If you’re up for the task of organizing your finances on your own, you’ll find no shortage of free or low-cost online tools to help you do the job. With a budgeting app such as Mint.com, for example, you can track bank, credit card and loan balances, monitor your investment portfolio, set savings goals, and see your credit score. HelloWallet ($100 a year or free as an employee benefit from participating companies) also provides budgeting and investment-tracking tools, plus a financial-wellness score that digs into such areas as insurance coverage and emergency savings. You can use a calculator that determines how much you should have in your emergency cash stash free at HelloWallet. Kiplinger.com's Retirement Savings Calculator estimates the future value of your retirement savings and projects how much you need to save monthly to meet your goal.
Web tools can go a long way toward shaping up your finances, but they can’t do it all. Along with taking a more comprehensive and personalized look at your situation, a human adviser can hold your hand in a crisis. If you’re prone to panic when the market goes into free fall, for example, you may be better off working with someone who can be “a barrier between you and an overreaction,” says Arielle O’Shea, investing expert with personal finance site NerdWallet.com. And if you’re dealing with a considerable amount of wealth or don’t want to do the research and other legwork required to manage your own money, you’re better off hiring a person.
Some outfits supplement their online components with counsel from live advisers. At LearnVest.com, for example, you can use a free budgeting tool without any further commitment. If you want to work with a fee-only certified financial planner (or an investment adviser), you can have a relationship with one over the phone or via e-mail for a one-time fee of about $300, plus $19 monthly.
Empower offers a free online tool that tracks cash flow, budgeting and investments, plus an investment checkup with recommendations and an analysis of fees. If you’d like to consult a human investment adviser, you’ll be charged from 0.49% to 0.89% of your investment account balance, depending on its size.
Lisa has been the editor of Kiplinger Personal Finance since June 2023. Previously, she spent more than a decade reporting and writing for the magazine on a variety of topics, including credit, banking and retirement. She has shared her expertise as a guest on the Today Show, CNN, Fox, NPR, Cheddar and many other media outlets around the nation. Lisa graduated from Ball State University and received the school’s “Graduate of the Last Decade” award in 2014. A military spouse, she has moved around the U.S. and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two sons.
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