folders that are over budget for the month!  This has been very useful feature.

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 9.59.03 PM

2.  Current Budget vs What LearnVest recommends

This feature helps you understand if you are over-spending/allocating funds to a particular high-level area such as Lifestyle or Essentials.  After creating our initial budget, we made a few tweaks to fall within the recommendations that were set.

Test-Budget

Screenshot of entire LV Budget module

learnvest-budget

Categorization

LV contains default categories that are used for budgeting and categorization.  By default, LV assigns either what it believes is the correct category or it will mark it as “Unfoldered”.  In addition to the default categories, you may also create your own custom.  As of this writing, I am unware of the limit of custom categories.  Overall, This feature is pretty straight-forward and compares to that of Mint.

Support

Support with most PFM’s is pretty hit or miss.  I remember talking to Peter Hazelhurst on the phone back when Yodlee was still an unknown in the early 2000′s about problems.  Same thing with Thrive and the awesome crew that they had.  That caring and passion for a product seems to be lacking with most PFMs that I have dealt with.  As I said in the beginning of this post, it is one of the areas that lead me to look elsewhere.  Now when I had a question about LV, I decided to call them.  Why not, right?  The phone was answer by Becky, who was very well versed in LV and immediately solved my problem.  I was quite impressed.  Months went by and I had a few questions and feature requests so I decided to call LV once again.  To my surprise, Becky answered again and, as with the previous call, answered all of my questions and gave me answers to if/when the various features were on their roadmap for the next iteration of LV.  In today’s crazy world, little things such as this go a long way.  I could tell that Becky wanted to make sure that I had a positive experience with my call and you could also tell that she was very passionate about LV.

Mobile

learnvest-mobile

LV has an outstanding iPhone app that was recently released for mobile access of your financial data.   Everything you can do within the site an be easily accomplished thru the mobile application.  Outside of their mobile web app, I do not believe there are any apps planned for the other mobile platforms.

Services

Now for the $1 million question:  “How does LearnVest make money?”

LV makes money selling their financial planning services.  They offer various different plans, ranging from the Budget Starter plan to the Portfolio Builder, each with various deliverables.  The good thing about the way they operate is that they do not cold call or spam you in trying to sell these services to you.  I truly appreciate this aspect of their business operations.

The Plans

With the Budget Starter, you’ll get:

  • A personalized 30-day budgeting program that starts with a kickoff call with your expert
  • A personalized plan to help you assess your current spending patterns and identify where you can save money
  • A new monthly budget tailored to your life with a step-by-step to-do list to help you stay on track
  • Two phone calls and ongoing email support with your expert to keep you motivated as you make progress on your plan
  • COST:  $69 setup fee + on-going monthly fee

With the LearnVest 5-Year Planner, you’ll get:

  • A personalized 30-day goal-focused program that starts with a kickoff call with your expert
  • A comprehensive 5-year plan that covers all aspects of your finances, showing you how to maximize each dollar within your overall financial picture
  • Ongoing support and quarterly phone check-ins with your expert to keep you motivated as you make progress on your plan
  • Access to LearnVest courses, handpicked by your expert
  • COST:  $299 setup fee + on-going monthly fee

With the Portfolio Builder, you’ll get:

  • A personalized 30-day goal-focused program that starts with a kickoff call with your expert
  • A comprehensive 5-year plan that covers all aspects of your finances, showing you how to maximize each dollar within your overall financial picture
  • An assessment of your overall risk tolerance
  • An assessment of each of your goals, and how much you should have in each major asset class
  • Comprehensive analysis of your current portfolio if you have one, and a recommended allocation if you don’t
  • Ongoing support and quarterly phone check-ins with your expert to keep you motivated as you make progress on your plan
  • Access to LearnVest courses, handpicked by your expert
  • COST:  $399 setup fee + on-going monthly fee

In addition to these services, LearnVest also has a free consultation with one of their financial planners.  You can find out more about their services at:  https://www.learnvest.com/talk-to-an-expert/

Video explaining LearnVest’s mission:

Summary

In summary, I am a big fan of LearnVest!  After setting up my accounts, defining a budget, and getting my iPhone app configured, I feel at peace with my personal finance management.  The fact that I have a usable budget that my wife refers back to is a huge win as well!

About these ads

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s