Throwing Money away [personal finance]

trash_moneyNo, not throwing away money as in cash, tossing Microsoft Money as my financial software. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that they would discontinue the popular software Money after June 30, 2009.

I’ve used Money for many years but lately I’ve been increasingly frustrated with it, so I’m not sorry to see it go. Furthermore, this is finally getting me to move to a fully online solution – a decision I’ve putting off but which will offer me much more flexibility for how, when, and where I can access my account information.

But what options do I have for web-based financial management? A financially-minded (and savvy) colleague of mine recommended and Others, like Geezeo, are still too immature for me to invest much time in.

I had tried Mint about a year ago and I found the interface clean and easy-to-use. But I was ultimately dissatisfied by several of its features – or, more appropriately, lack of features. Mint wouldn’t let me create my own categories and subcategories, it wouldn’t let me split transactions into multiple categories (like those from Target or Costco), and it wouldn’t let me add accounts such as my mortgage, 401(k), and IRA. A year or so later, most of these discrepancies are still there. The one feature I thought was clever about Mint was that it analyzed your spending and suggested ways to save money. Unfortunately, all of the suggestions it provided me were useless, so I’m not too upset to forego that feature. Pass.

Yodlee, as it turns out, has been around since at least 2002 and serves as the “data layer” for Mint and many of the major online banking sites (like Bank of America). This means that all of Mint’s data goes through and comes from Yodlee – saying you’re secure and having a customer base to prove it are very different. I’m confident, in fact, that my data is safer on Yodlee than on my home PC (which has succumbed to numerous crashes). While not as pretty as Mint, it’s functionality more than makes up for it.

The main area that Yodlee trumps Mint on is the variety of accounts it keeps track of. Mint can manage bank accounts and credit cards, whereas Yodlee literally keeps track of everything – banks, credit cards, investments (stocks, 401k, etc…), frequent flier/loyalty accounts and very, very usefully billing accounts – that is, companies that you need to pay off like utilities, cable and cellphone companies. It shows you all in one convenient place all the bills that you need to pay, how much you owe and when it’s due. The budgeting and automated weekly and monthly reporting by email features are also outstanding.

After the initial setup (like finding records for an audit, gathering all the usernames and passwords for the various web sites was painful), Yodlee has worked flawlessly for me save for one missing feature: the ability to reconcile my accounts with my receipts. I have found a workaround and provided feedback to Yodlee, but this discrepancy will not keep me from staying with the service.

What do you use to manage your finances? Do you trust the online banking services or do you prefer a desktop application (it would seem Quicken would be one of your only choices now)?


  1. steven mandzik · August 4, 2009

    Adam – after years of frustration and waiting for business models to do something other than sell me new credit cards, i opted to change the game.

    I spent the past few years working on making my finances, investments, and savings all liquid. Meaning that I can move them around easily.

    This seems essential in today’s market where companies will sit and not develop any new lifestyle tools, and then not even stay competitive with rates. On the other hand there is a thriving entrepreneurial market.

    So rather than look for one to rule them all, I began to look for the top of the line in each market. As of now I have been able to do so and I am completely happy (plus i know if they start to suck i can move easily).

    Right now I use etrade (banking), thinkorswim (investing), and amex for my main monthly transaction. I love them, first two have iphone apps, etrade give me extra layers of security, etc.

    I would highly recommend them too.


  2. Barry Day · August 4, 2009


    I like Quicken but I also like the idea of being able to see my finances from anywhere. The obvious concern is security. So tell me what you think about online tools. Is the data encrypted?


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