Mastering your personal finances with Mint
Let's face it: keeping track of all your financial accounts is hard. Read on to learn how to use Mint and master your personal finances.
I am not affiliated with any of the products I recommend in this post. Opinions reflected within this post are solely my own.
Being able to keep track of all your financial accounts and spending is hard, whether you've just recently graduated and are about to start a full time role, or even if you're already a few years in. You may have:
Multiple bank accounts, like checking, saving, and money market (especially if your folks set accounts up for you when you were younger)
A personal brokerage account for investing (refer to this post for an intro to investing)
A separate brokerage account to administer your company's RSUs (refer to this post to learn more about RSUs)
A 401k account (and maybe an IRA account if you did a 401k rollover)
A car loan
How do people keep track of all this stuff? This is out of control, right?!
I found this very overwhelming when I graduated from college. Every weekend, I would log into each of my financial account portals to update values I kept in a spreadsheet 🤦♂️. While this process was very detailed and established good financial hygiene, it was not reasonable to maintain and I needed to find a better way.
There are multiple financial account aggregator sites in existence. The way these sites work is they have you link each of the accounts that you want them to track and then they periodically update your account balances in the background. The best aggregator sites will analyze your asset growth, notify you of debt increases, and summarize weekly changes so you can see how your personal net worth is changing over time.
Quick note: Net worth = assets - liabilities So if you want to calculate personal net worth by hand, you would add up all your assets (bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, etc.) and subtract all liabilities (meaning, debts, like a car loan).
My personal favorite is Mint because it's a one-stop shop for getting a complete view of my finances. Mint is free to use, has been around for more than a decade, provides free credit score updates, and is quite easy to add accounts to. They have both a desktop site and a mobile app (with a pretty sleek design 😁) so you can always check in on your financial picture whenever you'd like to.
Note: Make sure to set up 2FA (two-step verification). At the time of writing this post, the 2FA options for Mint are text message, phone call, and use of an Authenticator app.
Once your accounts have been added, Mint immediately starts analyzing them to derive trends. One result of these trends is that Mint can generate automated personal budget recommendations on a variety of transaction categories, such as car insurance, entertainment, restaurants. You can adjust those budgets as you'd like and Mint will automatically send you notifications if you exceed a particular budget.
Mint is an incredibly full-featured service so it can be easy to get overwhelmed initially. In the desktop site, the core tabs I look at are the Overview, Trends, and Credit Score.
The Overview tab is exactly what it sounds like. There are cards with condensed views for each of the other tabs. The most useful one for me is Accounts, which shows a listing of the balances for every account I have connected to Mint. The accounts are categorized by type (Cash, Credit Cards, Loans, Investments, Property, etc.) and you can expand the categories to see the individual accounts.
Outside of the Accounts card, another useful one is Spending (which links to the Budgets tab). There's a simple plot of how your spending this month compares against spending from the prior month.
For a more detailed look into net worth, I look at the Trends tab. This tab allows me to look at multiple aspects of my financial profile over time, such as income, spending, assets, debts, and net worth.
In the screenshot below, you can see a sample net worth trend bar chart. Hovering over any month will bring up a tooltip with a link to see all the transactions over that month that contributed to net worth changes.
What I really love about this interface is how quickly it allows me to select subsets of accounts to tabulate and re-generate graphs for. As an example, maybe instead of total net worth (which could include relatively illiquid assets such as a car), I may want to see growth over time of cash assets + personal brokerage. The flow would be:
Go into Assets > Over Time
In the From tab, select:
My personal brokerage account
And if I want to tack on RSUs, I can do that by selecting the checkbox for that other brokerage account.
The Credit Score tab on desktop has essentially the same functionality and info as the Credit Score section on the Mint mobile app. I tend to check credit scores on the mobile app more frequently than on the desktop site because Mint sends push notifications whenever it has automatically pulled an updated credit score.
Note: There are multiple credit reporting agencies, such as TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Each credit reporting agency has a separate algorithm they use to compute your credit score. Credit scores (and what they are used for) are complicated and are definitely a topic for another post 😁. For now, just know that Mint reports credit scores from TransUnion.
In addition to showing your credit score, Mint has sub-cards for common factors that affect your credit score and how your personal habits stack up. For example, on-time payments, credit utilization, and how long you have had credit accounts all affect your credit score and Mint shows you stats for each of those, as well as additional factors I didn't list.
Bonus: Investment tab
The Investment tab is one of the coolest features of Mint. If you have imported at least one investment account, this tab is very useful because it will show you stats for the performance of your holdings, percentage allocation to certain asset types or specific equities, and allows you to compare your portfolio's performance against market indices (refer to the stock investing post for a refresher on market indices).
Now that you've read this post, I encourage you to try out the features in Mint and see if you like them. The aggregation features alone are quite helpful and if you also use the trend analysis, credit score reporting, and investment insights, I think you'll find Mint to be your digital personal finance buddy!