By: Ralph Broadwater, MD, CFP®, AIF®
Financial aggregators can be an excellent tool to help you follow your finances, investments, and track spending patterns. These web-based programs allow you to automatically capture all of your financial accounts and transactions in one location. Some of the types of information that can be collected:
- Bank Accounts
- Investment Accounts
- Retirement Accounts
- Credit Card Transactions
- Frequent flier and reward program balances
- Email accounts
- Manual entry of other account information
After entering the login and password information for each account, the accounts will be automatically updated and displayed for your review. Real time net worth can be followed, and graphed over time. Credit card transactions are automatically assigned to categories, allowing you to more rapidly analyze spending and expenses.
There are several free aggregators to choose from on the web. I have tried most of them on my own personal accounts, and would like to recommend two of them for you to explore.
In my opinion, Mint.com is the best overall aggregator. It has an excellent, clean interface and is simple to use. After spending approximately 30 minutes of setting up your accounts, it will capture all of your transactions on an ongoing basis.
One of the most useful features of mint.com is the ability to establish alerts. For example, you can define alerts to notify you by email or text for the following:
- low balances
- bill due
- unusual spending (over a specified amount) by category
- overbudget in a category
- changes in credit card interest rate
- bank fees
- any large purchases
- large deposits
This is an excellent tool to be alerted of significant changes, and can enhance your monitoring for credit card fraud or theft.
Most aggregators (including mint.com) use the back office engine of Yodlee for aggregation. While you may have security concerns about putting all of your login and password information in one place, they use bank level security and 128 bit SSL encryption on all information. Mint.com captures no personally identifiable information other than your e-mail address and zip code. Your name, address, or any account numbers are not collected. You cannot move or transfer money through these services. The potential for any identity theft or fraud is remote.
I really like the ability to customize categories and budgets. The graphics are a powerful tool to examine spending patterns, and identify trends.
The second program that you should explore is in the fidelity.com website. It is called FullView, and is accessed at the end of the accounts menu. FullView has most all of the features of mint.com. It seems a little more “buggy”, and does not have as clean of a graphic interface. It is a good solution for those who use Fidelity’s website regularly and want all of their finances in one place on the web. There is not an iPhone app for FullView.
There are several other aggregators that are available. I have listed them below:
- Bank of America: My Portfolio
- Yodlee/ MoneyCenter
- Quicken Online
Financial aggregators will streamline your financial life and can provide additional protection against credit card and financial fraud. The ability to automate your finances and view spending patterns graphically is a very powerful tool to help you better understand and improve your financial and investment life.
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