Tag Archives: digitalfinance

Sharebuilder Experiment — An Expected Failure?

My Sharebuilder account is down about $134 right now, and I doubt it’ll enter an uptrend anytime soon.

The biggest burner is one stock pick – COMV – that I bought a measly 4 shares at for $29 a piece. Those shares are now worth about $10 a piece.

Meanwhile, GLD, the “gold ETF,” which was actually doing very well a few weeks ago, is now “correcting” itself, and I’m down $30 on that investment. $30 isn’t bad, but I have a feeling that it will be a while before GLD hits $100 a share again. I think it will, one day, given that every so many years the economy looks bleak and people start to pour money into gold. I don’t know if it will ever go beyond that. I don’t know how long it will take to get there again. I don’t know how much money I’ll “lose” in the meantime. I see people saying GLD could be worth $70 a share or less. That’d be a “big” loss. I own about $500 worth – 5 shares. So a $30 drop per share would be a $150 loss.

I guess that’s not that bad. If I want to hang on to GLD as a backup. It’s supposed to be “insurance” in a portfolio. Of course, most people say it should be in metal form, not paper. But GLD is kind of like owning the metal, right? It’s investing in the bullion anyway.

I wonder if I should have sold GLD when it was up to $100 a share. I would have made a nice little profit of $47 at its highest… which would have been better than losing $300. Much better.

I’m happy to hold on to all of my investments for many years. I’m trying to invest and then “forget” about my investments, even though I follow how they’re doing, but as soon as I put my money into that account I pretend it’s play money so I don’t have to worry about it. Maybe that’s an awful investing strategy?

Regardless, I stopped investing in GLD. The $500 is enough of my portfolio at the moment to devote to that.

Meanwhile, I’ve started diversifying a bit more. Away from GLD and away from individual stocks. Right now my Sharebuilder portfolio is:



GLD: $507.10 (5.8 shares)

BMXX: $251.83 (money market)
EWZ: $244.33 (3.08 shares)
MCD: $194.83 (3.41 shares)
PDB: $163.46 (6.2695 shares)
KOL: $109.10 (2.88 shares)
WFMI: $106.01 (3.069 shares)
EPI: $105.73 (4.48 shares)
XLF: $69.65 (2.65 shares)
COMV: $43.48 (4 shares)

Digital Finance February: Yodlee, Mint, Geezeo, Cake

Despite prior raves about various digital finance sites, I’m ultimately still left unsatisfied with my current offerings.

I think what I want is simple. Sure, I’d like some cute features and nifty community learning options. But what it comes down to it, I want an online finance site that:

1. Shows me my checking and savings account data in REAL TIME (not 6 hours ago, not 3 days ago, but as in up-to-the-minute updates).

2. Includes my investment earnings and losses for the day/month/year. Cake has a great feature showing me how I’m performing versus the markets and other users. I imagine once investments are on the site, this feature can’t be too hard to implement. I’d even be happy without it.

3. Budgeting tools. The sites are pretty good now at coming up with such tools. I love Mint’s budget breakdowns. But it’s not really helpful in the way I need it if the data isn’t actually up-to-date. It isn’t helpful if I have to go sign into BankofAmerica.com and breakdown my monthly spending just to keep on top of everything AFTER I sign into Mint or any other second party bank account tracking site.

4. A *bonus* would be if the site provides me with legitimate ideas on how to save money. Not like Mint, that tells me if I switch to a $47 a month Verizon plan I’d save $x per year when the fact of the matter is, the only reason the month cost me so much at Verizon is because I went over on my minutes. In fact, I’m ALREADY ON the plan they recommended. If your recommendations are going to be wack, I recommend not recommending at all. How’s that for a recommendation?

Cake.com
My latest find, thanks to a friend, is Cake.com. This site is… howdoyousay… hypothetically awesome for investors. That is, if it worked properly. (I’ve added my Sharebuilder account but am having trouble adding my Vanguard account). It’s not really like Mint, Geezeo or Yodlee at all, so it probably should be compared separately… although if Cake really wants my business, they’d simply have to add my savings and checking accounts so I can track all my money at one place. And really my Vanguard account would have to work too.

Mint.com
By far, Mint still has the best UI. I love Mint, I really do. But I’m getting impatient waiting for them to add investing accounts. If Cake, Yodlee and Geezeo can all add investing accounts, and if Mint is built on top of Yodlee’s architecture, I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to add investing accounts. Maybe they’re not focused on 24-year-old “old fogies” like me that enjoy putting some of my monthly income into Sharebuilder and Vanguard. But I like to budget my monthly income based on how the market is doing (obviously this month I’ve been failing at that!) I think Mint is going to be amazing in the long run. They’ve already added a bunch of nice features (like a chart showing me how my spending on different things compares to other people in the area). But, come on Mint, add my investment accounts and maybe figure out how to make my data “update” as in “update currently” and not “update what my bank statement looked like yesterday” and I swear, I’ll ask you to marry me.

Geezeo
Aw, Geezeo, Geezeo, Geezeo. I really want to like you. I found you and Wesabe first, and you were much better than Wesabe. You even have investment accounts now. But there’s something about your UI I don’t quite like. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m having trouble adding my Vanguard account on here too, or, when I tried to add my ING Direct Savings account and waited about 5 minutes for it to process, you told me “Heavy traffic is causing delays. Please try again. If you think this is a problem with Geezeo, please tell us by making a Support ticket.” I feel like there are just too many bugs on the site for it to be worth my time right now. Updates are just as delayed as any of the other sites. The UI is sloppy too. Mint, on the other hand, has such a nice design, with screen real estate divvied up quite nicely. Geezeo kind of looks like a kids toy. And the useful features are often buried at the bottom or hard to find.

