So Labor Day is over and summer is more or less done for. Come this time of year, your wallet can often be worse for the wear (consuming a steady stream of Aperol spritzes and splurging on that dream pair of white jeans (because you’re a rebel who’s going to wear them all the goddamn time post Labor Day) will do that to you).
If you didn’t catch part 1 of this series, it’s certainly not too late to get caught up and to start on some basic organization of your money. But if you’re already a Master of Mint? Read on, finance whiz: we’ve got all the tools you need to take your money game to the next level.
Holly tries LearnVest
First things first: founder and CEO Alexa von Tobel was on an excellent episode of Girlboss Radio episode back in April, and she and Sophia talk all about why it’s especially vital for women nowadays to be super on top of this stuff. LearnVest differs from your average financial organization platform because it offers personalized plans, and you have access to real live humans via email 24/7. You can also take classes and attend events to help you better understand your financial plan.
Here’s a rundown of Holly’s introductory experience:
1. The young man I spoke with was nice enough but sounded like he was reading from a script the entire time (i.e. lots of "That’s a great question!" and "I can definitely help you out with that!")
2. The first 45-minute call is basically a preliminary discussion to collect information (beyond the initial information you fill out online) that your advisor will use to come up with a customized financial plan, which you will get a week after your call. After the initial call and before the master plan arrived, the advisor emailed me 3 "challenges" that related to our discussion. One was about planning what an emergency fund should be used for, the second was about practicing sticking to the budget we had discussed, and the third was about checking in on my money through their site every day for 3 to 5 mins. All pretty logical, yes?
3. The goals I set for myself related to paying off a credit card, building an emergency fund and saving for retirement, which all seemed pretty sound. Unfortunately, with those three basic goals factored into my income and expenses, I was left with an estimated budget of $167 per week. This is meant to cover any groceries/fun/activities/extras. Anyone who is single and living in Los Angles can attest this is nearly impossible! Considering my debt isn't outrageous, my emergency fund number isn't super high, and the amount I plan to start putting away isn't overly ambitious, I thought the number was pretty disappointing and unrealistic.
4. The conversation did do a good job of putting your financial choices right in front of you so you can see exactly how you got to where you are today and exactly what it would take to take to get where you want to be. I didn't necessarily learn anything new, but it served as a great reminder to use common sense and implement the lessons most of us learn when we are young. Like, don't live beyond your means; pay off your credit cards every month; and you don't save money by spending it, etc.
5. I'll be interested to see what comes out of the bigger-picture plan. The conversation definitely left me curious about some things. Like, based on the budget I'm expected to adhere to, what’s the timeline for paying off debt and having a suitable emergency fund? Based on the amount I mentioned saving for retirement each month, what annual income will I be looking at when I retire? A lot of numbers were discussed, but I didn't necessarily feel like there was much in the way of answers.
6. There was no creativity with how to lower your budget or payments; all the information seemed to be accepted. For example, the interest on my credit card is really high (I don't know why; I have a great credit score. It's random and not good); the interest rate was brought up and the adviser was like, "Yeah, that’s pretty high." Whereas when I spoke to my accountant, she was surprised at the percentage rate and then gave advice on how to lower it (and even offered to call in with me to make sure it came down). It would be nice if the service you’re paying for got creative with ways to nip and tuck your budget and payments wherever possible.
7. For $20 a month, I'll stick with it for a bit to see how things play out, although that will only leave me with a $162-per-week budget ;)
Tori tries Ellevest
Sallie Krawcheck was also on a tremendously enlightening episode of Girlboss Radio where she discussed the importance of the too-little-discussed investment gap. Ellevest is an online platform intended to create personalized portfolios for women and to guide them into the world of investing (a.k.a. making your money make more money). It also manages your overall financial goals and users have access to articles and resources that will help them better understand their financial future. There’s currently a waitlist, so be sure to sign up sooner rather than later if you’re interested!
Here’s a rundown of Tori’s initial experience with Ellevest:
Describe your starting knowledge about stocks and investing prior to this moment in time.
Not a ton! I have the vague memory of knowing my dad had stocks and investments when I was young, but not how any of that worked or how much he had in it. I peruse the personal finance subreddit on occasion, but more for budgeting and other finance basics. Investing and the stock market always seemed kind of intense to me.
What inspired you to start investing?
I listened to Sallie’s episode of Girlboss Radio and was inspired by what she said about the investment gender gap being as important as the wage gender gap, so I waitlisted for Ellevest back in March. Then maybe three weeks ago I looked through my Mint account, and I saw that I'd been on a bit of a spending bender the last couple of months. Not pretty! At that point I decided I should really sit down and get my money in check, and figured investing was a nice way to make sure I was saving adequately and also teach myself something in the process.
What’s been your favorite part about Ellevest so far?
It made everything really streamlined and had the right amount of information—not too overwhelming, not too patronizing. It had comparisons for portfolio management fees with Ellevest and with competitors, and also presented different ways to save best (savings account, retirement savings, investment account) depending on what your goals are. It also crunched the numbers for me about how much money I'd have by the time I retire based on my current rate of retirement savings, which was pretty cool to see laid out, because apparently I've been doing pretty well so far! I'm starting pretty small with investing at $34 a month, just to test it out, but I'm excited to figure it out more and maybe up that monthly deposit as I go along.
What’s still murky at this point/what are you still hoping to learn more about?
I'm stoked that I have an investment portfolio at all, but I'm still trying to figure out how its composition breaks down and why. Ellevest automatically suggests divisions between stocks, bonds, and alternatives, but I'm not *totally* sure what actually defines those terms, and what differentiates them. Back to Reddit it is!