Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Business

How to get smarter at budgeting

RECOMMENDED READING


So you're looking at your credit score, wondering how it's ever going to get better. Or you're thinking you should do something about socking away more money for that vacation.

For most Americans, fiddling with finances is not high on their to-do list. But, as we all know, there's an app for that. Or at the very least a website.

Among the latest: Two financial advisers have earned widespread attention for a new, free financial tool they call FlexScore. Co-founder Jason Gordo said he and his partner, Jeff Burrow, were often frustrated trying to cut through industry jargon and give people easy-to-comprehend answers to their most basic questions: "Where do I stand financially today and what do I do to improve my financial situation?"

Enter FlexScore. Acknowledging that budgets and finances can be flat-out boring, FlexScore's mission is to make a game of doing better at managing money.

FlexScore lets you plug in your financial accounts — income, bills, debts, investments and savings goals — as well as ZIP code, marital status, number of children, etc. Using what Gordo says is a patented algorithm, users get a score, from zero to 1,000, that's based on multiple financial factors and industry standards for retirement savings, mortgage and debt ratios, insurance amounts, and others.

Once you've got a score, you're given specific steps to boost it: lowering your credit-card rates, refinancing your mortgage, contributing to your company's 401(k), adding more life insurance.

For example, a 34-year-old with a new baby and a bigger mortgage might be recommended to up her life insurance coverage by $990,000. She can click on a link for comparative rates at Insure.com — or call "her brother-in-law, the insurance agent," to change her policy, Gordo said. "We don't care who you go to. You get the points for the activity."

In that case, she would have earned 16 points. If you hit 1,000, it means you're financially independent.

Like other personal finance sites, FlexScore lets you set specific goals and see how much you need to save monthly to reach it. Users can also plug in "what-ifs," such as what happens to your score if you buy the 5 Series BMW instead of a more economical Honda Accord.

Among other websites and apps out there to help us manage our money:

Mint.com lets people organize all their financial accounts in one place, both online and from a smartphone. It lets you easily track your spending by category, investments and bills, plus sign up for alerts when bills come due, your balance runs low, etc.

Manilla.com has a new "Bill Share" tool designed to help couples "minimize money arguments." It lets two people — spouses, partners, even parents and adult kids — view joint bills or accounts either online or from their smartphone.

LevelMoney.com: Like a money meter on your smartphone, this app lets you click to see how much you have in spendable cash for any given day, week or month. It aims to help 20- and 30-somethings keep their spending within bounds.

Earmark: Skip the cab or dinner out? This app lets you earmark what you didn't spend and transfer it (either mentally or literally) toward things you really want. Its intent: to keep us mindful of how eliminating everyday spending can add up.

YouNeedABudget.com: Known as YNAB, it's not free, but the $60 software is lauded for walking people through the budgeting process and helping them stick with it.

Comments
Some cities faced with all-or-nothing medical marijuana rules are playing it safe

Some cities faced with all-or-nothing medical marijuana rules are playing it safe

When it comes to weighing the options for regulating medical marijuana through the law passed this year, Dunedin city commissioners declared local governments face a "conundrum" and "a false dilemma."They said they would welcome a dispensary in the c...
Published: 11/22/17
U.S. business leaders say Cuba is still open, at least to them, despite Trump’s new rules

U.S. business leaders say Cuba is still open, at least to them, despite Trump’s new rules

WASHINGTON — When the Trump administration announced new Cuba regulations, it sparked a new round of hand-wringing in Washington over a return to a posture not seen since the Cold War. But now, the American business community is quietly spreading the...
Published: 11/22/17
A new threat this shopping season: toys that can spy on kids

A new threat this shopping season: toys that can spy on kids

ST. PETERSBURG — Not all sinister toys are as obvious as a Chucky doll. Many present more subtle threats — choking hazards, high lead content, privacy concerns. And as the biggest shopping season of the year kicks off, consumer advocates are urging s...
Published: 11/21/17
Indian automaker plant is latest sign of Detroit comeback

Indian automaker plant is latest sign of Detroit comeback

It has been years since Detroit, birthplace of the American auto industry, was a steady producer of the manufacturing jobs that defined it as the Motor City. But its comeback is entering a new phase.The latest milestone came this week, with the annou...
Published: 11/21/17
Big Tobacco’s anti-smoking ads begin after decade of delay

Big Tobacco’s anti-smoking ads begin after decade of delay

Associated PressWASHINGTON — Decades after they were banned from the airwaves, Big Tobacco companies return to prime-time television this weekend — but not by choice. Under court order, the industry for the first time will be forced to advertise the ...
Published: 11/21/17
Ybor ’s first public school, long gone, still has a story to tell about district’s history

Ybor ’s first public school, long gone, still has a story to tell about district’s history

TAMPAIt’s been more than a century since Ybor City’s first public school was demolished on the plot of land now identified as 1311 E Eighth Ave.For the past 22 years, the popular concert venue New World Brewery took up the space and one next door. No...
Published: 11/21/17
Barricades reinforce security for holiday events on St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront

Barricades reinforce security for holiday events on St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront

ST. PETERSBURG — World and national tragedies are changing the city’s approach to security for special events at North Straub Park.With the approach of the holidays, concrete barricades have been erected at a section of the park’s perimeter, where Fo...
Published: 11/21/17
Copa Airlines to fly daily nonstop from Tampa to Panama next summer

Copa Airlines to fly daily nonstop from Tampa to Panama next summer

TAMPA — Panama’s Copa Airlines, which four years ago became the first airline to offer service between Panama and Tampa Bay, said it is increasing its nonstop service between Tampa International Airport and Panama City to daily flights starting in Ju...
Published: 11/21/17
Irma did not stop tourists from setting record visits to Florida so far in 2017

Irma did not stop tourists from setting record visits to Florida so far in 2017

Despite Hurricane Irma, Florida hit another record high number in tourists visiting the state in the first nine months of this year, according to figures released this week.Visit Florida, the state’s tourism bureau, said 88.2 million visitors came to...
Published: 11/21/17
FCC chairman unveils proposal to repeal net neutrality

FCC chairman unveils proposal to repeal net neutrality

WASHINGTON — Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday followed through on his pledge to repeal 2015 regulations designed to ensure that internet service providers treat all online content and apps equally, setting up a showdown ...
Published: 11/21/17