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Five Reasons to Manage Personal Finances with Mint

Five Reasons to Manage Personal Finances with Mint
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Virtual money management has been a real game changer in the last decade. With all of our personal finance data at our fingertips, it makes total sense to find the best tool out there to get on top of this area of life. In my opinion, Mint.com is by far the best application available for anyone interested in attaining financial freedom on their own terms. Here are the top 5 reasons that this is the case:

1. Full Integration

Mint is an incredibly powerful tool in that it allows you to bring all your financial relationships together under one roof. By integrating all of your bank accounts (i.e. checking and savings), brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, credit cards, store cards, loans, and practically anything else, Mint provides a solid platform to get a full picture of your financial situation and to continuously monitor all activity across that world. Long gone are the days where you need to balance your check book and go through credit card statements line by line. Mint’s automatic categorization of almost all expenses makes it super simple to go through and make minor edits to run all sorts of personal financial analysis.

In order to get the full benefit of an integrated personal finance platform like Mint, my strong suggestion would be to get in the habit of paying for everything with your credit card. While there has been much hype over the years that credit cards are dangerous and get you into trouble, with responsibility, they can be your most powerful asset. By paying for everything you can with credit cards, all transaction details get automatically ported over into Mint and roughly categorized for review at a later time (plus there are tons of other benefits like rewards points that come with using plastic!). If you find that you don’t have your credit card on you for some reason, reach for your debit card next as you will get the same information into Mint although without the rewards points. In my opinion, cash should only be used as a last resort for two reasons: it’s difficult to track spending and there are no rewards for using it.

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Oh, by the way, Mint provides seamless integration across web and mobile devices as well so all of your financial information is accessible wherever you go.

2. Trend Analysis

Once you have at least a month’s worth of data, you can start doing some informative analysis of your financial life. Here’s a general breakdown of the monthly routine that I go through:

  • Start by checking each spending activity item in the Transactions section.
  1. Modify the names of transactions noting specific information (e.g. item, place, etc.).
  2. Re-categorize any items that were not automatically filed correctly. My suggestion would be to only create subcategories for areas that will have multiple items per month.
  3. Split out any transactions that were lumped together. With cash withdrawals, I find it difficult to always account for where that went but try your best.
  4. Mark any transactions as duplicate to not include in reports. I prefer to leave out any small interest and investment activity all together.

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    • After modifying the underlying data, check out the Trends section.
    1. Start with Spending by Category using pie charts for exactly a month.
    2. Click through each category to check all Transactions are accurately filed.
    3. Pull up the Net Income report to see how your income for that month compared to spending.
    4. Compare your Net Income and each major Category for the Last Month with the Previous as well as some other custom time period (e.g. 3, 6, or 12 months).
    5. Make note of general trends and spending habits that can be planned for in your budget.

    3. Budget Setting

    Setting budgets for your monthly spending is a good habit in general. While budgets can be overly constraining, Mint does a great job of providing functionality to make budgets a helpful reference point for financial freedom. I definitely recommend using this part of Mint at least  to program some broad categories and a few subcategories especially for things like Food & Dining. My suggestion would be to only get more granular with subcategories with things like automatic payments (e.g. magazines, Netflix, Hulu, etc.) so you can quickly account for these when reviewing your budget. Caution: the “Everything Else” section conveniently hides the rest of your spending so you’ll need to be diligent about seeing how much money is slipping by your plan.

    Another helpful feature is that Mint rolls over budgets to the next month making it easy to make a few adjustments here and there over time. As part of a monthly review, definitely go through what has been carried over and project out your expected spending for the month to be prepared when things come through. After doing trend analysis and drawing some conclusions, I use the key takeaways to figure out how my budgets could be modified.

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    4. Alerts & Notifications

    On the Overview tab of Mint, there is a section called Upcoming Bills that is really useful for planning purposes. Rather than taking up mind space having to remember when all of your various bills are due each month, I highly suggest taking the time to go through and specify who needs to be paid, the amount and the approximate date for the recurring payment. Trying to figure out the best timing for paying bills in relation to income is always a bit of a hassle. Having Mint visually display spending patterns I find to be a nice feature that allows me to find ways to most efficiently manage my money. Once this information has been specified, Mint will automatically send you reminders that bills are coming due either through email and/or mobile devices. I’m also a fan of some of the other notifications that are sent out as well such as getting paid!

