Review: Creating a Budget with the LearnVest App
If you are looking for a platform to help you manage your personal finances or are considering seeking the advice of a professional financial planner, the LearnVest app could be for you.
The LearnVest app and website can help you track your expenses, stick to a budget, and save money every month.
LearnVest combines the latest in online budgeting technology. It provides 24/7 access to your very own qualified LearnVest financial planner, making it a great budget planner app to consider using in 2017.
What Is LearnVest?
When it comes to creating a budget through a budget planner app, there is a wealth of available options. The LearnVest app is a solid choice for those who are looking for budgeting help–but what is LearnVest, exactly?
LearnVest’s mission is “to make unbiased financial planning affordable, accessible, and delightful for all American households.”
Founded in 2009, the company was purchased in March 2015 by Northwestern Mutual. At the time of the purchase, the company had grown to 1.5 million users, including almost 10,000 paid memberships.
In this article, we will provide you with an overview of the LearnVest app and methodology, answering the following questions:
- What is LearnVest?
- What is the LearnVest app?
- Is LearnVest safe?
- Is LearnVest worth it?
- Who are the LearnVest competitors?
We will also be looking at some online LearnVest reviews to give you a taste of what consumers are saying about the site, providing a comprehensive and detailed LearnVest review.
LearnVest is an online financial tool (and iPhone budget planner app) which aims to bring clarity and visibility to your monthly finances.
As well as the online resources, which include a money management web app and a knowledge center, the company also offers 24/7 access via email to your own dedicated and qualified financial planner.
Your financial planner is there to help you set your goals and keep you on track.
Underneath these basic components is a sophisticated membership system and list of beneficial services that come along with the LearnVest budget planner app.
Before looking at LearnVest reviews and addressing questions of “Is LearnVest worth it?” and “Is LearnVest safe?” it’s important to understand how each membership works.
Creating a Budget with the LearnVest App
When it comes to a budget planner app, consumers often have to choose between free or paid software. Is LearnVest a free budget planner or a paid budget planning service? The answer is yes and no.
There are effectively two parts to the LearnVest budget planner software– Free Membership and Premium Membership. Our LearnVest review will discuss each of these below, starting with the Free Membership.
Anyone can set up an account with LearnVest for free. Once signed up, you have access to the Money Center (which is the online budgeting tool), Knowledge Center, and the LearnVest app for iPhone or iPad.
The LearnVest Money Center
The Money Center is a great tool for tracking your spending and saving goals.
The system syncs with your various bank, credit card, and investment accounts, allowing you to see your current financial state of affairs consolidated in one place.
Connecting Your Accounts
The first thing you will be asked to do when you log in to the free budget planner account is to connect your bank accounts:
By connecting your accounts, you allow the LearnVest budgeting tools to view your financial data – including balances, individual transactions, and interest rates.
Not everyone will be comfortable with providing this access to their online accounts. It is possible to add account balances and transactions manually, but you will get the most out of the system if you sync your accounts.
As soon as you have synced all your accounts, which takes about 15 minutes, the Learnvest app will show an up-to-the-minute snapshot of your current financial position.
Unfortunately, the web app is only able to connect with US accounts. If you have any international accounts, these will have to be entered manually.
If the majority of your accounts are international, the LearnVest app may not be suitable for you. You will not be able to benefit from the budget planner app’s auto-syncing and auto-tracking of transactions.
As noted, it is possible to manually input data into the LearnVest budgeting app, but this is much more time-consuming.
Setting up Your LearnVest Budget
The next step is to set up your LearnVest budget, using the Smart Budget tool. Here, you enter the following:
- Your monthly income
- Your fixed costs: monthly rent, transport, insurance, utilities, subscriptions
- Your priority goals: paying down credit card debt, saving, etc.
- Your monthly flex spending: groceries, dining out, entertainment, etc.
Once you have set up your LearnVest budget, you can identify and set your Priority Goals. Your goal could be to reduce credit card or other debt, increase your savings or to start putting money aside for investment.
Once you have completed these three steps, you are ready to start using the free budget planner.
