Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

Fiddling with financial websites April 28, 2009

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 10:33 pm
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I was talking on the phone the other day with my mom, and she mentioned that she heard them talking about Mint on NPR that morning.  There’s a link from that piece to a post noting many different money management websites.  My mom joked, “I wonder if they visited your blog when doing research for the piece!”  My mom’s awesome.

Anyway, I’ve mentioned before that I use a bunch of different ways of tracking my money (and lack thereof!)  Recently, I’ve noticed that my ING Direct accounts are not updating properly in Mint.  This is in addition to the past 7 months of my ING accounts not getting updated on Bank of America‘s My Portfolio.  I started complaining into the abyss on twitter, and then figured I’d complain @INGDirect.  They told me to email them, so I sent them my complaint.  Here’s their response:

Hello Stephanie,

I understand that you recently had an issue trying to connect to our website using mint.com and bank of America’s portfolio service. This service is commonly referred to as an account aggregator.  While this service may have worked in the past, most users are finding that their aggregator does not work with our New Sign In Process.

The security of your information is very important to us.  Once your personal information leaves ING DIRECT, we have no control over your information or how it is used by third parties.  Because we have no way of monitoring how account aggregators address security, privacy or the use of cookies we are unable to support the use of these services.

To best protect your personal information and your funds, we recommend that you do not share your personal information (including your Customer Number and PIN) with any third party.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us.

Thank you!

Heather
ING DIRECT – USA
Member FDIC
Equal Housing Lender

So, from the looks of it, there isn’t anything I can do.  I’ve tried re-entering all my passwords, but to no avail.  The odd part is that my boyfriend isn’t having any problems with the data import.  I just want to fix it!

Are you having trouble with any of your financial aggregators?

 

The good kind of impulse spending? February 23, 2009

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 10:55 pm
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I just set up two extra payments towards my student loans.  One to my ~$15k  at 4.5% loan, and one to my ~$44k at 4% loan.  And it was kind of on a whim.  I was visiting my mint page (as I do, perhaps too often) and saw the reminder to pay my student loan bill.  And technically, I don’t have to schedule payments, as I’ve signed up for their automatic bill pay setup (which I believe gives me a .25% interest rate deduction).  But I can still manually set up payments.

Why did I do this?  I think it was due in part to realizing that my savings account at ING is making pretty crummy interest(1.835% (1.85% APY)), compared to back in the heyday (only a few years ago!), though I will admit it’s still much better than the tiny rate I used to get at my brick and mortar bank.  And so my money is going to do a lot more for me (net-worth speaking) paying down my student loans than it would be sitting in savings.  And I actually didn’t move any money out of my savings account, I just took some out of my checking to pay these extra payments.  So I’m not saving any less.

So, while I feel a bit anxious about the fact that I’ve reduced my liquid assets by ~$1k, in the long term, my net worth will thank me.

In the meantime, I’m also wondering if I should start “shopping around” for better savings account interest rates (or signing up for a CD ladder, which I’m still not very familiar with).  I have heard good things about Emigrant Direct, but I’m not sure how much of an impact a slightly higher rate will have on my savings.  What are you doing to counteract this crumbling economy of ours?

 

Dear Fed, October 9, 2008

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 11:06 pm
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Couldn’t you have done this a week ago?

We all know that the economy is crumbling in front of our eyes.  And after that bailout bill and all these other attempts to fix the economy, the Fed and other countries are trying the old interest rate reduction trick again.  You are probably sick of me talking about this every time it happens.  As you may have noticed, we’ve got ING savings interest rates down to 2.75%, and checking interest rates down to 1.5%.  They’ve gotten on that pretty quickly!

But really, my issue with it being this week instead of last week (if it had to happen at all) is that my variable student loan interest rates are readjusted every quarter.  So, October 1st was the first day of the fourth quarter…which means I’m stuck with the same rate for my loans, but lower rates for my savings.  Yes, I complain about these things every time.  And I know that there are a lot of people worse off.  I’m just laying things out there.

That’s really all I’ve got for now.  I’ve been trying to follow a lot of what’s been going on in the financial world, but to be honest, it’s a bit depressing.  Though it’s odd when you think about how so many people are now finally thinking about living within their means and avoiding going into further debt.  Hooray living within your means!

 

Giving Mint a try September 29, 2008

So all those people in the personal finance blogosphere have been talking about Mint for a while.  I figured I already was using enough different ways to track my money:  I use walletproof to track my expenses pretty closely, and watch My Portfolio from Bank of America, and follow my networth on NetworthIQ.  I’ve tracked my 401(k) and other retirement accounts on Google Finance.  So, you could say I enjoy tracking my money.  I think I like it in part to see what sort of progress I’m making towards paying off debts and growing my net worth.  I also find that tracking my expenses keeps me on top of my spending.  And I think I’ve found that I use different sites since none of them quite fit all my needs.  I like walletproof because it’s simple and helps me to monitor my spending; manual data entry makes me aware of what I’m spending, but I might still forget to enter some of my expenses.  My Portfolio tracks rather nicely most of my assets and liabilities, but sometimes it’s hard to categorize every transaction.  NetworthIQ requires manual data entry, but I do that once a month.  This means I’ve got a static number that can be compared each month, as opposed to the dynamic values found in the automatically updated amounts in My Portfolio.

I had actually created an account with Mint in November of 2007, but I got nervous about security, so I didn’t enter any of my account information into the site.  Then, a few weeks ago, I figured I should go ahead and give it a try.  Actually, just today, I came across a post helping to debunk some Mint myths.

