Peek Into Our Lives: How the LearnVest Team Manages Their Money

Allison Kade
Posted

Ever since LearnVest launched the newly redesigned Money Center, you’ve been telling us how excited you are, and all the ways it’s changing how you manage your money.

Well, guess what? Everyone in the LearnVest office is just as excited!

Okay, sure, we work here, but every LearnVest employee also uses the Money Center in his or her own life. So we definitely have a few tricks up our sleeves on how to use it to best advantage.

Here’s why we love the new LearnVest Money Center and how we use it to better our own lives.

Alexa von Tobel, Founder & CEO

I’m obsessed with the LearnVest Money Center, and not because I run this company. You don’t found a startup by being disorganized, and I love data. This is data for my money, which I can sort and organize however I want.

First, I love tracking everything. I’ve linked every single one of my financial accounts. I am getting married, and LearnVest is helping me and my fiance sync up: Together, we keep track of every single dollar, from savings accounts to other assets. We now share a detailed budget.

I log in to the Money Center every morning because it allows me a minute or two to see my credit card, his credit card and if there are any transactions that are inaccurate, without signing into a ton of different online accounts.

Then, I obsessively make sure every transaction is categorized–since I’m hyperorganized, instead of having the 15 or so folders LV has as a default, I have almost 25, like “wedding” and “dry cleaning” (which I’m trying to cut back on). Whenever I’m trying to save in a certain area, I make a folder for it, so I can see trends just for that–did I spend more or less on dry cleaning this month?–and so those little charges don’t get hidden. I keep a special folder for my fiance’s sports hobby, so I know our total picture.

Another trick that works for me? If I’m spending, say, $200 on average for a certain expense, I’ll lower the budget on that folder to maybe $175, to motivate myself to overachieve. As the warning trends toward red, I get fired up to come in under budget for my newly revised benchmark.

Finally, my fiance and I have set goals together through the Money Center, like buying a home, starting to save for future kids’ education, retirement, etc. and we can watch our progress online. Best of all, in order to set goals, we had to agree on them, which, alone, gets us organized.

Last but not least, as someone who’s had a sneak peek at our iPhone app, I am excited about the ability to categorize cash transactions on the go and read LearnVest stories in the easiest, friendliest format ever.

John Gardner, Chief Operations Officer & Chief Financial Officer

I like how LearnVest stories are integrated into the new Money Center dashboard, so I can read articles that interest me at the same time as I manage my money. I also enjoy how easy it is to make a budget, and LV’s suggested guidelines help me.

I get a lot out of the simplicity of the foldering system in the Financial Inbox, which lets me categorize each of my expenses however I want so I can see visually how I’m doing. I’ve been using it to track all my expenses for my upcoming wedding in one place. I have a specific budget and folder for the wedding, so I can track my spending to the dollar.

Ainslie Simmonds, Chief Marketing and Product Officer

I love the Money Center because it keeps me honest.

It is so easy to tell myself that I only spend a few hundred on restaurants, but lo and behold, there it is, staring right at me that I spend much more. Once you get past the shock, you realize how incredibly helpful it is to know the truth so you can make adjustments based on what is really important to you (a dinner alone with my husband) vs. what could easily be replaced with something else (pasta with the kids at a mediocre restaurant when we can do noodles and sauce at home).

I also love keeping on top of my investment accounts. In addition to tracking our retirement accounts, I really like being able to check the kids’ 529 plans. Having that number right in front of us as a goal makes it easy to say no to other things; we want to contribute as much as possible for education so our kids don’t have to carry a huge debt burden.

My husband and I customize the tool by hiding the accounts that don’t affect our personal situation, like business credit cards. Keeping out that noise helps us focus on what is most important.

Carrie Sloan, Editor in Chief

The best thing for me about the Money Center is having my budget and my complete financial plan in the same place. It makes it so easy to click back and forth and see how much I should be allocating to what and stay on track for big goals: Like, was I supposed to ramp up my retirement savings next month? When will I reach my goal of saving for the baby I’m about to have? And when do I get to start saving for my next vacation? I don’t think there’s anywhere else on the internet that I could do this!

Karim Naraghi, Vice President of Business Development

I really like the new Smart Budget, which visually reinforces that I can live the lifestyle I want within the financial parameters that I’ve created—it feels great to be at or under budget on my expenses every month.

A tip I’ve learned: I would recommend spending 15 minutes classifying as many of your transactions into folders when you first get started, so all future transactions are classified accurately. That will allow you to use the tool on a consistent basis, knowing that your transactions will go into the correct folder, and count toward the appropriate budgeting and long-term goal.

I would also recommend linking all of your accounts for the fullest financial picture. Do it once and you’ll get a real-time snapshot of your net worth, which, over the long-term, is predicated on how well you stick to your budget and goals.

Jacquelyn White, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships

My husband and I just started a small side business, so the Money Center lets us keep all of our personal finances and business finances organized easily. Since our personal finances are so tied to our business finances, we can keep track of everything in one place.

I also love the Priority Goals feature! I can track my progress every time I log in.

Carolyn Norton, Senior Software Engineer

The reason I use LearnVest Money Center is to stay financially responsible. It is especially important to me as a working mother—I need to know that the money I earn and contribute to my family (in exchange for the time I spend away from home) is used cleverly, which to me means affording a great time together, saving enough and being debt-free.

I have been a devoted user of the Money Center for over a year now, and love the new version for its improved simplicity and intuitive navigation. Now I can monitor the ins and outs of my cash flow, and visualize my spending in the Trends section.

Before LearnVest, I did the math in Excel spreadsheets and sometimes on the back of an envelope, literally. But the new tool is so easy to use, it’s addictive, and even fun!

