Happy Monday, y’all! How are those bank accounts doing? ;]
If you remember back in my 2017 goals post, one of my main goals was putting my financial life in order. Though I make enough money to live and have some fun, I felt like I was constantly borrowing money from myself against the next paycheck. I also felt like I was spending my money and didn’t know where it was going. I was ending up with thousand-dollar credit card bills and no thousand-dollar experiences to show for it. Though I was lucky to never go into credit card debt, I definitely borrowed from my savings more often than I should have. It was getting to the point where I was starting to stress about money—something I’d never really done in the past—and I knew I wanted to make a change.
Knowing myself and what motivates me, I knew that I would learn best if I had someone else to hold me accountable, so I knew I wanted to hire a personal financial planner. Ultimately I decided on LearnVest, and I’ll explain why below.
Before we go further, I do want to note that this is not sponsored in any way. LearnVest did not ask me to write this post, and is not compensating me in anyway to do so. I just really, really love their program and wish I had started it sooner.
// 00. WHY I PICKED LEARNVEST + INFO ON PRICING
Because of the horror stories—remember when Brittany Murphy’s character in Uptown Girls loses her inheritance because her financial planner steals it?!—and because, let’s face it—I don’t have a ton of money and didn’t want to spend a lot—if any—on financial advice, I started looking into LearnVest. I’d heard about them on other blogs and frequently receive their advertisements when surfing the web because they really target millennials. A lot of my friends use and swear by Mint.com, but for me, I really needed someone to do more than just help me manage my cash flow—I wanted support in setting up a realistic budget I could stick to, and I wanted someone to help me analyze my retirement savings to make sure I was on the right track. LearnVest offered both of those features on top of a great cash flow tracker similar to the one Mint.com offers—though aesthetically, I think it’s much better.
So, around Christmas—when I was really feeling the pinch from all those extra gift expenses and dinners out with friends to celebrate the season—I scheduled an informational call with LearnVest to learn more. Not only was the person on the phone super helpful—let’s face it, I had like 25 questions—they also offered me a coupon for calling. So even if you know you’re going to sign up, definitely set up an informational call! The coupon was actually for 50% off the $300 set up fee, which pays for your advisor’s time upfront when they are counseling you on your initial strategy call and putting together you action plan. (Trust me, it’s worth all 15,000 pennies—I’ll explain more in a little bit.) After the initial set up fee, it’s a flat rate of $19 a month—you can cancel at anytime—and you have unlimited access to your financial advisor. You can email them anytime, and expect a response within a business day.
// 01. YOUR SURVEY
Once you’ve signed up with LearnVest, you take a quick survey about what motivates you and the times throughout the week when you’re most likely free. Then, LearnVest pairs you up with a personal financial planner and you get to work on filling out a survey detailing your complete financial picture for them.
Y’all. This survey seriously covers everything—your current credit card debt/balances, your bank account balances, your retirement savings, what your financial goals are, any upcoming major expenses you know about, any investments, your insurance policies, your living will. And don’t worry—if you lack any of these, your planner will help you figure out what accounts and coverage you need to add.
The survey itself took me about two to three hours to complete, but mostly because I had to hack into some accounts I had long forgotten the usernames and passwords to—I love hiding money from myself—and because I wanted to really think through my answers and provide as much detail as possible.
// 02. STRATEGY CALL
I scheduled my strategy call for a Saturday afternoon when I knew I’d be free of distractions. To give yourself some time to fill out your financial survey, I would schedule your strategy call two to three weeks out from the time you sign up for LearnVest.
On the day of your call, make sure you have at least an hour to talk, if not more. My call lasted for three hours, because I had all. of. the. questions. On this call, you and your planner review your financial survey together and your planner will be able to ask you any clarifying questions they have for you. Anytime I didn’t understand some financial jargon or wanted to learn more, I asked my planner, which is why I think our call took longer than most. I also was asking him lots of advice on my blog finances as well—and because of that call, I finally, finally separated my business and blog expenses, which has been a godsend in keeping track of my earnings and expenses for this blog. (But that’s another post for another day!)
At the end of the call, your planner gives you a few action items to work on while they’re putting together your comprehensive action plan. My planner put me on a weekly budget and gave me a few tasks to research—such as whether my company offered a Roth 401(K) and whether I had disability insurance. It was nice to have a budget to stick to upfront even though I didn’t have my action plan since I felt like I could start working on the health of my finances right away.
// 03. ACTION PLAN
About a week after our strategy call, my financial planner sent over my comprehensive action plan. This plan was 100% worth the money because it was completely personalized to ME! It included a recap of the balances in all of my accounts today and their projected balances in a year if I were to follow the plan laid out. It also provided analysis on my retirement accounts and how to get to a place where I can start saving enough so that when I retire, my quality of living won’t decrease.
The LearnVest model essentially has you divide your cash flow into three different parts once you take out rent and utilities:
- Your long-term emergency cash savings, which you shouldn’t touch unless it’s an emergency.
- Your fixed expenses that happen sometimes throughout the year, but not every week—for me, these were travel, gifts, subscriptions, commuting costs, and wedding-related costs. By adding the cost of all of these items up and dividing by twelve, you can save for these costs throughout the course of the year so that when these sometimes expenses pop up, you already have the money for them.
- Your weekly flex spending for things like lunches and dinners out, clothes, household items, and things of that nature. Think of this as the fun money leftover once all your bills and savings goals have been met.
My planner and I agreed I should try a moderately-aggressive weekly flex number—I spend no more than $150/week—so that I could save more for travel and weddings in my fixed expenses account and put more money away in my emergency fund—they recommend you have six months of cash on-hand and I have about four built up, so that’s been a major savings goal for me.
Receiving your action plan can be very overwhelming because it’s a lot of important information in one packet. Not to worry—you can easily set up a call with your planner to discuss anything you have a question about and they assign you all of the action items in your plan as a “challenge” on the LearnVest portal so you don’t have to stay on top of all the to-dos, you just complete the challenges as they arise. I’ve had challenges like setting up a new high yield savings account for my emergency savings fund, increasing my monthly contributions to my 401(K), adding a weekly flex checking account to manage that cash flow most effectively, and other things of that nature. Often times, my planner also assigns short, 15-minute LearnVest classes as challenges so I can become more versed in different areas of my finances.
A note that LearnVest is not affiliated with any banks, nor do they take commissions to recommend you products, so I really feel like the information I am receiving on what banks and accounts to use are unbiased.
// 04. MY EXPERIENCE
If you couldn’t tell, I am really happy with my LearnVest experience so far. I’ve been following my action plan solidly for two months now, and I am amazed at the progress I was able to make in such a short amount of time:
- I no longer feel like I live paycheck to paycheck, and am much better about not overspending my means. Once I’ve spent my weekly $150, that’s it! I make do with the food and clothes I have on hand. I’ve also been better about saving most of my funds for the nights I’m going out to dinner or to bars with my friends, so that I always have enough money to do the social things I want to do—without breaking the bank.
- I’ve increased my contributions to my 401(K) by 2%, and plan to increase them 2% each year from here on out. Since this money comes right out of my paycheck, I don’t even miss it!
- I’ve increased my contributions to my emergency fund so that I have more cash-on-hand for any unexpected expenses or emergencies—which has brought great peach of mind.
So, long story short—I can’t recommend LearnVest enough. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line in the comments or shoot me an email—firstname.lastname@example.org.