Saturday, October 11, 2008

Investing (Your Time) in

Silicon Valley startup has been generating a ton of buzz online for those looking for tools to help manage their money.

Very Brief Overview aggregates your financial accounts all onto one page so you can easily see your network and the components that make up some of your assets and liabilities. This is very similar to other programs that many banks now offer except went a few steps further and invested in a very nice user interface. Well, at this point it sounds as if there is nothing special about, but there is more!

Increase Savings with Mint will present you with recommendations that can help you save money when you link your financial accounts such as banks, credit cards, investment accounts, and so forth. For example, offered a better checking account through Schwab when I linked a low yielding savings account. It said I could save a few hundred more each year if I open an account with Schwab.

If you sign up for a Schwab account (or any offer via Mint earns a slight commission. When you save, brings home the revenue so they have a strong incentive in place to help you save since. They only make money when you save! Obviously better deals could be found by some basic research, but I'm sure the extra savings is good enough for the financially uniformed and the average American. Overtime, I can see displaying banner and text ads to help them boost profits.

Privacy Concerns: claims to have top notch security, but what about the data they collect? By giving them access to our spending habits they have valuable information. They know before Wall Street if there has been a change in Consumer Spending and they can closely monitor the pulse of the economy. Their privacy policy allows them to do this and I don't have a problem with with doing this. Their service is free and inorder for it to be free we typically have to give something up. In this day and age, I expect there to be more free and similar services to that gives us a small service for free in exchange for our data and the ability to directly target the right audience so that everyone benefits. It seems to be a win-win situation.

Categorized spending: categorizes your spending into buckets for you such as entertainment spending, restaurant, spending, auto care, and so forth. This allows you to get a better understating of how your money is being spent. Of course, the categorization is far from perfect and many items tend to be miscategorized or simply uncategorized. I tried to spend a few frustrating hours placing my previous purchase in categories, but found that it was simply too much work. I expect this feature to improve as receives more data and feedback from users.

Comparable Spending:
Spending habits across categories can be compared to the US average to let you know how your peers are allocating their spend. You can even compare your spending habits to those in a specific State or US City. While this feature is cool, I'm not sure what the data means. Is the data from other users who may have categorized their data incorrectly? Also is it for individuals or households? I imagine a husband and wife may have different spending habits compared to a single person. It would be great if would allow us to compare our spending habits to the appropriate demographic.

Suggested Changes:
I wish allowed users to download current and historical financial data so that we could also manipulate the numbers how we see fit. One feature for the investment section should be a portfolio comparison section that would tell the user how well their portfolio is performing against the relative benchmarks. I imagine they could also present portfolio metrics such as alpha, beta, and standard deviations to we could tell if our portfolio managers are really beating the market. At this time, I have not found a free online product that provides portfolio analytics.

Bottom Line: Cool Product and it will be exciting to see it develop in the next year.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

High Yield Saving Account Options & MoneyAisle

Given these harsh economic times with runaway inflation it is important for you to make sure that your liquid assets are in a safe location that can still provide a small return and generate extra income. Keeping your money in a account yielding 0.05% won't do you any favors in the long run.

One new site called MoneyAisle allows banks to bid for your assets. You simply enter an initial deposit and state and in seconds you will enter into an auction where banks will start bidding. After about a dozen quick rounds that take about a second each MoneyAisle will present you with the bank that is willing to offer you the best yield. Pretty cool, eh?

There are a few things I really like about the site:
1. Banks compete for your money. No need to do the extra research.
2. All banks are FDIC secured. No need to worry about the bank failing in these uncertain times.
3. You have no obligation to accept the offer. This gives you the opportunity to try a few times through a week to see if you can find higher yields.

MoneyAisle is a great way to help banks raise quick capital and also helps smaller banks compete with larger banks by showing up on the consumers radar. Any company that manages to take friction out of a business process tends to do well. I expect MoneyAisle to grow into a very profitable business and eventually offer other types of products such as insurance.

Here is a list of other opportunities if you don't feel comfortable with MoneyAisle or you wan't to compare the rates that MoneyAisle offers you.

1. Washington Mutual Bank is offering a 4.00% yield.
2. is offering 4.00%
3. E8Trade Bank is offering 3.30%
4. HSBC is offering 3.25%
5. ING is offering 3.00% (perhaps the yield is lower due to all the ad dollars spent on marketing).
6. Citibank 2.25%
7. BankofAmerica 0.20% or something pitiful! Only use them if you need convince or have few little cash.

With the lack of easy credit facilities I expect interest rates to remain relatively competitive as banks needs to find cheap sources of money. Of course moving cash from one bank to another won't won't the credit crisis, but it will help you earn more!