Looking to make a Mint in financial planning

So, top-dog personal finance website, Mint.com, just announced a further step into financial planning with some goals-based tools to help users plan financially for the future.

From the release:

Mint’s new Goals feature seeks to take the difficulty out of both setting goals and regularly tracking your progress towards those goals. With a few clicks of the mouse, you can set up a savings goal, and then use Mint.com to help you achieve that goal.

Using Goals for Saving for the Future

So, if a Mint user wanted to save for something like home improvements, they’d use Goals to:

  1. Set funding source
  2. Set goal dollar amount
  3. Blend in financing options
  4. Establish target date
  5. Specify monthly savings target

Makes perfect sense, right?

So, the move from helping people track to helping them plan is an obvious one and a good move for Mint.

And Mint’s revenue model/value proposition work well for this foray into planning.  I assume Mint will begin to gain referral fees as they recommend loans, travel services — anything that helps assist in the savings and planning process.

According to the NY Times:

The new feature comes as Mint.com is facing increasing competition in the online financial software space. New entrants like HelloWallet have started attacking Mint.com’s business model and have emphasized how they offer more financial planning advice services.

The trend

We’ve seen investment platforms begin to automate professional grade services to their client in an effort to round out their offering and attract full-service clients (see my review of E*Trade’s Online Adviser).  Now, we’re seeing personal finance sites begin to creep into the financial planning/investing/future-oriented space.

What get’s me juiced is that sites like Mint have a TON of information about their users — the type of information the investment portals and online brokers drool over.  This positions them better for a move into investing — much like the much ballyhooed-TechCrunch Disrupt-winner Betterment is focused on.

Additional Resources

  • Mint.com Expands Into Financial Planning Tools (NY Times)
  • How To Set and Track Financial Goals With Mint (Mint blog)
  • Goal Keeping Gets Easier at Mint.com (All Things Digital)

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Part 2: What is Tradestreaming

This is part two of a series that takes a birds-eye view into the concepts I develop in my book, Tradestreaming.  Readers should also subscribe to my newsletter to stay on top of all news, posts and share in some of the ideas I’ll be developing.  Subscribe here.

A Sucker’s Game

Tradestreaming is a new way to invest, made possible by Facebook and Twitter. Today’s Internet provides a level of transparency that’s never been experienced by investors. Fully taking advantage of social media from an investment perspective requires an understanding of what’s behind this change. Tradestream Your Way to Profits provides a methodology, a new way to look at investing, by using the Internet and social media to better research and mimic successful investing strategies. In this sense, the book occupies the meaty space somewhere in between a classic how-to investment book and a typical business book.

Tradestreaming = Better Way

I write a lot about the financial content and investment research industries and how the Internet is changing the rules of the game. But this analysis is done with an eye on providing actual investment strategies that best leverage this transformation. Investors themselves can decide how to proceed given the theories I develop. While investors will learn proven techniques that have been shown to make money, there are no specific formulas associated with tradestreaming. Rather, investors should finish this book smarter and more knowledgeable about what really works for profitable investors and how to use the Internet to tap into it. Tradestreaming is about identifying successful investors, strategies, and powerful computer programs and following their every move.

For investors, imitation really is the most profitable form of flattery.

Trying to beat the market may be enjoyable, but it’s a sucker’s game and not one that I want to play anymore. Social media has made it possible to easily re-create battlefield-proven investment strategies of all sorts. This book describes the strategies, how they work, and how investors can begin using them to become better investors. Investing is an ongoing learning process. Reading this book should be the start of that process, not the end.

<- Previous: Part 1: What is Tradestreaming I Next: Ride the Long Tail ->

Investors and Google Buzz: a threat to StockTwits?

With much fanfare yesterday (they even arranged a blizzard for much of the googlebuzzU.S.), Google announced its social media offering, Google Buzz (see video below).

What is Google Buzz

So, what is Buzz?  I like Matthew Ingram’s description on GigaOm of the Google Buzz service:

Google’s new service looks and feels a lot like many other social media tools and networks. The primary input is a box for status updates, just like Twitter and Facebook. You can use @ replies, just like Twitter, and you can share photos and other media content easily (there’s even a photo gallery function like Facebook’s). If you’re mobile, you can give Google Buzz your current location and get comments about that location, just like Foursquare and Gowalla and Yelp. But the single biggest difference between Google Buzz and all of these other services is that Buzz is tied to email.

I think what’s interesting here is that it looks like a take on Twitter and Facebook that will allow more intellectual collaboration.  And by that, I mean an ongoing, multimedia, conversation centered around specific content.

How Investors use Social Media

Beyond the back-and-forth whether Google Buzz is a big hit or flop, I began thinking how investors could use this service. When I do this (it’s a messy process, sorry), I tend to use the New Rules of Investing framework.  Investors using social media tend to piggyback gurus (cloning super investors’ portfolios a la AlphaClone), crowdsource ideas (like Piqqem), participate in expert communities (like Covestor and kaChing), and use new technologies to better screen for investments.

StockTwits: What it does

We all know of the initial successes of StockTwits — it’s a good service, run by competent, thoughtful people and has created a pretty loyal (can I say, rabid?) following of users.  Built on Twitter, StockTwits layers in functionality specific to traders and investors (they’ve even skinned their own Twitter software client).

StockTwits users are plugging into what I call (in my upcoming book) the Tradestream: online investors’ publicly available trading logs, complete with their thoughts and theses behind the trades and market conditions.  These are short thoughts, 140 characters or less in length, and typically stand alone.  It’s hard for someone participating in a conversation — let alone, someone who is merely a spectator of one — to group together thoughts into a cohesive conversation (think of how Gmail deals with emails/chats as part of a discussion).

How Google Buzz improves on Twitter/StockTwits

Google Buzz changes this.  Buzz groups thoughts, however errant or short, together into an ongoing discussion.  For example, assume someone posted their thesis on whether Google (GOOG) is a long or short candidate.  In yesterday’s pre-buzz world, an investors would use StockTwits’ Twitter client and post, “Thinking Google’s a long here.  Any thoughts?”.  This would be followed by a string of responses over the next few minutes and trickling in over the next couple of hours.  To view this unfurling chat, users could check the StockTwits Google Page online or access this data through a Twitter client.

But, and here’s the thing, there is nothing cohesive pulling these scattered thoughts into a conversation to help me make a decision regarding GOOG.  Of course, I can scan the output — the tradestream — and piece it together myself.  The power of the conversation is lost on Twitter and instead turns the stock research process into an incessant deluge of sound bites. That process of vetting ideas is especially important to investors.  This is not a ding on StockTwits as much as its the product of how Twitter works.

Google Buzz changes this.  And more, it inserts the tradestream into my email client, where I’m already spending my time — not a game changer, it just enables me to close one more window.

Is this something StockTwits can address?  Surely.  Howard Lindzon and team understand what investors/traders are looking for and are rolling out tons of functionality (have you seen StockTwits TV?  Loving it, actually).  It’s this focus on the investor/trader/analyst that will continue to trump Google’s more general efforts in this space.

Thoughts?