    5. It’s free!

    In my opinion, Mint provides a ton of value at zero cost to the user. There are a few different personal finance applications now available but they often times have a business model that requires subscription such as LearnVest. With so much to offer, I don’t see why everyone and their Mother isn’t using Mint at the least to help bring greater clarity to their financial situation.

    There are a lot of other good functions of Mint but I find some of it to be a little cumbersome and not as useful as one would imagine. For example, the investments section is rather temperamental so I prefer to stick with my actual brokerage or retirement accounts to monitor activity. Also, the goal setting module has not been something that I have not gotten in the habit of using but surely others  find this valuable.

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    As a pre-requisite for self-actualization, money is something that continuously requires our attention. However, the more freedom that we can attain in relationship to this area the more we will be able to place on our higher aspirations. For this reason, I strongly suggest implementing Mint.com in your life if you haven’t done so already!

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    Last Updated on July 20, 2021

    Financial Freedom is Not a Fantasy: 9 Secrets to Get You There

    Financial Freedom is Not a Fantasy: 9 Secrets to Get You There
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    Have you ever considered your life now, and how it would be if you had more time to spend with your family and less worries about money?

    Nowadays, financial stress is one of the most troublesome weights in life. If you’ve ever encountered financial stress, you know the difficulty of not having enough income to pay your obligations or bills.

    Many people say that money is not the ultimate goal of life. While that’s true, money certainly plays a very significant role. The meaning of financial freedom changes with the different phases of our life, but ultimately, it is something that many people strive for.

    In this article, we’ll explain how to capture that financial freedom you’ve been looking for. Read on to learn the secrets to financial freedom.

    Break Free of Your Finances

    Financial freedom is about having a constant flow of cash from your assets to cover all your regular needs.

    When you are not worried about your income, or living paycheck to paycheck, you gain a great sense of freedom. It’s the freedom to be obtain and do what you truly need to make your way through everyday life.

    Gaining financial freedom, though, is a process of growth, making small improvements and gaining emotional strength.

    Though it seems hard to believe, it is really very simple to get financial freedom.

    To do so, you simply need to make sure that your assets exceed your liabilities. In other words, you’ll need to find the sweet-spot where your residuals meet or surpass your expenses. This is something that you can achieve with the proper plan.

    While not every person will accomplish financial freedom, the potential for anyone to do so is certainly there. Anyone can achieve this success, regardless of their income level.

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    Outlined below are 9 secrets that will help you in your goals of achieving financial freedom.

    1. Stop Unnecessary Spending

    We often spend money inwardly, instead of objectively.

    For example, you may spend when you’re anxious, depressed, restless, exhausted, from fear of missing out, or to please others. This is a very unhealthy way to handle your finances.

    To stop this habitual spending, log down all your spending over the course of a month.

    Just as some people keep a food diary, keep an expense diary. Remember not to just write down how much and what you spent the money on, also include the circumstances of why you spent the money. Was it an impulse buy at the checkout line or was it something you planned to purchase?

    This increased self-awareness could enable you to avoid triggering situations in the future when you are considering an impulse buy.

    2. Plan a Monthly Budget

    This is a great opportunity to get serious.

    Take a seat with your spouse or partner and make a monthly budget based on your income, not your expenses. You are never again going to spend more cash then you have on hand.

    Overspending is the thing that led you to more financial obligations. Make sure you decide every month what is coming in and what will be going out and stick to that budget… no matter what.

    3. Cut-up Credit Cards

    Perhaps you are the type of person who always pays your credit card balance in full before the end of your billing cycle, and enjoys the reward points you gain. If this is the case, then you’re already way ahead of the game.

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    If not, you may want to consider ridding your life of the burden that credit cards bring.

