Mining Your Personal Capital

I was a Mint early adopter.  As soon as I found out there was a way to look at every single one of your financial accounts in one place, track expenses and help calculate your net worth I was all in.

Don’t worry about the fact that at the time I was a college student with a <$10k net worth.

Today, I have moved on to Personal Capital which does a little bit better job at showing your up-to-date Net Worth.

You can add all your bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and debts.  For real estate, it pulls the up to date Zestimate and for cars it pulls the Blue Book value.  There are custom fields you can create as well – which I did for a weird 401k plan at an old job that doesn’t report well on these sites.

The key part of the site for this article is the spending breakdown.

Twenty or thirty years ago most people knew about each one of their expenses – because every expense was written down in a check register.

There are still people who do this in between Bingo games, but for everyone else, I’d recommend Personal Capital or Mint.com.  You can quickly move from scanning all the expenses in your checking account to all those on each credit cards you use.

It’s a good way to both identify any potential identity theft and to find any recurring charges you forgot about or that have increased.

I love setting up recurring payments.  I use recurring payments on two mortgages, two HOA payments, electricity, gas, cable, Netflix, Amazon prime, several investing newsletters, Audible, a couple sports magazines, etc.

I had to use et cetera at the end of the sentence because my monthly and annual recurring charges are too vast to keep track of on the top of my head.

I once realized that I had forgotten that I had a Hulu account for two years – that’s $192 of expenses that could’ve been avoided with a cursory look at my monthly expenses.

I’ve also used this rundown to find that my electricity or gas payment was jumping higher and then remind myself to be mindful when lights need to be on or what the temperature in the house needs to be.

More recently, my scan prompted me to check out the composition of one of my monthly mortgage payments.

Turns out I was paying $44 per month for PMI.  PMI is mortgage insurance that must be paid by the borrower as long as the LTV of the house is above 80%.

On the face of it that made sense – I purchased the house with 5% down about three years ago.  However, per Zillow, the house now has a 75% LYV.

While I acknowledge that the Zillow value might not be accurate, I have talked to the bank about doing a desktop appraisal to update the value of the house.  That scan may have saved me $528 per year.

Go set up your Personal Capital or Mint today and take a quick glance at the past three or four months of expenses.  You can even use the tools on the site to categorize each expense and see what you’re spending on food or gas or movies or squirrel traps each month.  If you find something crazy you didn’t realize you were spending on each month drop me a line at Mike@rightpriceinvesting.com and I’ll include it in a future newsletter (anonymously of course).

If you’re not comfortable with putting all these logins in one place, do what my fiancee does: every month login to each account directly and hand write out all the expenses.  This will force you to think about every expense – trying wasting money on something when you know you have to face yourself at the end of the month.

Comments on this entry are closed.