So here’s where I tell you that I’ve already piloted our financial plan to it’s final state, but just forgot to write about it.
In reality, shortly after I wrote the last post, I ran out of steam. I haven’t read my books yet, and I just this week started picking up where I left off, very much still in the exploratory part of the process. That said, I still think I’ve learned some good stuff.
Getting our logins right
As a prelude to simply getting an accurate picture of our balance sheet, I realized the first impediment is that my wife and I have years worth of accounts with various assets in them. In some cases, they were opened for us by relatives. But simply accessing them has been a huge pain. Getting us both on a password manager has helped a lot to break down this wall.
At my job, we use 1Password, and I had gotten pretty used to using it myself. I thought it would be good to bring Jen into the fold, both for her own IT security and to give us a way to share financial logins. I opened a family account for us, which will be about $60 a year and moved all my financial account credentials into a shared vault, and Jen did the same.
Now back to that accurate picture
This turned out to go a long way to unlocking our ability to get everything in one spot. I’ve used Mint for years to track my personal cash flow. If you’re not familiar, it’s kind of like having a unified online banking for all your bank accounts and credit cards. Using 1Password, I was able to add my existing Mint account to the shared vault so that Jen can easily access it. Having the shared vault let me add her accounts to Mint. The result is one big unified view of everything, for the first time.
I have to say, one thing that was surprising to me is just how many accounts we’ve accumulated. They’ve been coming out of the woodwork. It really clarifies exactly how haphazard our lack of planning has left us. But at the same time, seeing everything in one place makes me feel much less lost.
The biggest downside to Mint is that they make money by recommending financial services to you. All the advertising is a bit much.
How about some analysis
Talking shop with a good friend of mine, he turned me on to Personal Capital (or use my referral link). It works almost the same way as Mint. You log in to all your accounts financial accounts and it aggregates them. The big difference is that it specializes in long-term financial planning, along with budgeting and cash flow. It’s a freemium service, and their upsell is wealth management services, which I haven’t tried. I’ve only just set it up, but already I’m finding it to be really insightful. I can definitely see myself using both Personal Capital and Mint.
Aside: I’ve made the decision that I trust both of these companies enough with some of my family’s most sensitive financial information, without paying them. As they say, if you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product. I don’t take that lightly at all, but this is the decision I’ve made for now. I recommend you think hard about it before making your own decision whether to use any such service.
Anyway, so far, I’ve got some noteworthy takeaways. Most importantly, it’s become clear just how out of whack our asset allocation is, due to lack of any real plan. What I really don’t want to happen is that we fast-forward 25 years and realize we’ve squandered opportunities to put our income to good long-term use. And then secondly, I’ve found it a lot easier to conceptualize our financial goals, even ones not directly related to the specifics of our financial picture. It’s just easier to think on a higher level of abstraction when the lower levels have more clarity.
Part 2 was meant to be my todo list. I’ve actually got a lot of that done, but I want to hold off on publishing it until I feel like I’ve finished my first round of research. I’ve got I’m behind my original schedule, but on the bright side, the progress I’ve made has renewed my motivation and as I resume my readings, I’m hoping I’ll find them more engaging now that I have a better picture of my household’s data to match up against the information in the books.