“I’m not good with numbers” is often an excuse for “I don’t do budgets” or “I don’t understand personal finances.” Forget those excuses. FinCon17 featured solutions that make budgeting and personal finance easy for any Boomer.
We’ve lived that life, spending way too much trying to figure out where the money went. Balancing the checkbook looking backward, rather than planning the next dollars to be spent looking forwards.
Don’t love math? Or hate spreadsheets? The technology innovators have solutions that make the numbers easy. There’s a whole emerging sector of the new technology economy focused on making your personal financial life easier, more transparent, and accountable. Financial Technology, or FinTech for short, is booming with the dominance of smartphones and smart, cloud-based applications.
We use several FinTech tools in our own personal finance journey. A lot of our favorites were at FinCon17 in Dallas. Yep, we finally made it to FinCon and here’s our ‘check-in’ photo to prove it!
For budgeting we use You Need a Budget (affectionately shortened to YNAB by financial independence enthusiasts). YNAB makes it easy to give every dollar of income a job. We pay ourselves first, then build a lifestyle within the remaining budget. What’s that mean? We allocate for tithing, savings, and investments before looking to spend anything on current consumption. We save or invest more than twenty-five percent of our income. And we plan consumption to match the remainder. YNAB makes it easy to consider future expenses that recur on longer cycles than monthly, like the annual car insurance bill. Or to plan for known future expenses where the only surprise is exactly when they will occur, like the car repair for the new water pump.
With 210,000 miles on our minivan (See: Cheap Car Fanatic: Wealth Building Cars), a new water pump isn’t an unreasonable surprise. And it’s much less than a new car payment every month.
Other Budget Management Choices
But there are similarly powerful solutions from Dave Ramsey, Every Dollar and several attractive new smartphone-centric offerings like Budgit. We discovered Budgit and HoneyFi at the recent FinCon17 conference for personal finance bloggers and technology. Budgit helps distinguish between wants and needs and automates your goals. HoneyFi emphasizes helping couples play personal finances as a team.
Too many people think you must be poor if you must budget. The opposite is true. It’s how the successful build wealth. Your wants always exceed your means. Pick a budgeting FinTech tool and use it.
FinCon17 – FinTech Expo
We recently attended FinConExpo 2017 in Dallas, Texas along with about 1,700 other bloggers focused in some area of personal finance. FinCon17 included a pitch competition for emerging FinTech companies. And the Expo Hall featured many current FinTech offerings. The FinTech tools we found destroy any excuse Boomers have for not mastering personal finances, from budgeting to investing.
The investment world is awash with highly competitive offerings to deliver better real-world investment performance for individuals. Our own adviser, Personal Capital, was at FinCon17 promoting its free financial tracking app – generally acknowledged to be the best available. We use Personal Capital’s (affiliate link for $50 savings) to track our net worth and financial performance. Personal Capital is also our high-tech, data-informed financial advisor, using low-cost management tools to assure proper asset allocation for our risk tolerance. Like other so-called roboadvisers, Personal Capital uses data analytics to evaluate market opportunities. Unlike some competitors, they combine personal advisers with the data and add behavioral economics and machine learning for deeper insight.
Other data-driven or informed roboadvisers at FinCon included Wealthsimple. Wealthsimple has a much lower minimum investment threshold than PersonalCapital and so skews to younger, millennial investors. Wealthsimple’s tagline, “Investing on Autopilot,” is a fair summary. Again, there’s no excuse for being bad at investing with solutions like Personal Capital and Wealthsimple available to do it for you.
Tune up your 401k or 403b
Blooom has a unique focus. Blooom manages your 401k plan within the options offered by your employer. The typical 401k offers a limited range of choices. Optimizing within the specific menu options offered within your employer’s plan is Blooom’s unique feature. This seems a perfect solution for a lot of people willing to max out their contributions but unable or unwilling to wade through the choices offered by their employer (or the employer’s 401k administrator). Blooom is one of our gems from FinCon17.
Brokerage and Investment Fund FinTech
Roboadvisers are hot. But the traditional brokerages and mutual fund families have powerful tools to help you make decisions from retirement goals to individual investment decisions. Some of the powerhouses pitching their tools at FinCon17 included:
- Schwab, our personal brokerage house, and the original low-cost brokerage innovator. Schwab now has its own roboadviser offering in Schwab Intelligent Portfolios. Schwab’s roboadviser stands out with zero (yes, 0) advisory fees, service fees, or commissions and a low minimum investment threshold of $5,000.
- TD Ameritrade, best t-shirt of the event, front “Get With the Program, People” and back “The TD Ameritrade Program.” TD Ameritrade is a favorite of active investors managing their own portfolio because of its comprehensive evaluation and tracking tools.
- Vanguard, the low-cost index fund pioneer. The Vanguard Retirement Checklist is a good place to start. Success is more than just rate of return. The checklist helps you consider the issues outside of your portfolio too.
