Planning your financial future can be a daunting and challenging task. Most of us don't even like to talk about money for too long, much less sit down and ponder how much or how little money we might have in the future.
Additionally, meeting with a financial planner can come with a hefty price tag, but this doesn't mean that you have to wait until you start earning six figures to meet with one. Nowadays, we have access to online financial planning that is more affordable than a traditional setup with a financial planner.
What Is LearnVest?
LearnVest is one of the online financial planning companies that promise to make planning for your financial future easier. LearnVest is still pretty young, as it's only been around since 2009. It offers budgeting tools and additional resources and the advice of an online financial planner for an additional fee. In 2015, it merged with NorthWestern mutual which helped it move away from its startup roots, and turn into an even larger company that was able to offer more to their customers.
Features Of LearnVest
LearnVest has a lot of features that to help you adequately plan for your financial future. Read on about some of these features below:
- Paid or Unpaid. LearnVest maximizes its ability to offer you low-cost financial planning by providing a paid and a free version of the service. With the free version of the service, you'll get access to LearnVest's budgeting tool, and a dashboard will reflect how it can help you manage your budget.
- Knowledge Center. LearnVest has a Knowledge Center that includes hundreds of articles and videos that go over details about financial planning that you might need to know. It's a broad and general overview, and this is offered in both the paid and the free version.
- Personalized Financial Advice. You can receive financial advice unique to you. This is a premium LearnVest perk, and you'll receive guidance regarding your finances as well as access to the information in the Knowledge Center. LearnVest premium charges one time-setup fee of $299 with a monthly fee of $19 for the lifetime of your subscription. LearnVest keeps your finances in mind by giving you the option of paying this hefty start-up fee in three payments of $99 or two payments of $149.
- Smart Profile. This is used when you first sign up for the service. You'll input information such as how much you earn each year, what your current goals are, and what your budget is at that time. Additionally, you'll link a savings account, credit card, retirement account, or checking account to your profile. You'll also input info like student loans if that applies to you. Following that, you'll be able to have a fifteen-minute phone call with your financial planner.
- Active Financial Planners. Depending on what your goals are, your financial planner is going to go with you every step of the way to ensure that you're making the right moves. You'll be assigned budgeting homework and the financial planner will tell you whether or not you need to open new accounts to keep your finances separate. This is a premium feature.
There are many other long term features that come with setting up an account with LearnVest; the premium option will yield more of the benefits of having a personal financial planner.
While LearnVest is cheaper than a traditional financial planner, it still comes with a few hefty fees. For example, you still have to pay a large upfront fee of $299, and you'll be paying $19 each month after that. However, this is still a steal given that the average yearly price of a financial planner can go up to $1,9000. Of course, you can always stick with the free option, but you won't have access to phone calls and advice from your financial planner.
How To Sign-Up And Get Started
You might be curious as to how you might sign up for LearnVest. There aren't any requirements, and you can sign up and try out the free version, and you can move to the paid version whenever you'd like.
Here's how you'll get started (this is how to sign up works if you have the paid version if you have the free version, then the steps regarding a one on one with your financial planner won't apply to you):
- You’re going to fill out all of your financial information and tell your Planner a little a bit about yourself in the Smart Profile feature that was mentioned above.
- You and your planner will discuss your money goals and evaluate your current habits. This where you'll find out if you're on the right track or if you'll need more help from your financial planner to help you reach your goals over time.
- You'll get a customized program that LearnVest promises will give you a 360-degree view of your finances.
- From there, you’ll receive step by step instructions that will help you get on the right track to meeting your financial goals. Once you’re set up, you’ll be prompted to have a phone call with your financial planner.
- Over the following month(s), you'll receive tasks (example: opening another bank account, closing an old spending account, re-evaluating your credit cards) that will help you make the progress that you need to make to stay on track.
Pros And Cons
LearnVest is an excellent tool for those of us that have been dragging our feet when it comes down to looking at our finances. However, LearnVest isn't without its disadvantages, and there are certainly a few of those to go right beside the company's wins.
- Tasks to help you stay on track with your financial goals. Your financial planner will review the state of your finances with you, and they'll be working on ways for you to improve your finances or move more steadily towards your goal. They will set up tasks for you to complete, and you'll receive an email when your new task is ready. The tasks can be anything from going on a spending diet for a few weeks to a month or just watching an educational video about finances.
