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Mint.com Launches Automated Financial Advice Feature

By Erik Folgate

Mint.com rolled out a new feature on their website this past Tuesday that gives users financial advice based on their unique money situation. The financial advice is automated and based on a set of core principles pre-determined by the Mint.com team. Instead of only tracking your net worth and budgeting habits, Mint will now start giving targeted financial suggestions and recommendations based on the financial information it gathers from you on a daily basis.

Here is the press release:

Mint.com Launches Beta Test of First Advice Feature

Financial Fitness provides actionable steps to better financial health

Mountain View, Calif., April 28, 2009 – Mint.com (www.mint.com), the nation’s leading online personal finance service, today released Financial Fitness, a new feature available in beta to current Mint.com users. This launch continues the service’s progress from providing valuable financial management information, to delivering actionable recommendations. While Mint.com already shows users their entire net worth in a clear and simple interface, Financial Fitness goes further, suggesting specific steps to improve that financial standing. Starting today, ten percent of Mint.com’s more than 1 million users will gain access to this new feature, helping to refine it before its broad launch early this summer.

“Most financial advice makes smart money management seem complicated, and it’s not,” said Aaron Patzer, founder and CEO of Mint.com. “The basics of personal financial management are simple and can be easily understood and practiced by everyone. We designed Financial Fitness to show that to our users and get them started.”

Financial Fitness defines five personal finance principles and specifies the steps everyone should take on a weekly, monthly and annual basis to put them into action. Integrated directly into users’ automated Mint.com service, which tracks their spending and investments every day, Financial Fitness recognizes and alerts users when they are on- or off-track in achieving financial health.

The five money-saving principles at the core of Mint.com’s Financial Fitness advice are:

1. Know your Money

2. Spend Less than you Earn

3. Use Debt Wisely

4. Invest Your Savings

5. Prepare for the Unexpected

For each core principle, Mint.com defines the tasks a user needs to do to be fiscally fit, whether keeping to a budget, avoiding late fees, saving money, or making a retirement contribution. Mint.com not only shows users the steps they need to take, but also explains why they’re important. The approach is distinctive in four key ways:

1. Alerts users, through integration with the user’s Mint.com account, when key “Achieve-Mints” are, or are not, being met – like going a full month with no bank fees.

2. Makes each step immediately actionable, with direct access to Mint-approved tools, calculators, and providers that help them make real progress in real time.

3. Reveals new steps toward improvement on an ongoing basis, based on each user’s individual situation.

4. Tracks progress toward greater financial fitness in an engaging way.

“Whether their ultimate financial goal is getting out of debt, investing for college or a home, or saving for retirement, everyone should follow the fundamentals outlined by Financial Fitness,” added Patzer. “We not only make it easier to understand how to get financially fit, but add a little fun, with the ability to earn points toward the goal of achieving 100% fitness. Like any goal – from weight loss, to video game domination, or getting a promotion –specific, actionable plans help people stay on track in the short term, and achieve more in the long term.”

This initial entry into financial advice mirrors the launch of Mint.com’s breakthrough money management tool. While dozens of expensive desktop software packages existed before the September, 2007 introduction of this free, online personal finance service, Mint.com’s simplicity and ease-of-use have made it the fastest growing personal finance service ever and a favorite among experts, earning it a series of prestigious awards. The service recently added its millionth user and now provides online personal financial management services to 1% of all US households.

I don’t think these software programs will hurt the financial planning industry too much, because there is no substitute for quality advice from a seasoned professional. However, much of the financial advising industry has been tainted with salesmen masked as planners or advisors, so the actual advice portion has been diluted and distorted. Having said that, there is only so much that a program can provide by way of financial insight and advice. I think it’s a nice tool, but I am not sure how many people will actuall listen and take action based on their recommendatons, unless the recommendations are mostly mundane, rudimentary suggestions.

Erik Folgate
Erik and his wife, Lindzee, live in Orlando, Florida with a baby boy on the way. Erik works as an account manager for a marketing company, and considers counseling friends, family and the readers of Money Crashers his personal ministry to others. Erik became passionate about personal finance and helping others make wise financial decisions after racking up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt within the first two years of college.

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