Yodlee
Despite being boring (yawn) and basic (blegh) Yodlee is still my top digital finance choice. Why? On Yodlee, at the very least, I can see data from all of my accounts including Bank of America (checking, savings & credit card), ING Direct, Vanguard, Sharebuilder, Paypal and Prosper. Data is still a bit delayed, which bugs me, which means I still have to sign into BankofAmerica to check my current checking account status, but I can deal. At least I can see everything in one spot.

Making Money with Blog Advertising

… I’m not going to give you a list of “how to make money on your blog” here. Apparently, AdSense is not really working for me. It seems the more quality clicks I get on my site, the less likely someone is to click on an AdSense link. Which is perfectly fine, but kind of defeats the purpose of AdSense.

I’ll keep the ads on my page for now, since I take in maybe $1-$2 a month (that’d be 1-3 clicks a month), but what surprises me most is how in the last few weeks my blog traffic has gone up substantially and consistently (yeay!), but my AdSense earnings have not reflected my increase in popularity.

Meanwhile, the one ad I sold on my site made more money than I’ve made on AdSense to date, and I bet that ad gets more clicks too (though I have no way of measuring that). People are just so numb to AdSense these days that anyone who actually reads blogs on a regular basis will very, very rarely click on an ad. Sometimes I’ll click on ads other’s blogs because either I’m interested in the advertisement or I just want to help the blogger out a bit. But most of the time I forget to do this.

I’m running a poll right now on the left side of my page about AdSense, where I’m asking you, the reader, if you ever click on AdSense ads (not just on my site, but on any site.) If you haven’t voted yet, take a second to pop in your opinion. I’ll post the results at the beginning of next month.

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying watching my readership grow. It’s a slow, sloooow process, but you’ve got to start somewhere, right? I look at some of the PF blogs out there that have over ten thousand feed subscribers and I wonder how they did that! I have 28 right now (I gained a few and lost one thanks to that vibrator post, heh) and that’s the highest it’s been yet. It’s exciting to know that people out there in cyberland can relate to my financial experiences. I’m ever-so grateful for all the advice my readers have given me to date.

So even if I won’t make more than a buck or two a month by writing in this blog, I make a lot from getting to meet great people (albeit anonymously) and learning more and more about how on earth I should manage my out-of-control budget and investing experiments.

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November Expenses (as tabulated by Yodlee, Mint and Geezeo)

Yodlee tells me…

Rent: $1050
Other: $675
Clothing: $199.07
Telephone: $156.61?
Online Services: $136.20
Auto: $97.36
Health: $73.12
Cable: $62
ATM/Cash Withdrawls: $40
Gasoline: $31
Uncategorized: $927.47???


Mint tells me…

No Category: $2,216
Shopping: $891
Entertainment: $32
Healthcare: $35
Business Services: $104
Personal Care: $119
Food & Dining: $137
Auto: $198
Bills: $260

Total: $3992

But then… after I try to figure out why my expenses are so high for November, I find that the month is counting two month’s worth of rent (why is nov 1-nov 30 counting a check cashed on dec 7?)… so $1050 should be subtracted from that.


Geezeo Tells me…

(as far as I can tell there’s no easy way to pull up one month’s worth of transactions and find a category breakdown in Geezeo.)


Wesabe tells me…

I need to upload my bank statements for the past five months or so. Uh, no thank you. Why bother with uploading when all these other sites do it automatically?

—-

In short, all of these online personal finance sites are still far from being perfect. I don’t need fancy social networking capabilities, I just want to be able to track my monthly spending (accurately). This would require the ability for me to go in and manually change the transaction date (or what month it should be reported as).

Well, Don’t I Feel Important?

This week I was interviewed for a Newsweek.com article on online personal finance sites like Mint, Wesabe, Geezeo, Yodlee and all the rest. I didn’t expect for my quote to end up in the lede. Ok, so here goes my anonymity, but I think it’s worth pointing to a personal finance article where I was quoted on my personal finance blog.

The thing is, my quote on there isn’t exactly right. It’s not wrong either, it’s just that I didn’t say “I’ll stick with that” when I was talking about Yodlee. I basically was saying that for now, I’m sticking with Yodlee because they have all the features I want. As soon as Mint ads the ability to track my mutual funds and such, I’ll go back to using that site. Actually, I still use that site, but I use Yodlee to keep track of my net worth since it’s interesting to see how my overall savings goes up or down depending on how the market is doing.

The funny thing is, Mint is powered by Yodlee’s back-end software, so they’re both very similar sites. It’s just that for one reason or another, Mint has yet to add Yodlee’s full functionality to its site. But I have a feeling they will at some point, and the day they do is the day I stop logging into Yodlee.

I wouldn’t mind so much that my quote says I’m going to stick with Yodlee, except I recently wrote this glowing review of Mint for a technology blog I used to work for — and I didn’t just change my mind. But if anyone read both articles, I’ll sound like a hypocrite. And no one likes a hypocrite.

Oh well.

Got into the Mint beta!

However, I’m sworn to secrecy about its inner workings. But I will say – extremely vaguely – that I’m very excited to see what the Mint team has done. There’s a few kinks that still need to be worked out, of course – that’s to be expected in private beta, but I have a feeling Mint will end up winning me over amongst all the PF sites out there (I’ve also used Wesabe and Geezeo thus far.)

If you want your own invite, go over to http://www.mint.com and ask for one yourself. šŸ™‚