- Fidelity, great, fast retirement score tool, Fidelity Retirement Score. We’re in the green at 141 out of 150 without counting real estate and 150 with real estate. We like Fidelity’s Retirement Rules of the Road on the same page.
- Rowe Price, offers an abundance of information on retirement income strategies including a good summary webinar to get you started, Developing your retirement income strategy.
We’ve owned funds and used the tools offered by each of these through our investing career.
They all want you to succeed because they win when you win. That’s why they were at FinCon17.
A few FinTech innovators that wowed us.
FinCon FinTech Pitch Competition
The winner of the FinTech17 pitch competition was www.TakeCommandHealth.com. Take Command Health is currently in eight states but plans to go nationwide soon. The sleek smartphone app surveys all the health insurance options available based on where you live, both on and off the Affordable Care Act Exchanges. It even includes the religious share plans, like Medi-Share (also at FinCon17). Based on your preferences, prescriptions, and income it suggests the best matches. Take Command Health represents consumers, not sellers. It helps consumers be proactive buyers. The win is well deserved.
Another health-related app we love is Amino. Amino takes the guesswork out of healthcare. One problem with American healthcare is that consumers/patients have no idea what things cost until after the money is spent and they receive the bill. Amino shows you that the same service (say an MRI) may have a very different cost or out-of-pocket outcome depending on where you go. This is a great tool to be an informed consumer. No one cares more about your money than you do. Look before you leap (or x-ray).
Big Data to Rule Them All
Cinch promises to do for the rest of your financial life what Personal Capital does for investing. They’re starting with credit cards and a car and automobile insurance comparators, but have big plans for far more. This could be the Amazon of financial services, offering a one-stop place for effective comparison shopping tailored to your preferences and history. The management team impresses as very sophisticated about Big Data and the power of machine learning and behavioral economics. As a result, Cinch can help consumers produce better financial lives with the same income.
Other FinTech categories were represented at FinCon17 too.
Square is our go-to point-of-sale solution for credit/debit card processing and easy data connections between bank accounts and accounting software.
There are some interesting industry-specific point-of-sale (POS) systems, but for most businesses, most of the time, Square is hard to beat for power and simplicity.
Accounting solutions are getting easier and easier.
For the consultant that sells time, Freshbooks makes accounting and billing easy. Freshbooks doesn’t handle the complexities of inventory driven businesses. But for a lot of small businesses, Freshbooks offers an easy to use and understand interface. It’s available on a variety of devices and cloud-based so you don’t have to worry about backup. The data lives in the cloud, not your local devices. But critically, Freshbooks simplifies billing. Why do the work, if you’re not going to emphasize getting paid?
For those businesses requiring the complexity of double-entry bookkeeping for accruals, inventory accounting, and more, we’re loving Xero. QuickBooks Desktop by Intuit was the go-to-solution but the desktop upgrade path and various versions fragmented and confused QuickBooks users. Xero is cloud-based so every user is always using the most current version of Xero. QuickBooks (Intuit) has its own cloud-based answer with QuickBooks Online (QBO). But we prefer Xero for a few reasons. Xero:
- Uses the language of small business not the accounting terminology of QuickBooks.
- Handles inventory issues better than QBO.
- Protects the chart of accounts from inadvertent changes better than QBO. Generally, your double-entry bookkeeping is only as good as your chart of accounts. Fixing mistakes in QBO can be frustrating and time-consuming.
Both Xero and QBO can be a little clunky working with estimates and partial or progress invoicing. Both have workarounds but expect improvements from both in the near term.
Cloud-based means current
Cloud-based FinTech, like Xero and QBO, is not static. The programs improve with each agile development cycle. There’s no reason to wait for the next desktop version release. You’re always using the most current version. Everyone is. The best choice today might change tomorrow. If you’re already bought into one, no pressing need to switch. Your gripes will eventually be addressed. But it’s good to have choices.
A good review of some of the best cloud accounting solutions is at www.cloudwards.net.
Cloudwards does a nice job of summarizing the fit of particularly cloud accounting solutions to various types and sizes of businesses. There is no one right solution. Not everyone needs every feature. But everyone needs a solid accounting solution if you’re serious about being a business and staying out of trouble with the IRS. Cloudwards can help you find the right accounting solution to fit your business. The article and individual solution reviews include both pros and cons for comparison. Freelancers and retail stores and more can each find good guidance for your specific needs.
Credit and Debit Cards
At FinCon17 we saw a variety of credit card related tools to variously maximize points or pick the best card considering fees, terms, and interest and your personal use of credit. We already mentioned Cinch Financial as one of these.
Our favorite credit card FinTech is Debitize. Debitize automatically pays your credit card from your bank account as individual charges arrive. Accounting down to the transaction is easier. Debitize is great for users who pay-off credit cards every month and carry no balance. In the contest between debit vs. credit cards, credit cards still offer better fraud security than debit cards. For those of us who hate debt, Debitize gives us the best of both worlds. Security with no interest plus bonus points. Debitize is another newly discovered gem of an app.
