My former boss at the company I currently work for knows that I have a side interest that involves personal finance and the web. Obviously, I do not supply too many details to him as I prefer to maintain some level of anonymity on Consumerism Commentary, considering the personal information I’ve been posting since 2003. He contacted me today to make me aware of an article in today’s Wall Street Journal. (The article is available for free online, for now.)
The article addresses the trend of twentysomethings (I’m 31) sharing their personal financial information online using social networking websites. One of the social networking sites mentioned is NetWorthIQ. NetWorthIQ allows people to create profiles and update their financial standing every month. These profiles can be set to either public or private. You can even look at trends and comparisons between individuals.
While I like NetWorthIQ, I never got into using it much. I like keeping my information on my website, first of all. Also, I think the social networking aspect encourages comparisons between individuals or groups of individuals, which I’d rather not be a part of. I’m a fan of internal comparisons for tracking progress, but comparisons between people are almost meaningless. Also, balance sheet information doesn’t mean much without an income and expense report, which I don’t believe is supported by NetWorthIQ.
Nevertheless, I think it’s a great tool, especially if you want to take some of the work out of publishing your own reports.
The article also mentions Wesabe, which provides a way to access the information one might enter in software like Quicken from anywhere. The article didn’t mention Mint, which is still under testing, but it may turn out to be a better application than Wesabe.
Two additional websites sound interesting and are worth a look.
At other sites, such as the just-launched Covestor LLC, which allow investors to share their portfolio information, members manually input transaction data for their brokerage accounts or provide their account passwords to have the firm automatically track their trades. Members can choose to remain anonymous, and the actual dollar values of trades and specific holdings of each member always remains confidential, with only percentages displayed…
On Geezeo, members can create discussion groups with other users about specific financial topics. The site lets members create a consolidated view of their financial accounts and use text-messaging technology to get quick balance updates from their mobile phones. Starting this week, users will be able to provide feedback on financial products, such as student loans, credit cards or savings accounts.
The idea of tracking your finances publicly is gaining a lot of attention and popularity. I never thought this would be something that would catch on and have “mass appeal.” That’s the beauty of the internet — people with strange interests can come together to form communities, convincing those involved that their perceptions are “normal.”