I am very happy to have been a part of building this tool. I really want to share my passion with other people and help them reach their financial goals, too.

Aamir Basheer, Director of Business Analytics

More than any one specific feature, the whole methodology behind the Money Center has totally changed the way I budget. I’ve used other budgeting tools in the past, like Mint.com, which tend to weight each section of my budget equally, like rent and dining out and travel.

The new approach with LearnVest’s Money Center breaks out my budget into bigger categories than that: my income, the essentials I need to live, my lifestyle choices and my goals. Which makes sense, since my restaurant budget isn’t exactly on par with rent. Tying my accounts and budget in with my goals has also helped me think about my long-term future while budgeting … I’d like to buy a home within about five years and pay off my student loans, and this helps me conceptualize that.

Tiffany Cowley, Creative & Marketing Director

The Money Center IS my life, because my husband (LearnVest’s Head of Product) built it! Ha, just kidding. My favorite part is seeing the averages we spend each month. It helps me set an accurate budget and see where we need to scale back. Like restaurants. Ouch. That was a harsh reality.

Corey Laffel, Account Manager

I love how I can see exactly how much money I am wasting on the “2 Cs” in my life: cabs and coffee. Creating a special folder labeled C lets me know exactly how much money each month I am putting toward these two NYC vices … I am working on spending less in this category by taking trains and buses more, and brewing my own!

Teron Samuel, Client Services Manager

I love that I can exclude accounts in LearnVest’s Money Center. For example, I have shared accounts with my girlfriend and with my mom—I want them connected to my account so I can keep an eye on everything, but I don’t want those “extra” accounts to factor into my monthly budget. The new Money Center lets me do that. That’s the perfect balance I never seemed able to strike when I used Mint.com.

More than that, I also love that LearnVest’s Smart Budget doesn’t just tally up my numbers but gives me guidance on what my budget should be, which is very helpful.

Laura Shin, Senior Editor

My favorite part of the new Money Center is the Smart Budget setup. I love how it shows you what percent of your income you are spending on your essential expenses (housing, transportation, groceries and utilities), plus what percent you are spending on your financial priorities.

I especially find the little slider that shows you how long it will take to reach a goal extremely helpful. My current priorities right now are saving for emergencies and retirement, and this tool helps me visualize the fact that, in order to achieve them, I’ll need to ratchet down my spending. Sliding it in one direction, I see that the tradeoff to reaching my goal more quickly is that I’ll have to save more money upfront, while sliding it back shows me that the tradeoff to having more to live on now is that I will reach my goal later.

Jeff Green, General Manager of Financial Products

I love that I can make smart decisions to adjust my budget based on what I’m spending on average over time in each of my folders. I then share my budget with my Certified Financial Planner® who gives me advice while looking at my actual numbers. My CFP sees exactly how I’m spending and my Financial Plan is based on real data, not “guesstimates.” The future is here!

Libby Kane, Staff Writer

I love the new graph feature! I already use the Financial Inbox to sort my transactions (which charges are for groceries, which are for transportation). The best part of the new Money Center is that there’s no need to scroll back through each folder to try to keep track of what I’ve spent in each category every month. Now, I can just click over to the Trends tab and it’s spelled out in an easy-to-read graph.

Amadeus Junqueira, Senior Software Developer

My favorite part of the new Money Center is the beautiful data visualization. Not only are the visualizations great to look at, but they also help me solidify my budget in my mind. It’s so easy to see my finances, spending and path for the future when all the info is so clear in front of me.

Alden Wicker, Assistant Editor & Social Media Coordinator

I like the Money Center because the trends show me not only if I’m sticking to my budget for each category every month, but if my cost-cutting is working (I love downward trends!) and whether my budget is actually realistic.

If I’m consistently spending less or more in a category, I know I need to make changes in my spending habits or change my budget to accommodate the difference.

Sara Gesser, Director of Human Resources & Internal Recruiting

It’s really compelling for me to have the ability to see my net worth immediately. Although it’s nerve-wracking to watch the constant fluctuations, it’s also reassuring! It can be tough to see your net worth as it changes, shrinks and grows, but it’s good to know the facts and watch yourself make progress.

Becky Malkin, Product Associate

My favorite new feature in the Money Center is the “trends” view that gives you all of the charts and graphs showing your spending across time. I just tightened up my budget to find some extra money to put to retirement each month, so I love looking at this view within each of my folders in the Financial Inbox so I can see how my spending compares with my new budget.

Sam Valiquette, Software Developer

My two favorite features of the new Money Center:

  • Seeing a day-by-day breakdown of transactions in any given month
  • Comparing how my budget lines up with what LV recommends

More than anything, the Money Center truly conveys that LearnVest is here to help.

Want to go to the Money Center right now? We’ll take you there.

  • Jtzagami

    Are Alexa and John getting married, or is that just a coincidence?

    Also, Ainslie mentioned hiding business accounts.  How does one do this?  

    Is it possible yet to separate accounts from the same institution?

    • LibbyKane

      Hi Jtzagami! Actually, the simultaneous engagements are just a coincidence. 

      As far as hiding accounts, you just pop into the account center once you log into LearnVest, click on the account on the left-hand side, and then in the window that appears, choose to “exclude” the account. This will remove all transactions from the account and you can always undo it.

  • Alli

    So how does Money Center differ from Mint.com?

    • LibbyKane

      Hi Alli! LearnVest deploys a technology similar to that which
      Mint.com uses to aggregate your financial accounts in one secure place.

      In addition to the Money Center, LearnVest’s leading tool to
      help you get organized, LearnVest offers financial plans through LearnVest
      Planning Inc., where you can connect one-on-one with a Certified Financial
      Planner™.  If you have any
      questions on how a financial plan can help you, please email us at
      support@learnvestplanning.com!