Are you still balancing the checkbook looking backward, rather than planning the next dollars to be spent looking forward?
More to Come
We have a few other FinTech solutions and we’ll share in coming articles. Planning a couple more in-depth stories with interviews.
In the meantime, we’ll share some of the other articles coming out of FinCon17. Since we met some peers in the financial blogging community, you’ll be introduced to some of our favorites.
Here’s an article from Forbes by, Janet Beery-Johnson. https://www.forbes.com/sites/janetberryjohnson/2017/11/01/my-favorite-fintech-from-fincon-2017/#4a948457710b
And a collection of FinCon17 recaps compiled by Physician On Fire
- Purpose, Community and Beer: A #FinCon17 Adventure | Adventure Rich
- FinCon17: What the hell just happened? | Think Save Retire
- The Power of Community, at #FinCon17 — and Everywhere Else | Our Next Life
- REVIEW: #FinCon17 – What a Rush?! | Future Proof MD
- I Found My Tribe! FinCon 2017 | Slowly Sipping Coffee
- My FinCon 2017: 4 days of Accidental Connections, Beer & Memories – Minafi
- Beer and BBQ in Dallas. Is Pecan Lodge the best BBQ ever? Yes, it is. | 1500 Days
- Adventures In Tipping: FinCon 2017 | The Happy Philosopher
- Oh What A Week! #FinCon17 Ya’ll Are Awesome | Life Zemplified
- Most Fun For the Cost of a Root Canal (#FinCon17) | Human Business Works
- #FinCon17 What Really Happened (on Twitter) | Northern Expenditure
- What’s My Story? Recap of #FinCon17 | Yes, I Work in My Pajamas
- 10 New Fintech Companies To Watch Out For! (Plus Highlights From FinCon 2017) | Budgets Are Sexy
- How Much Does It Cost to Go to FinCon (And a FinCon Recap) | Financial Panther
- My FinCon 2017 Review | Debt Free Climb
- My Favorite FinTech From FinCon 2017 | Janet Berry-Johnson / Forbes
- 9 Game-Changing Blogging Takeaways from FinCon 2017 | Do You Even Blog
- Why FinCon 2017 was Amazing and I’m Going to FinCon 2018 in Orlando | The Mastermind Within
- FinCon17 Dallas, TX Recap | Rebel with a Plan
- FinCon17 Recap | A Gai Shin Life
- Don’t Make a Pest of Yourself | Bayalis is the Answer
- Friday Gratitude: Censored | 1500 Days
- Playing with FIRE Documentary | Millennial Money
- FinCon 2017: So Much to Take in During a 4 Day Blitz | My Family on a Budget
- Life as a Living Statue, Party Crashing, & New Friends (FinCon Recap) Fetching Financial Freedom
- The Ultra-Official FinCon 2017 Review | The Happy Philosopher
- My FinCon Story — Fun Times and Regrets | Chief Mom Officer
- FinCon Madness | Millennial Revolution
- MilBlogging17 was awesome! (Oh, and FinCon17 too.) | The Military Guide
- Five Lessons from the FinCon17 FIRE Panel | Easy Does It FI
- 5 Themes of #FinCon17: Humility, Presence, Heart, Potential, and Collaboration | Tiller
- Impostor Syndrome Was Stopping Me From Making More Money | Mixed Up Money
- My 6 Favorite FinCon17 Moments | Route to Retire
- Takin’ Care of Business: FinCon 2017 Recap
- I Finally Went to FinCOn — Here’s What I Learned
- Figuring Out My Conference ROI — FinCon17. Wasit Worth It? | Michelle Jackson
- I Know a Lot of Nerds | Retirement Manifesto
- FinCon 2017: Putting Faces to Blogs, Beer and Take-Aways | Apathy Ends
- How FinCon Changed Our lives for the Better | Two Cup House
- I Finally Went to FinCon – Here’s What I Learned | My Money Wizard
- Forget the Fluffy Recap, Here’s the Real Dirt on FinCon17… | Miss Mazuma
- FinCon 2017 Recap: What YOU Need to Hear | Northern Expenditure
- The Five Biggest Lessons From FinCon 17 | Inspiring Life Design
- The Incredible People I Met at FinCon 2017 | Distilled Dollar
- My Experience at FinCon 2017 | Creative Scale
- My First FinCon, Total Groupie Mode | Money is Not Taboo
- FinCon 2017: Better Late Than Never | Waffles on Wednesday
- FinCon17 Recap: A Canadian’s Perspective | Tawcan
- When Money Media Nerds Meet: FinCon17 Trip Report | Sherrill St. Germain
- My First FinCon, Y’all! What I Learned at FinCon 2017 | Frugal Chic Life
- FinCon Review: The Woodstock of Personal Finance | Uncommon Dream