To get financial advice, people used to have to make an appointment with an adviser and sit across a desk as they described investments and budgeting tips. But the internet has now opened a new world of financial advising, giving those interested a wealth of information through publications and blogs and even provided a chance to interact with others on message boards and social media.
One of the biggest advancements in personal finance advice has come through interactive platforms that allow users to track investments and bank accounts and create their own budgets. Free programs are available through sites like Mint.com and Quicken and show an easy-to-understand summary of all bank accounts, debts and investments. Financial experts say these sites allow for an easy way to create and track a personal budget, and these sites are especially recommended for young people just starting to live on their own.
Other sites go a step further, allowing users to create an entire financial plan including retirement goals and structuring investments. SimpliFi.net gives users a “virtual adviser” who walks them through the process of setting financial goals. It also helps them assess these goals and determines how realistic they are when compared to the person’s income. Another site, one created by the Texas-based Voyant Inc., takes people through the process of planning for a financial emergency. It walks them through several scenarios like early retirement or a health crisis and suggests ways to lessen the blow.
In the past decade there have also been a number of personal finance blogs, each with different advice and approaches. These sites have taken financial advice that was often difficult to obtain or understand and made it accessible for a new generation of readers. But even though these sites may make financial terms easier to understand, financial experts warn that budgeting and investing should not be taken lightly. David Schehr, a financial research director with Gartner Inc., said many people use financial advising sites and blogs as a starting point, and when they are ready to take the next step they usually visit a real financial planner.