Launched in 2009, LearnVest uses a combination of proprietary software and a real human planner to provide professional advice at a fraction of the cost of a traditional financial planner. All you need to do is let them know where you’re starting from and where you want to go, and they’ll “fill in the rest.”
To help boost your overall financial wellness, LearnVest uses a three-pronged approach:
- A dedicated financial planner who’s available via email 24/7. They’ll be able to guide you through your plan and help you “tackle difficult financial decisions.”
- Speaking of which, your personalized, fully-customizable financial plan will help “balance your wants and needs.”
- An extensive array of online classes, articles, and tools that can help you continue learning how to put your plan into action.
Whether you have questions about paying off debt, saving for retirement or major purchases, or “anything else related to your financial well-being,” LearnVest’s team of financial planners, behavior experts, and tech gurus help “real people get a plan for their money, simply and affordably.” Which is why they’ve assisted hundreds of thousands of people since opening their doors.
But just because LearnVest has been around for a while and seems to have a long client roster, does this necessarily mean they’re right for you? We’ll cover all the basics so you can find your own answer to this question.
A Quick Overview Of the LearnVest Program & Process
To begin the process, you’ll need to fill out a quick form on the LearnVest website. Then, a financial planner (who will either be a Certified Financial Planner or an Investment Advisor Representative) will contact you and walk you through a 15-minute phone call, where they’ll discuss what’s on your mind, your financial situation, and how LearnVest might be able to help.
If you decide to sign up, you’ll always work with the same financial planner and their customized financial Action Plan, and who will be available 24/7 via email to provide support and accountability.
Typically, LearnVest will start by addressing three primary areas: credit card debt, emergency savings, and retirement. And to do this, they’ll create a personalized, customizable financial plan that takes into account where you’re starting from, what your goals are, and exactly how you’ll get there (or, what LearnVest calls “turn-by-turn guidance”).
An example of the financial plan you’ll receive after consulting with a LearnVest professional.
But it doesn’t stop there, because LearnVest will also provide ongoing support for as long as you’re a member. This includes:
- An online tool and iPhone/iPad app that visualizes your progress and helps keep you on track,
- Bite-sized reminders (known as Custom Challenges) sent directly from your planner that will help you make steady progress on your program,
- Commitment Calendars that show you how much money to put toward your goals,
- A money center, where you’ll be able to track your spending, saving, and progress, and
- Access to exclusive content like tools, articles, classes, and online events that can help you better understand the “the "why" and "how" behind [their] advice.”
Here’s a screenshot of LearnVest’s dashboard, where you can link bank accounts, investments, assets, loans, and other debt to help you track your finances and your progress.
How much do all these features and support cost?
Will You Have To Budget Just To Afford LearnVest?
To sign up for LearnVest’s services, you’ll need to pay a one-time setup fee of $299, and then $19/mo for ongoing support (This setup fee can be broken into two or three payments if you prefer). To get the most out of LearnVest’s services, the company recommends working with one of their Financial Planners for at least six months.
Important note: You don’t have to pay anything for basic access to LearnVest’s online dashboard (pictured above), which can help you independently track and better understand your budget. However, you won’t have access to a financial planner or the online classes, articles, and events.
Compared to other financial planning services, LearnVest claims that they can offer the same level of professionalism at a lower price, since:
- They’re only available via phone and email, thereby cutting down their overhead,
- You’ll be giving them much of what they need to know before your first working session, which allows them to quickly get to know you, and
- All of your accounts are linked to your LearnVest progress board, which lets you and your financial planner “see what’s going on in real time.”
LearnVest memberships are paid on a monthly recurring basis, and can be cancelled at any time. To do so, you’ll need to call customer service at (866) 413-7883.
Considering their suite of services and their lower cost, what’s everyone saying about LearnVest?
Is LearnVest Satisfying Their Clients?
PCMag provided a fairly in-depth look at LearnVest’s free services (they didn’t sign up with a financial planner), and liked that you can automatically link accounts, which provides a quick and easy overview of your net worth and spending habits. On the other hand, they didn’t like that you can’t automate errors (such as incorrect spending entries), and that you’ll have to continue correcting these same ones over and over again.
Overall, they felt that if you’re looking to “keep an eye on your spending habits, goals, and net worth on your own, Mint is slightly better.” We’ll talk more about them in a second.
Similarly, InvestorJunkie gave LearnVest a 3-star rating, once again primarily comparing it to Mint, noting that “in a lot of ways, the two services are very similar.” Overall, the author noted that LearnVest is a decent free tool, but unless you’re willing to link all your accounts, you might end up with a “somewhat incomplete” view of your budget.
BestCompany.com gave LearnVest a score of 5.7, who enjoyed the quick and easy setup but didn’t like that there’s no Android app, no alerts, and the high cost of membership. There was also one reader review, which gave LearnVest a 3.0 rating.
Finally, LearnVest’s app had an average rating of 4.5 stars on iTunes based on 1,168 reviews (all versions). Most users seemed pleased with the app’s performance, although common complaints referenced its inability to “learn” where to categorize different transactions and frequent bugs. One customer also reviewed their financial planning services and noted, “the service level is too poor and technology buggy, to the point where we couldn’t even use it.”
What about LearnVest’s competition?
Are There Other Companies Like LearnVest?
Remember when we talked about Mint in the previous section? Well, although they don’t provide the exact same suite of services as LearnVest, they seem to be the company’s biggest competition. In fact, from a do-it-yourself budgeting perspective, it appears that customers and professionals alike tend to recommend Mint over LearnVest.
But that doesn’t mean that LearnVest and Mint are the only budgeting games in town. Far from it. Other popular options include You Need a Budget (YNAB), Mvelopes, PocketGuard, and MoneyStream. And if you’re also looking for investment help, Personal Capital seems to be a go-to option.
Want even more choices? Simply type “budgeting tools” or “financial planning tools” into the search engine of choice, and watch how many results turn up.
Given all of this, should you choose LearnVest to reign in your finances?
Is LearnVest Right For You?
Whatever your calling, success often depends on finding your target audience; your niche, if you will. And to this extent, there doesn’t seem to be any other company with the exact same business model as LearnVest.
In other words, not only can you choose to use their free budgeting software, but you can take this information, pair up with a financial planner, and meet your financial goals. And compared to some other call center-based CFP services where you might just be a name and a number, you’ll have a dedicated LearnVest rep that will travel with you on the road to success.
But, just like any other product or service, LearnVest certainly isn’t ideal for everyone. They don’t offer investing services or business advice, and their CFPs can’t manage your assets. Also, you’ll need to have a US account (no offshore accounts) and plan on retiring in the US.
And keep in mind that LearnVest isn’t necessarily an “emergency” financial planning service, so they’re probably not right for you if you can’t pay your credit card bills, or if you’re in bankruptcy or are considering it.
Our advice? We’d recommend signing up for a free LearnVest account, linking up your accounts, and giving it a go for a couple weeks. Depending on your financial situation, you could probably be up and running in minutes, and you’ll have as much time as you need to really run through everything before upgrading your membership. Just be sure to try out other options during your research, too!