Editorial Policy

Despite doubts, I’m a newly Mint-ed money manager

Laura Mohammad

By
February 19, 2014

I guess I’m showing my age.

Ever the numbers cruncher, I have been intrigued by the financial organizing tools of Mint.com. It helps you budget, plan and track your investments, debts and spending. Nice, right?

Then I found out that I had to share the usernames and passwords of my different financial accounts for the online system to work for me.

Pass.

And it turns out I’m not alone.

Mint is “a pretty good outfit with lots of online security. [But] it’s only good until someone finds a way to hack it,” says CreditUnionGuy blogger Greg Meyer, who is 54.

Nevertheless, Meyer recommends Mint to clients as a great tool for those just learning how to budget. He’s found that the younger crowd, 35 and under, does well with Mint’s visual and money management tools, such as the email alerts and the handy app. But, the California resident admits he doesn’t personally use it. “I don’t want all my information in one place. For me, I want a spreadsheet. I’m old school.” Although Mint doesn’t have demographic data available, it seems to be a generational thing. Alex Matjanec, 30, uses it as a sort of joint account with his wife of two years. For the past year, they have managed their spending with the help of Mint.

The co-founder of MyBankTracker,  Matjanec has observed that the younger set tends to trust online systems more than older users. That said, he notes that his 62-year-old mom uses Mint. MyBankTracker does not partner with Mint.

While Matjanec has found the budgeting tips to be generic, and he notes that some banks don’t participate with Mint, he likes the service’s high encryption feature, iPad and mobile app, and alerts.

OK. I was convinced. The time came for my 51-year-old self to kick Mint’s tires. I took a deep breath, created a Mint account and started adding my financial accounts. There was a hiccup with my credit union — it didn’t participate with Mint — but the personal finance website promised to try to rectify that. Online brokerage firm ShareBuilder required an extra security step that took about a minute. And my husband’s Citibank card required me to verify his identity by a certain date. In all, it took me about 15 minutes to add my accounts, minus my credit union.

Matjanec points out that when you log in to your Mint account, only your email is visible, and not your name or personal information. That means that even if you step away from a computer while still logged in, someone won’t be able to access your personal information, including account numbers. Also, money can’t be transferred between – or out of – accounts. That made me feel a little better, but what about the site’s other security measures?

Acquired by Intuit in 2009, Mint prides itself on limiting the collection of personal information, offers encryption that Meyer says rivals banks and provides the ability to delete your information from the company’s servers.

InvestorJunkie.com’s Larry Ludwig approves of Mint’s ease of use. He recommends it for its basic budgeting features, while recommending PersonalCapital.com for those with more than $100,000 to invest. In fact, Ludwig argues that Mint is best suited for Gens Y and Z.

Jason with PhroogalBlog likes the ability to track expenses by category, a feature helpful to those of us trying to cut back. That’s actually Mint’s most valuable feature for my family. A portion of my expenses is paid through credit cards so I can build my rewards points. Mint allows me to track our credit cards in one place, rather than logging onto to several accounts and tracking on a spreadsheet — something I’ve been known to do.

So, in all, I’m willing to test drive Mint. I even coughed up my cell number so they can text me, something I don’t often do. But my spreadsheets are remaining on my laptop. That’s something I can’t bring myself to give up just yet.