The budget planner app will now track your spending versus your budget on a real-time basis. It will show you your progress in meeting your priority goals.
The best feature of the LearnVest budgeting system is that it can track your spending on a transaction-by-transaction basis. It will categorize every transaction that occurs in your accounts.
This allows you to see in a very clear, concise way exactly where your money is being spent every month. The budget planner app will also show you the trends over time in your spending.
Such visibility and clarity is a great tool to help you get control of your spending and start creating a budget that fits your financial goals.
The LearnVest Knowledge Center
Many LearnVest reviews talk favorably of the breadth of educational materials available on the site.
The Knowledge Center provides essays, articles, and online classes on an array of topics relating to budgeting and saving.
With such a vast array of educational materials available, it’s no wonder that LearnVest reviews would look favorably upon the Knowledge Center.
LearnVest competitors generally do not provide the same level of focus on educating their users on money management matters, making the LearnVest budget planner truly stand out.
In addition to the LearnVest budgeting tools mentioned above, the Premium Membership takes it a step further and provides you with the following:
Dedicated & Qualified Financial Planner
Your financial planner is available 24/7 via email. They will help you create your financial plan and then will be there every step of the way to make sure you stay on track.
Customized Financial Plan
Your financial plan will set out your current position, your goals, and a step-by-step action plan that will take you to the fulfillment of those goals.
Our Learnvest review found that the financial plan will typically cover the following areas – saving for retirement, paying down credit card and other debt, emergency fund (saving for unexpected events), investing, buying real estate, recommended insurance policies, and legal documents.
Premium Content in the Knowledge Center
This includes articles, essays, and online classes, which provide a wealth of information on money management. Once your personalized financial plan is set up, you will be able to track your progress on your Money Center Dashboard as well as on the LearnVest App for IOS.
Your financial planner will also be sending you “bite-size to-dos,” reminding you what needs to be tackled next.
As a premium member, you are also given access to “Planner Picks.” Our LearnVest review found that these are products (savings accounts, credit cards, insurance providers, etc.) recommended by your financial planner.
LearnVest App Reviews
The LearnVest app is available for download for free from the App Store and from iTunes. This budget planner app gives you access to all the same tools as the website, easily accessible on your iPhone or iPad.
Image Source: LearnVest App Reviews
Unfortunately, LearnVest reviews show that there is not currently a version of the LearnVest app available for Android.
With this budget planner app, you have the details of your budget at your fingertips wherever you go.
It can be helpful to have your budget reminders easily accessible at all times, a factor which many LearnVest reviews are quick to point out. This is especially true for those times when you are out shopping and considering an impulse buy.
Our LearnVest review found that you will be able to quickly check whether your Flex Spending allows for that extra purchase this month.
The app has 120 reviews on the iTunes store and is rated at an average of 3.5 stars out of 5. Fifty-five of the 120 LearnVest reviews gave the app 5 stars, while 21 of the reviews gave only 1 star.
A number of the less-favorable LearnVest reviews noted glitches and bugs in the software as their main complaint.
Is LearnVest Safe?
A major component of the LearnVest app is syncing your bank and other financial accounts with the system. Without connecting your accounts, you cannot take full advantage of the tool’s capabilities.
Not everyone feels comfortable, however, sharing their financial information over the Internet, which leads to the question – Is LearnVest safe?
Our LearnVest review found that LearnVest follows bank-level security procedures, and the website is VeriSign, TRUSTe, and McAfee approved (considered to be the leaders in online security).
Their top-notch data protection includes biometric checkpoints, multiple keylock entry, and constant video surveillance.
When you link your bank accounts to LearnVest, this provides view access only. It is not possible to move money between accounts using the LearnVest app.
In addition, none of your account information (passwords, account numbers, etc.) is actually held by LearnVest. These remain with your online banking site, and LearnVest cannot access these.
If you are uncomfortable with syncing your accounts, it is possible to add them manually. Be aware that this will be a lot more time-consuming as you will also have to input all your transactions manually.
Is LearnVest Worth It?