- Use it at home or on the go. Are you feeling unsure about buying that new piece of furniture for your sitting room? ThinkVest's mobile app can certainly help with curbing your impulse spending habit, especially since you can open the app at any time and you'll be able to see how your current finances are affecting your goals. You'll get a more detailed view from the desktop version of the website when you check in at home.
- No meetings necessary. Your financial planner will make it their goal to get back with you as soon as possible. You may not go more than 24 hours without hearing back from them if you have a question. You can email your financial planner whenever you like.
- You’ll have to wait for information on your Credit Score. LearnVest's competitors like Mint will show you how your budget, cards, and finances relate to your credit score. Unfortunately, you'll have to log on to credit score website to be able to keep track of this; it would be helpful to have it all in one place.
- No face to face interaction. It's not unreasonable to want to have a face to face meeting with the individual that knows everything about your finances and will be guiding you for the foreseeable future. You'll never meet with your financial planner in person, or over web chat. However, you will communicate with a helpful and friendly financial planner via phone or email.
- If you have multiple investments, LearnVest can’t help you manage them. If you’d like to see how your current investments relate to your financial goals, you’ll have to keep up with those through some other medium, or on your own. LearnVest is simply there to help you manage your finances regarding retirement accounts, saving accounts, credit card debt, student loan repayment, and saving for your long term goals.
- Limited Features in the Mobile App. While the mobile app is an excellent idea for LearnVest to incorporate into their services, you’ll find that some LearnVest features are pretty limited on the app. You may not be able to catalog all of your purchases at once, but you can always log on to LearnVest’s website to view all of your information.
How It Compares
LearnVest certainly has the potential to knock it's competitors, like traditional financial planners, out of the water. It has low rates and is extremely accessible, whether you'd like to access it on your phone or the computer. LearnVest also puts itself ahead of its competitors by allowing you to connect with your financial planner via email whenever you need. However, you might want to know what the competition is offering before you invest.
YNAB gets its name by using an acronym for “You Need A Budget,” and you probably do need their help if you're looking into the right budget app for you. YNAB believes that you can achieve financial success and security by following four simple rules. These rules are:
- Every dollar you spend should have a purpose. So, all of your money is saved and divided into categories so that you never have an excess of extra cash that you might overspend with. Examples of those categories are the budget for your vacation savings, the budget for your clothes purchases or a budget for how much you eat out.
- All expenses should be accounted into your budget, even if they don't happen frequently but they occur outside of a one-time purchase. For example, if you get your nails done every two months, that should still be counted in your budget, regardless of the fact that you're not going as often as once a week.
- Flexibility will help you with managing your finances so that you can pull from other categories if you come up short in another one.
- Your finances should be set up so that you'll always spend and live off of what you earned in the month before so that you can crush the paycheck to paycheck cycle.
YNAB offers live classes to help you manage your finances, and it only costs $5 each month, and it's free for a year for students. You will not get a personal planner the way that you would with LearnVest.
Mint is a good option for students that can't afford to pay for a monthly financial planning service. The Mint app helps you put all of your financial accounts in one place, it will remind you when bills are due, generate your credit score for free, and you can link it to your checking or savings account and have your information protected by their 256-bit encryption level.
One major advantage that Mint has over LearnVest is that you can see your credit score as well as your spending habits, savings account and more, but all in one place. To elaborate, LearnVest will handle all other aspects of planning your financial future, but you won't be able to see your credit score and how it relates to your finances on their app or from their website. However, Mint is not promising to have an actual person go over your finances and tell you where to make a few changes.
If you're comfortable with just keeping track of your finances, so that you know what causes your paycheck to dwindle each month, then an app like Mint might be a good fit. If you want something a bit more comprehensive, then LearnVest is the better choice because it's analyzing your spending habits as Mint does, and/ helping you plan for your financial future.
Is LearnVest Right For You?
LearnVest forces you to address your financial fears head-on and to address any crucial mistakes that you might be making so that they can help you fix them, one step at a time.
Additionally, LearnVest is a great alternative if you need an actual financial planner to guide you because the price is far less high than recurring, in-person meetings with a financial planner. If you don't think that you need a financial planner just yet, apps that only track your spending might be a better fit until you're ready to make a transition to a program like LearnVest.