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Let “Thrive” Help You Budget Wisely

Looking at your savings and bills and wondering how the heck to move financially forward?

Give Thrive, a free financial advising service, a whirl.

Thrive

Designed with 20- and 30-somethings in mind, Thrive takes the account numbers and passwords to your bank, credit card, mortgage and investment statements and automatically downloads all of the info it needs.

It then analyzes where your money goes and offers advice on how to trim expenses, pay off your credit cards and get your investments rolling.

Once you’ve sent the computer program on its way, Thrive requires surprisingly little work from you. Just answer a few questions. (You may need to tell it that Wegmans is a grocery store or that you shop at CVS for prescriptions, not magazines).

Thrive is an ideal service for people with irregular incomes, too. Unlike other advice sites that start by asking for your monthly income, it determines how much you make by looking at six months of bank statements.

Just be prepared for some tough love, with advice like “You’re overspending, slow down,” or a sobering calculation of how quickly you’d run out of money if you were fired.

Concerned about turning your financial passwords over to a Web site?

You have good reason to be, but Thrive insists they’re safe. They use the same kinds of safety measures and coding as your bank. And then some.

“We don’t actually store your passwords. You come in, you enter your password, we create a secure, one way tunnel with your bank,” says Matt Wallaert, the lead scientist at Thrive. “They send us the equivalent of the statement you’d get in the mail, but with less info.”

If hackers broke into the site, they might be able to see how much you spend for groceries, but they wouldn’t be able to steal your identity by taking your passwords and account numbers.

It’s not a perfect system. If you already have a mortgage, for example, the site will still tell you how much home you can afford to buy, and prompt you to set up a plan to buy one.

Wallaert says they’re working on that, and to make spending and budget suggestions more action based.

Instead of saying “you have $300 to spend on meals this month,” he wants Thrive to figure out that your average restaurant bill is $30 and tell you that you can go out 10 times this month.

But for a free service?

It’s a valuable one that could help you budget your money more wisely.

Comments (2)
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  1. Aleks said:
    on August 8th at 09:06 pm

    Doesn’t seem too different from Mint.com

  2. matt@Thrive said:
    on August 9th at 01:12 pm

    @Aleks: You might be surprised to find that as behavioral psychologist at Thrive, I both agree and disagree. In some sense, Mint and Thrive are very much the same…and for a good reason: both are designed to help you deal with your financial life. In the same way that coaching basketball and coaching football are similar, any service that deals with money management is going to have some similar elements.

    Off the top of my head, I can easily think of a few similarities:

    1) both Mint and Thrive aggregate your data so that you can see all your accounts in one place.

    2) both Mint and Thrive offer some sort of auto-categorization system for your purchases and a way to change those categories yourself.

    3) both Mint and Thrive will recommend different financial accounts than you have.

    But even as I do that, I notice that there are differences. For example, it isn’t true to say Mint and Thrive will both recommend different financial accounts: Mint WILL recommend, Thrive MAY recommend.

    Why? Because Mint makes money off getting you to switch accounts, so they’ll recommend that you change as often as possible. They’ll take money from banks to put their listings at the top of the stack, whether they are actually better for you or not.

    Thrive makes money when you switch accounts, sometimes. Some banks pay an “account generation” fee when we refer a customer to them. Others don’t. Our algorithm doesn’t care…it just gives you the best possible account for you, whether we make money or not. And if you already have an account that is good enough, where switching won’t change much, then we’ll tell you to keep what you have.

    I’m tempted to say it is a subtle difference, but really, I don’t think it is. The example may be simple, but when you apply that sort of difference across the entire site, I think a pattern emerges: Thrive is concerned with helping you. Period, full stop, end of sentence.

    Sure, we try to make sure we make money, because if we don’t stay in business, we can’t help anybody. But everyone on our team could be making better money doing something else: we’re here because we want to build a better financial world, one where have the tools to create a financial future that they are satisfied with.