The price of the premium membership is a one-off setup fee of $299 plus an ongoing monthly subscription of $19. LearnVest is offering a $75 discount for people signing up before February 29, 2017.
You can cancel your monthly subscription at any time. However, the company advises working with a financial planner for at least 6 months in order to get the most out of the service.
This ends up costing $413 for 6 months, or $527 for a full year of premium membership.
So, based on our LearnVest review thus far, is LearnVest worth it?
LearnVest claims that the average cost of a traditional financial plan is approximately $1,900.
Costhelper.com states that a comprehensive financial review will cost between $1,600 and $4,000 depending on the complexity of your assets and liabilities.
At this price variance ($527 versus $1,900), LearnVest would indeed be worth it.
If you are looking for an affordable personal financial planner to help you set up a plan and be available for ongoing advice and support, the LearnVest premium membership could be a good fit for you.
If, however, you are simply looking for a budget planner app to help you track your income and expenses on a monthly basis, the free membership has everything you require.
You can search for LearnVest reviews online and read a lot of helpful feedback from consumers who have tried the web app as well as the premium program.
Here, we will discuss LearnVest reviews by two leading consumer review sites – Investor Junkie and PCMag.
Investor Junkie gave the company an Editor Rating of 3 out of 5 stars in its LearnVest review dated March 2016.
Investor Junkie applauds the website for its comprehensive budgeting tools, the useful educational articles, and the availability of access to a qualified financial planner.
The cons identified by Investor Junkie in their LearnVest review include:
- More manual corrections required in classifying recurring bills and identifying due dates than LearnVest competitors like Mint.com
- Focus is mainly on budgeting and saving, with the website’s investing section being “weak at best”
In its LearnVest review of December 2015, PCMag gave the company an Editor Rating of Excellent, with 4 out of 5 stars.
The pros of the LearnVest app cited by PCMag’s LearnVest review include the following:
- The tracking of expenses and income
- Ability to see trends over time
- Neat tools for analyzing credit card debt and repayment options
The cons cited by PCMag’s LearnVest review include:
- No way to automate simple, recurring corrections
- Simple budgeting tools, could use some more complex functions
- Works only with US bank accounts
Does the LearnVest app and program have competitors that you should check out?
LearnVest CEO and founder, Alexa Von Tobel, considers LearnVest to be unique in combining “content, tools and dynamic live support.”
She believes that the company’s focus on financial planning and creating a budget means that its primary competitors are “traditional off-line CFPs.”
The vast majority of LearnVest’s subscribers, however, are free members who are using the online budgeting tool and resources. Over the last few years, a plethora of competitors have emerged in the free budget planner market.
Listed below are three of the main LearnVest competitors:
Similar to the LearnVest app, Mint syncs with your bank account, tracks your spending, creates budgets, and sets financial goals.
Mint is able to connect to both US and Canadian bank accounts, unlike LearnVest, which is limited to accounts in the US only.
Mint is completely free. For those focusing on budgeting, this is a great tool. However, for those who want access to educational materials on money management and access to a financial planner, LearnVest is the better option.
Personal Capital is similar to the LearnVest app in that it provides both online financial tools and access to professional financial advisors.
Personal Capital focuses more on investing and wealth management than creating a budget.
You Need a Budget
YNAB focuses on helping people regain control of their finances.
Our LearnVest review has identified a few additional alternatives to the LearnVest app:
Conclusion: Final Thoughts on LearnVest Reviews
The LearnVest app and website are both great tools for gaining complete clarity on your finances. The LearnVest budgeting tools allow you to take control of your finances and start working towards your financial goals.
If you are looking for a qualified financial planner, then the premium membership offers this service at a competitive price.
However, if you are just looking for a LearnVest budget tool to help you track expenses, set priorities, and stick to a budget, the free membership has everything you need.
Unfortunately, our LearnVest review found that LearnVest software only works well for people with bank accounts in the US.
If you are from Canada, you might want to check out a budget planner app like Mint.com. As one of the top LearnVest competitors, Mint is able to sync with both US and Canadian bank accounts.
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