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About LearnVest

LearnVest.com is the leading personal finance and lifestyle website for women. Since its debut as a TechCrunch50 Company in September 2009, LearnVest has helped over one million women gain control of their finances. LearnVest provides trusted content, tools, and support to help women tackle their...

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  • Willy Staley's Profile Image

    By Willy Staley, Aug 13th 2012

    Editor Rating

    LearnVest is a sleek and easy-to-use personal-finance management system, which is accompanied by lighthearted and potentially helpful editorial content designed to help people get their finances under control. In fact, the app grew out of LearnVest’s goal of helping women, in particular, get a handle on their finances -- before, the website was primarily editorial content.

    Appropriate to its mission, LearnVest is somewhat warmer than other personal finance apps, but also as a vestige of its mission, it pushes its listicles and editorial offerings somewhat aggressively. This is fantastic for someone who would very much like to learn the basics about personal finance. It even offers “boot camps” for users, which teach you the basics about cash flow and budgeting and the like. For someone fresh out of college, or high school, finally on their own, this can help make managing finances unintimidating, accessible and useful.

    Pros Cons
    Easy to use Aggressively pushes editorial content
    Focused on education Miscategorizes spending

    Accessibility

    LearnVest is painless to log in to, and updates your finances almost immediately upon reaching the landing page. Currently, it is only available through the web -- there’s no mobile app for this PFM. Though it appears the company is currently hiring developers for a mobile app, so you never know when that might change.

    Functionality

    LearnVest gives a great overview of total net worth immediately upon entering the site. Your net worth, your total number of transactions and a history of all money spent line the top of the landing page. You must go to view your accounts should you want anything more detailed: the rest of the page pushes LearnVest’s editorial content.

    The Financial Inbox gives a great snapshot of your finances. All your recent transactions pop up, with folders on the side showing you how much you spent in different categories on the side, and an overall Money In/Money Out cell on top. Click the folders and it brings up the transactions, and compares it to the monthly budget you’ve laid out for yourself. Bring up the budget and you can edit it right then and there. It’s a fantastically thorough view of your finances, so long as you typically use your debit or credit card to pay for things. As with all PFMs, of course, cash is useless -- you can learn nothing from it without entering each and every cash transaction into the program.

    This section also allows you to set a number of goals, and LearnVest in general likes to educate its users about how to manage their finances in a smarter way.

    Breadth

    LearnVest allows user to connect bank accounts, credit cards, investment accounts and loans. Hundreds of banks link up to the service, and in all it gives its users a broad snapshot of their financial situation.

    That said, as with all PFMs, cash presents a problem. If you’re anything like us, you still use the stuff to buy things, and this can make it hard for a PFM to show you how you spend money. LearnVest allows you to at least attempt to. If you are incredibly vigilant, you can split up the $40 you take out of the ATM into the different purchases you made with it: $5 for Chinese food, $13 at the bar, $17 at the flea market, etc, etc.

    Guidance/Categorization

    This is an area that LearnVest struggles with. It miscategorizes purchases rather regularly. For instance, it does not recognize direct deposit as income, which is odd. And it filed a purchase at Barnes & Noble as “Unfoldered” -- is one of the largest book retailers in the nation totally unrecognizable? Worse, because of how diversified certain stores’ offerings are, this can make for funny results. A $12 purchase at CVS, for cigarettes, was foldered as “Health”. Well, not quite, but we can see how that happened.

    As these programs get ahold of better data -- this is a book, those are bad for you -- we will likely begin to see better categorization.

    Education

    This is either LearnVest’s strong suit or its biggest shortcoming. More than any other PFM, LearnVest seeks to educate its users about personal finance -- in fact, the PFM is, chronologically speaking, secondary to the educational resources the site provides. Perhaps because of this, LearnVest pushes its editorial content rather aggressively. Just because you want a place to get a all-in-one view of your finances, it doesn’t mean that you want emails in your inbox every day at noon with (occasionally) asinine headlines like: “7 Secrets of an Expert Interior Designer”; “10 Travel Tips That Will Save You” etc, etc.

    If you’re at all guarded about what ends up in your inbox, this might rub you the wrong way. While there’s nothing wrong with the occasional listicle -- they’re great for online publishing, and we respect that -- you might not want clickbait sent to your inbox every day at noon. Though, we will admit: it wasn’t hard to unsubscribe.

    However, if you’re starting from scratch with the basics of personal finance, there isn’t a better resource than LearnVest.

    The Breakdown

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    Functionality
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    Breadth
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    Guidance
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    Education
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