LearnVest started out in 2010 with the mission of educating and empowering women to take control of their finances. With financial planning tools and online workshops, access to financial planning professionals (for a fee), and a free budgeting tool that rivals anything Mint.com or others have come up with, LearnVest has shown that it’s not playing around. What it’s lacked, though, is an app that puts the tools you find in your browser in your phone.
With a recent site refresh and SEC registration as a financial planner, LearnVest is adding more tools to the financial toolkit, including (finally), their own iOS app. While LearnVest still lets you know right on their mission page that their target demographic is women, everyone can use a little help, and their slick budgeting tool may be enough to make you make the switch.
Getting Started With LearnVest
You’ll have to create an account with LearnVest to get started. Not only will this allow you to link up all of your financial accounts and create a budget, but if you do decide to work with one of their financial planners, they’ll need to see your spending. LearnVest is also going to have you create a passcode; I like that it gave me the option of a PIN separate from my password for an added layer of security.
If you haven’t been using the website and this is your first time logging into LearnVest, you’ll need to add your accounts. That happens in the Money Center. There’s a bank icon in the upper right, and you can choose from a list of common financial institutions or do a search for your bank or credit card. It’s good to get as many of your accounts linked as you can so you’ll have an accurate picture of your spending, but you can delete or hide and account at any time.
Back in the Money Center, tap the Budget icon in the bottom menu. If you already have a budget, you can check in on your spending and see what you have left for the month. You can also edit individual budget items, create new categories or start from scratch by tapping the folder in the upper right. Name your new budget item, choose a folder color, allocate an amount and designate it as either Spending or Income. You can edit a previously save budget folder by tapping it and hitting the Edit button up top.
If you find your spending isn’t matching up with your budget, it may be that LearnVest doesn’t know what all that spending is for. It may slot an Amazon purchase into Entertainment, but if you were having diapers and formula delivered, you probably intended that to go somewhere else. Tapping on Inbox at the bottom of the Money Center lets you put all those transactions where they should be. Spending LearnVest didn’t have a clue about is going to be in your Unfoldered area.
Putting the Learning into Investing
LearnVest has a lot going for it beyond budgeting, though. There are plenty of money management tips, all available in the LearnVest Articles section. From tips to saving money at the grocery store to articles breaking down what the changes to Medicare mean to you, the articles run the gamut. Find something you really like? Add it to your favorites so you don’t lose all the good info.
In the Latest tab, you can select your favorite categories by tapping the checkmark in the upper right. That way you’re only getting the articles you want and don’t have to sift through lots of topics that don’t apply to you; after seven years of marriage, I don’t need anymore tips on planning a wedding on a budget, you know?
What is missing, though, are the LearnVest Bootcamps. If you signed up on the website, you were likely prompted to join a one- to two-week topic-specific mailing list, called a bootcamp. There are lots of great bootcamps, and while the information I got all seemed pretty obvious, I usually got a few tips that gave me an “aha!” moment. The bootcamps are nowhere to be found in the app, and if you want to sign up or even find out they exist, you’re going to have to visit the LearnVest website.
LearnVest really went all out on this app. Every time I thought, “Gotcha! You forgot about X,” there it was after all. The app is more than just a complement to the website, it really can function as a full replacement. That said, while I like being able to update my budget on the go or add cash transactions before I forget I’d even been to the register, the app isn’t as easy as the website. I can’t see my whole budget on my phone, and even on an iPad, it’s pushing it. I also didn’t get to see my budget and spending over time the way I can on the website.
Still, all the budgeting functionality is there in the app, and I can just as easily add and remove accounts. The LearnVest app’s interface is maybe even more slick than the website’s, and it’s putting similar apps to shame with its good looks and ease of use. Throw in the added bonus of the financial planning articles, and LearnVest really is the whole package.