Something Fresh for Your Finances

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By Lauren Smith
Publicity Director/Lifestyles Editor

If you were to conduct a very unscientific experiment that consisted of asking ten people you met on the street if they experience stress on a daily basis, my guess is you would be hard pressed to find a single one who answered “no.” The fact is, whether you are a wall street banker or you teach Hatha yoga for a living, we live in a fast-paced, ever-changing world that forces us to adapt to demanding roles. Just doing a simple Google search for the “Top 5 reasons for stress”, I was given results that almost always included finances as the number one reason or at least in the top three. Couple that with a high unemployment rate, a poor economy, questions floating around about another stimulus, and money is almost certainly the topic on everyone’s minds right now.
So, it’s easy to understand why people get so stressed about personal finance. Especially, graduating college students. After four years of little to no bills, new graduates are thrust into the real world—and are expected to find a job, find a place, begin to repay student loans, and generally grow up, fast. With all of these pressures being thrown at you, it becomes really easy to fall behind on your finances, forget about a bill, overdraft your account, and many other frustrating hiccups that happen everyday.

Luckily for us all, life just got a little easier, with the invention of a little site known as What is you ask? Only the most buzzed about, free financial management system since the balance book. Only Mint goes a little further than just managing your finances, it also tracks your spending patterns, alerts you by email or text when your account is low or there’s an indication of fraudulent activity, and suggests ways to invest your money so that you’ll get the highest return on your investment.

Mint comes with high recommendations from Money Magazine, Kiplinger’s Magazine, and PC World, as well as glowing reviews from many of their users. Mint promises a five minute account activation and claims to save the average user $1000 with their first time use. For those who are hesitant to store personal banking and information online, Mint uses the same security software that the banks do, including VeriSign and TRUSTe.

In my opinion, the most beneficial service that Mint offers is comprehensive charts showing how your spending your money, along with tracking your spending patterns so that they can best offer suggestions on ways to save money that are personalized for you. If every month your coming up short when it comes to certain bills, seeing your spending habits in a visual form like a pie graph may help you track down the culprit of your dwindling savings—whether it may be those five lattes a week from Starbucks, impulse shopping, or one two many trips to your favorite restaurants every week.

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “what’s the catch?”, how can Mint afford to offer a service for free that other companies charge hundred of dollars to use? When Mint offers you suggestions for how to invest your money, occasionally, they make money too. Some of the companies that Mint refers to their users pay Mint a nominal fee, but not all of them do, and Mint assures users that their advice is never biased or influenced by the companies that do pay them.

Although Mint is geared towards the younger, college crowd, it’s a valuable resource to anyone in need of affordable management of their spending. Even if you don’t open a Mint account, their “Mintlife” blog gives some great financial advice to just about any income level or age group. Topics include student life, housing, retirement, getting out of debt, becoming wealthy, frugal living, employment, and the economy.

With a free service like Mint, there’s is virtually little to no risk involved; it’s about as risky as having an online bank account, which most people do these days. Or, you could be paying hundreds for a service to manage your finances or try to track several accounts by yourself, which to me, sounds about as appealing as a root canal without novacaine. If everyone used a service like Mint, maybe “finances” would be further down on their list of reasons why they’re stressed on a daily basis. Besides, who doesn’t like free, sound financial advice?

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