June 29, 2010

Mint Adds Goals to Help Plan Your Financial Future

Mint.com is quickly turning into a single stop venue to not only capture your current financial picture, and graph how you are doing in terms of spending and savings from your financial history, but it is also helping you set marks for the future - with the launch of Goals, a new tab now available for all users, who can leverage the site's relationships with various financial institutions and intelligent calculators to see how much money they should be saving to achieve one's life targets. And even if you opt not to sign up with new banking institutions immediately, the site's basics help you stomach the tough realities and importance of socking money away even when it seems you can't afford it.

While Mint.com previewed the new Goals feature at the end of April, the tab just went live for all users, between budgets and trends. As you can expect, the site encourages you to choose from a list of preset goals, select an end date or affordable amount, and then, once saved, you can track Mint.com to see how close you are at achieving this goal.

Mint.com Has Many Preset Goals

For example, when looking to buy a home, Mint.com asks your annual income, and prefills with average mortgage rates, 20% downpayment, insurance and property tax data. The more you earn, the more you can afford. It even provides "Aggressive" and "Conservative" options should you be more fiscally responsible or prefer to live dangerously.

You Can Set Criteria In Mint.com To Gauge Home Purchase Planning

Speaking of dangerous, as a parent of twins, simply calculating college costs can be scary indeed. One can set estimated costs per year, the number of years the student plans to attend college, and their current age to start the calculators in motion. In fact, Mint.com says we should be saving more than a thousand dollars per month, every month, per child, to be prepared for a good school, so that is quite daunting. Luckily, they do offer a way to get a 529 plan started to help with that process.

It Could Cost $200k to Save for One Kid's College. Gulp.

Mint Says to Save $1,035 Per Child Per Month for a $25k/year Education

Where I think the Goals function falls a little short is that it first, doesn't tap into your existing data on the site, as it could help you understand how much you make on average, and it also relies on you to choose how much things will cost in the future. Why not suggest prices for specific colleges, cars or geographies for instance, when buying a home? In these simple models, you say whether your child will attend a $10,000 a year university or a $30,000 one, and you decide whether you think you earn $30,000 a year, or $300,000.

Mint.com, now part of Intuit, can make quite a bit of its own revenue through referrals of its customers to financial institutions that offer the very plans that make sense to achieve these goals, so in some recursive way, these goals push Mint.com's goals further forward. I do plan on investigating if it makes sense to get serious about my kids' college plans, and yes, we may even need to plan on getting one of those super cool minivans everyone is talking about once baby #3 shows up, so I'll tap Mint.com for suggestions on saving there as well. It's a goal, right?

If you are a Mint.com user, check out Goals here: https://wwws.mint.com/goal.event