    Many cards have strategies set up so that if you make a certain number of late payments, they will raise your interest rate much higher. This can really add up in the long run and you won’t be doing your financial situation any favors. If you’re prone to late payments or have a large balance due on your cards, cut them up!

    Without proper self control on credit card spending and payments, you are basically throwing your money away. To ensure that you have better control over your spending, use only cash or debit for all future purchases (and don’t forget to pay at least your minimum payment on your cut-up cards each month!).

    4. Increase Savings

    There is no doubt that for a comfortable retirement you must accumulate satisfactory savings throughout your working life.

    It’s good practice to save up to 15% of your income.

    Start with your workplace 401(k), if you have one. If not, a Roth IRA (if you are eligible) or a traditional IRA (if you are not eligible for the Roth) are the next logical steps.

    Increase in longevity means you might be able to look forward to 25 to 30 years in retirement, or possibly even significantly more. Investing now in good retirement plans will ensure that you have a guaranteed a stable monthly income when the time comes to stop working. [1]

    5. Invest Wisely

    Consider investing in funds.

    Specifically, you will gain higher returns if you invest in different types of mutual funds such as Debt funds, Equity funds and Hybrid funds with a proper balance, although it absolutely relies on your personal preferences and sense of risk taking.

    To get the most of these benefits, make sure you are investing in a variety of assets. Another resource of investing in mutual funds is SIP (Systematic Investment Plan) where you invest some money every month in funds. SIP works by averaging the per unit price of the stock.

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    Mutual fund investors are aware of the benefits of an SIP (Systematic Investment Plan). For one, it is the most secure way to invest in equity mutual plans so that wealth is created over a long period of time. This plan also helps you to gain a better sense of financial discipline, which will come in handy in all your financial endeavors.

    6. Invest in Gold

    There isn’t really a better way to invest in gold than to have the physical gold itself in your possession.

    You can purchase gold coins and bars from mints as well as from coin dealers and other private sellers.

    Another way to invest in gold is through ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds).

    These are is similar to mutual funds but they are exclusively investments of gold. ETFs are great because they offer more liquidity; the ETF owns the actual physical gold, stores it, and retains the value of the shares. These shares can then be bought and sold in the stock market, and one big benefit is that the transaction costs of gold ETFs are much lower than the that of physical gold.

    With its consistently-increasing demand, investment in gold can be very wise long-term investment to make.

    7. Stash Emergency Funds

    Whether it’s a cash gift or a work bonus, always try to save any extra money that comes your way rather than making unneeded purchases.

    If you get paid every other week, you’ll get an “extra” paycheck (three rather than the usual two) twice a year. Either save those paychecks towards your emergency funds or utilize the money to pay down other obligations, such as loans, credit cards or other debts.

    Make it hard to get your cash.

    Put your savings in an alternate bank, maybe an online bank that forces you to delay for several business days before transferred money hits your regular bank account.

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    8. Find Fabulous Mentors

    Find a mentor, such as a friend or family member, who has exceptional control over their finances and pay attention to everything they do.

    If you do not have any friends or family that are enjoying financial freedom, then find a mentor online! There are numerous blogs and guru websites featuring the advice of many people who have reached financial freedom, and they exist primarily to let you in on how to achieve it for yourself.

    There are also plentiful forums available that share tips and tricks on how to best achieve financial freedom. Read as much as you can and start changing your habits for the better.

    9. Be Extra Patient

    Patience is the key of financial success.

    Being patient can be quite tough, especially when you’re struggling with your finances, but having faith is worth it. You’ll continuously be on the right track if you are taking the proper steps above.

    So don’t be discouraged, even if you are only saving a few dollars a month; it all adds up. Within just a few years you’ll look back proudly at your accomplishments and be glad that you had the patience to get there.

    Financial Freedom for All

    Anyone can achieve financial freedom, regardless of their financial circumstance.

    Use the tips provided above to get yourself on the track to financial freedom and toss your monetary concerns out the window. If you wish to achieve a life with financial freedom for yourself and your family then you must adopt a disciplined approach towards your finances.

    Following the simple secrets above is a great start to making your money work for you, so you can work less and live more!

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Hartford Gold Group: IRA Retirement Accounts

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