Mint.com added a new feature this week to its online personal finance management software. Like SmartyPig, the new focus is on savings goals. I’ve recently become a fan of SmartyPig’s approach to goal tracking, so I was interested in seeing Mint.com’s new feature.
In addition to tracking your account balances as any other personal finance management software does, Mint.com offers a selection of eight predefined goals to help users track their savings. Don’t worry if you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for. If none of the eight goals apply to your situation, you can write in your own.
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Here are the goals suggested by Mint.com:
- Get out of debt
- Save for an emergency
- Save for retirement
- Buy a home
- Buy a car
- Save for college
- Take a trip
- Improve my home
You might want to offer a custom goal such as “save for a Phase One P65+ digital back” or “buy Apple.” I selected the predefined “buy a home” goal to take the new feature for a test drive. Mint.com offered a calculator to help me determine, based on my income, the price of an affordable house from both aggressive and conservative approaches. The website calculated my necessary down payment and suggested I open a dedicated savings account at either Sallie Mae Bank or American Express, two banks offering some of the highest interest rates available on a liquid savings account, to track my progress towards that goal.
It might not hurt to note that banks pay Mint.com for most customers who sign up for suggested savings accounts. Consumerism Commentary and many other websites receive similar referral fees in some cases, but on a significantly smaller scale.
As I already maintain an abundance of bank accounts, including an account at Sallie Mae, I chose to signify an existing account already tracked by Mint.com for this purpose: and account aptly named my “Orange House Fund,” currently located at ING Direct. “Orange” refers to the bank’s prominent color scheme, not the exterior paint color of my future abode.
The shift towards goal-oriented saving throughout the banking industry is a welcome change. This makes one’s personal finances more meaningful than just a number in a bank’s computer database. Rather than looking for a monetary milestone like $1,000,000 in the bank, a focus on goals gets to the heart of why we bother increasing our net worth. It’s important to think about real goals, not net worth itself. Money only has value when it is used for something.
Updated September 23, 2015 and originally published July 2, 2010.