The one weird part I’ve noticed is that it only imported some of my recent account transactions, but also imported a few that are a lot older.  I’m also looking forward to when they have a more in-depth analysis of investments and retirement portfolios.  And I’ve also found some of the categories to be odd or missing, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to add extra categories.  For example, I want to label my T-pass purchases as Transportation, but the closest I can label it is Travel.  It’s not a really big deal, but I’d like to have more accurate descriptions of my transactions.  I do like the analysis features, as well as the automatic data retrieval.  I do find it odd that, when you are able to compare your expenses to big cities, Boston isn’t listed.  But that’s a minor issue.  At any rate, I think I’ll add it to my list of financial tools.

One thing that I think comes up a lot with these sites, besides security concerns, is the inability to import some of your accounts.  Of my friends that use Mint or My Portfolio, a few (including a blogger or two) aren’t able to add accounts/debts from smaller organizations.  I’m sure that both companies are working on including more, but in the meantime, you’ll have to enter the numbers manually every month for My Portfolio (and I’m not sure if there’s an option like that for Mint).

On a related note, has anyone else had issues with My Portfolio, specifically with updating imported ING accounts?  I’ve found that it wants me to re-enter my login information, but when I do, it still doesn’t work.

How do you keep track of your money (or lack thereof)?  I know Penny was asking the same thing a while back (and heard from quite a few people!)  But I’m curious as well!  And I’d love to hear if anyone has that My Portfolio/ING thing figured out.

 

Looking at the positive of the recession April 11, 2008

The Feds keep lowering rates, which is unfortunate for my savings account, but great for my student loans.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, ING, as well as most other banks that offer “high yield” savings accounts are staying close to the Federal Fund Rates, which is currently 2.25%.  And so my account has suffered a little, but I haven’t taken any money out of my “emergency fund”, except to fully fund my Roth IRA for 2007.  Since I had started the Roth IRA halfway through the year, I didn’t put enough in to cover the $4,000 max for last year.

Anyway, I just wanted to remind you to check your rates that depend on the Federal rate.  Some rates are fixed (for me that means my consolidated student loans stay at 4.5%), but other rates depend on the Federal rate.  While I don’t worry about credit card rates (I pay off my balance every month), some credit card rates are based on the Fed rate plus some constant extra percent above that.  The one rate that I’m excited about is my student loan rates.  I owe a large chunk of money for student loans that follows the Fed Rates…and every quarter, they readjust their interest rates accordingly (I’ve heard many companies do this).  So while ING and other banks follow the Fed rate very closely, these rates go at a slower pace.  So, currently, those loans are only at 6%!  Which still is a lot, but it’s a lot better than the 8.5% it was a year ago.

Oh, and Trent at The Simple Dollar wrote an article about the recession and what’s going on…it’s pretty good, you should check it out!

 

ING Lowers their rates…again! January 23, 2008

I can’t say that I wasn’t surprised. After the Fed lowered the interest rates 3/4 of a point, I knew my rates would shrink. Their checking account is down to 2.50% APY for up to for accounts with less than $5,000, and their savings account is down to 3.65% APY. This makes me all the more interested in paying off my student loans. I mentioned before that the interest rate for the bulk of my student loans had dropped, thanks to the Fed lowering rates last year. Sadly, I’ll be waiting a few more months before my loan rates are lowered (if the Fed rates don’t rise). In the meantime, paying off loans that are more than my yearly gross income (Darn you MIT!), most of which have an interest rate of 7.5% is going to net me more money than saving money at about half that rate. I already have a decent emergency fund, so I feel that I can draw some money from that and put a decent chunk towards the student loans. I do know that there are tax factors relating to the two options…I think that I’ll have to still pay taxes on the money I earn on interest through ING, but I also get some sort of tax benefit for the interest I pay on my student loans. I think for the whole “pay yourself first” idea, I’ll continue to put some money away every month, but I’ll draw some money from the “emergency fund” to pay a large amount towards my loans.

Though ING has lowered their rates, I’d still urge you to join up with them…for the referral bonus (that both you and I would get!). A guaranteed 10% return ($25 for $250) isn’t half bad, right? If you need a referral for either the electric orange checking account or the savings account, let me know (leave a comment; there’s a place to enter your email address, and only I can see it), or email me! Wow, this seems a bit forward and brazen to just tell you to do this (since I get a nice $10 referral bonus when you sign up and put at least $250 in). I’ve never really been a rate chaser when it comes to savings accounts…if you are, I don’t know if ING is right for you. The rates could change again!

Something I read about the Fed interest rate decrease is that they hope that by lowering the rates, consumers will be more willing to spend (rather than save). I guess that’s happening in a way for me…I’m spending the money on student loan payments instead of saving it in a savings account. But that made me wonder: are all these people you read about in personal finance blogs (me included, I suppose) partially to blame? Everyone is urged to have an emergency fund, be more frugal, spend less…but the economy “needs” us to spend to keep it going. I know that there’s also all the people NOT saving, because they’re part of the whole “subprime market meltdown” that is being blamed. Who knows…That was just something I was thinking about…

(some interesting articles that I’ve found on Slate.com (an online news magazine) relating to the Fed rate decreases…the one listed above: Bernanke’s Surprise, as well as How will the latests interest-rate cut affect me?, and How do you inject money into the economy?.)