Innovative Financial Web Sites & Tools Well Worth a Look

Humberto Cruz

Innovative Financial Web Sites & Tools Well Worth a Look |

Technology has revolutionized the way many Americans manage their money. With a click of a mouse or even right from our smart phones, we can get a complete picture of our finances and get recommendations for our money.

The sheer multitude of choices, however, can be overwhelming. I did a Google search for "personal finance software" and got 25 million results; for personal finance blogs, 50 million.

No software, no matter how sophisticated, is a substitute for a qualified professional adviser. Fraud and incompetence lurk online and many self-styled "educational" sites are simply trying to sell you something.

With those caveats in mind, it can be fun -- and enlightening -- to search for innovative financial Web sites and tools.

Worthy of note with more than a million users is, a free and secure site where you can set up an anonymous virtual account in minutes by entering brief information about your actual bank, investment and credit card accounts, plus any home loans.

I registered as a user to learn more about it for this column. I have no need for it, as my finances are well organized. But the site can be quite useful to people who are technology-oriented and have little time or disposition to keep track of their money. connects with more than 7,000 financial institutions in the United States, so chances are it includes yours. It can then pull up your complete financial information in one place. You get weekly e-mails summarizing your spending, saving and investments, plus additional alerts if for example a credit card bill is due or your bank account balance is running low.

You can set and track saving goals on either a computer or iPhone. A survey found 90 percent of users have changed their spending patterns based on something they learned from the information they receive.

Also highly useful for savers is, another free, automated site where more than 100 federally insured banks compete for your money. You enter the amount you have available for a certificate of deposit or high-yield savings account, and participating banks bid against one another by trying to offer the highest interest rate. You are not obligated to accept any bid.

These "auctions" are available on demand, 24/7, as technology allows banks to bid on your money through an automated process. I have not bought CDs or opened savings accounts through Money Aisle (I'm not in the market for these products now) but have found attractive, above-average rates.

Another site that helps people save and earn competitive rates is, which I can describe as a combined piggy bank/federally insured high-yielding online savings account. Again, I don't need it personally, but the concept is appealing.

When you open an account, you establish a personal savings goal -- anything from remodeling the kitchen to a dream vacation. You say how much money you want to save by when, and suggests an amount to deposit each month, automatically deducted from your checking or another account. To keep your SmartyPig account open, you must make this monthly contribution until you reach your goal.

You can make additional contributions any time and invite family and friends to help you save by going online and adding to your account as gifts for birthdays or other occasions. And you can place your account's SmartyPig widget on your Facebook or MySpace social networking page to give all your online friends the opportunity to cheer you on toward your goal -- and to contribute.


Personal Finances - Innovative Financial Web Sites & Tools Well Worth a Look



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