University of Maryland Extension

Personal Financial Management Tools

 

What are PFMs?

There are many online Personal Financial Management (PFM) tools that have been developed for the purpose of helping users to manage various financial accounts in one place. Many programs are available for free online and/or as apps for smartphones and tablets. Potential benefits of online PFMs are that they allow you to keep track of multiple accounts such as checking and savings accounts, credit cards, retirement, loans, and more. These programs can help you to keep track of your income and progress you’re making toward your financial goals. Programs often automatically categorize and chart your spending so you know where your money is going. Some PFMs have been developed by independent organizations, others by banks.

Should I use PFMs?

It is too soon to say whether any PFMs actually empower you to improve your financial situation or make better decisions about your money. Critics contend that these tools are good for letting you know what your money situation is (assuming you enter all of your information), but they still have a ways to go when it comes to helping you figure out what you ought to dowith or about your money.

Be sure to read user reviews and consider the pros and cons before deciding if a particular PFM will suit your personal style and habits. You might want to start off slowly, perhaps by entering information for one account and letting the PFM track that to see if it is helpful. Note that some of these programs are designed to cross-sell you products and services that you may or may not want or need. Some people also believe there are privacy and security concerns with having all your financial data in one place.

How can I learn more?

For reviews and advice about PFMs, check out www.Forbes.com and www.Kiplinger.com, both of which regularly review personal financial management tools. For example, in October 2012 Kiplinger posted a review called "Best Online Money-Management Tools." In September of 2013, Forbes published a review of recent tools called “4 New Online Money Management Tools Worth A Try.”

Examples

Below are several examples of online PFMs. We do not endorse these particular tools but rather offer them as a sampling of the types of tools that are available.

Mint.com is one of the best-known money management sites, which offers a budgeting tool as well as a goals tool that enables you to set and track progress towards your financial goals. Mvelopes is focused on helping you cut your spending. It allows you create a spending plan by dividing your money into various “envelopes,” or expense categories. ReadyForZerowas designed to help users create and follow through on debt repayment plans. The site provides recommendations and reminders about repaying debt as well as tracks your progress towards repayment goals. Yodlee is another account aggregation program that allows you to view accounts and transactions, as well as to track goals and spending.

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