Category Archives: Personal Finance

Mint finally launches

Mint finally launched yesterday at the TechCrunch40 conference. Congratulations Mint! I had been referring to Mint as the great vaporware of personal finance apps. They first started promoting it back in March, and was beginning to think it would never launch. 6 months later they have a public beta out (I believe they actually started working on it on December ’05). Good to see there is something there after all, so I guess I have to stop calling it vaporware. Their blog has been great, even inspiring one of NetworthIQ’s new features, but hopefully for $5 million in VC money, we can get something better than a blog.

I should be happier for them, more exposure for the personal finance space and all. But, I’m feeling a little down today. As is the case with Wesabe, Expensr and Geezeo, I don’t view them as a competitor. They are more traditional Personal finance managers, focusing on expense tracking and bank account aggregation. NetworthIQ looks beyond bank accounts into your whole financial picture at a simpler/higher level while adding a social support network and way for you to chronicle your financial decisions. It’s really more of a complement to any of these apps. Unfortunately though, even if we’re not competitors, NetworthIQ will be viewed in the same general realm and thus be buried further in the noise and battle for new users. This also hit home reading this month’s Money magazine article about social personal finance that ignored NetworthIQ (Jean Chatzky, what’s a guy gotta do to get on your radar?). We were the first doing anything personal finance related in Web 2.0/social software. Now, there are lots out there. One thing’s for sure, I’m going to have to pick up my game a lot more.

As a personal finance software user myself, I’m not impressed with Mint. It’s web-based and very pretty, but I’ve been using MS money for 8 years and there’s nothing in Mint that will make me switch. I’m a BIG proponent of web-based software, and Money is probably the only reason I keep Windows around (ok, I guess I need it for .NET development too, but it’s the only software app that I use on Windows). It would be great to have a web app for this, but I’m not ready to give a new web service my usernames/passwords (I gave one to test it out), and it only tracks bank and credit card accounts. It can’t track mortgages, brokerage accounts, etc, so it’s not really a “track all your accounts in one place” app. I’d still have to use Money. The weekly email summary was a neat thing I admit, but I think there’s a lot more power in a client PFM in analyzing and reporting on spending. In the end, Mint feels more like an affiliate marketing scheme than a PFM.

To win the “best presenter” award at TC40, I honestly think that’s ridiculous, but really says more to me about the conference than Mint. For two reasons. 1) If this is the best app out of the 40, I can promptly ignore the other 39. 2) This has to be one of the best funded companies there, and I don’t think companies with VC funding should be in the running for conference grants. Those should be reserved for companies still battling in the funding game.

Wesabe launches

So, Wesabe launched today. I’ve been waiting for this since I first saw Marc’s post on the Radar. As you may know I run a personal finance site, NetworthIQ, so I’m always on the lookout for related ideas and competition. I’m also happy to discover other people thinking about how to improve the way we manage our money.

Wesabe is a compelling product that I myself will try out. Features such as tips and goals are nice community features that are also slated for NetworthIQ one of these years (though my vision of these is a bit different). I need to still explore the account uploaders, but this could be the best part of Wesabe These uploading features give Wesabe the potential to be a Quicken/Money killer.

To beat Quicken/Money, I believe an app has to get out of the transaction entry approach and solve the problem of tracking finances differently and bring a lot more to the table feature-wise (like with social features). Yet, most new web-based personal finance apps (PFMs) still rely on transaction entry and have no social features. The data is already out there in the banks’ databases, so why should we have to enter it again? Plus, banks are rolling out better applications all the time, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to compete directly with them. One of my top goals for NetworthIQ was to provide account aggregation but never require a user to enter a purchase/transaction manually. That’s why it’s incredibly simplified down to just entering account balances once a month (which is stretching the bounds of data entry far enough IMO, and still needs to simplified further with automation and import/export tools).

Like we’ve faced with NetworthIQ, there is hurdle to overcome for users to trust their financial data to a web-based application. This is why you probably won’t see the desktop PFMs die anytime soon. But, like with online banking, the time is coming and Wesabe should help.

Money stuff

I haven’t been keeping up with the money blogs very well lately, but I did catch a couple of personal finance bits of note lately.

Dilbert’s 9-point financial plan
I think this is some very sound advice. You really don’t need to get that complicated with how you manage your money.

Moneyhacks and Get Rich Slowly
J.D. started Get Rich Slowly about six months ago and has quickly risen to the top tier of the money bloggers (see pfblog.org to learn more about money blogs). He happens to be from Portland, so it’s great to see the locals doing well. He recently added another blog, moneyhacks, focused more on tools and tips. J.D. was kind enough to include NetworthIQ last week.

CRP: Personal Financial Disclosure Reports
The Center for Responsive Politics has published a fascinating look at what lawmakers are worth. Make of it what you will. But, with elections around the corner, it’s an interesting data point to consider.

What happened to Well Spent (Business Week blog)?

I was looking through my Bloglines subscriptions this morning, trying to prune back inactive blogs and seeing what kind of subscriber counts certain blogs had. It’s interesting that Business Week’s Well Spent blog only had 5 subscribers (Granted there are 8 available feeds for this blog, so there may be more subscribers across the different feeds. But, why on earth do you need 8 feed URIs?). So, I went to the site and see that Well Spent is not in the list of blogs anymore. I wonder what happened? Is it dead? Is the pf blogosphere not attractive enough for them? Are the citizen pf bloggers doing a better job?