I may have found some new ways to get you out of a personal finance funk.
This is the gnawing feeling many of us have that we're not managing our money well and are paying too much for 401(k)s, mutual funds, brokers and financial planners.
But four nascent websites and apps unveiled this week at the annual Finovate Fall 2013 conference in New York City could offer what you need to grow your wealth, reach your financial goals and save some money. I'd even call one of them fun. (I wrote about four others after last year's Finovate: Credit Sesame, Tuition.io, PayTap and My Virtual StrongBox; I'm glad to say these are all still around and expanding.)
My Gripes With Personal Financial Management Tools
Bear in mind that I approach this subject as someone who hasn't been a huge fan of these electronic helpers because, as I wrote in "Personal Financial Management Tools Flunk," many require a lot of effort and offer little payoff.
What's more, with so many of these products vying for your attention, it's easy to be overwhelmed by all the alternatives.
(MORE: The Key to Making Smart Money Decisions)
Says Ron Shevlin, a senior analyst at the financial services consultancy, the Aite Group: "I found six screens for apps to manage your financial life just beginning with the letter 'A' in the app store."
Here's my quick guide to four promising sites and apps from Finovate, along with my caveats:
Day-to-Day Money Management
I was intrigued by two free sites for consumers: FlexScore and Guide Financial.
(Two other helpful new tools, Yodlee's Tandem and MoneyDesktop's Guide Me, will be offered by financial institutions to their customers. Tandem is a collaborative money-management program that could be useful for people with financial responsibilities for their adult kids and their elderly parents. Guide Me provides a snazzy visual representation of your financial goals in bubbles whose size is based on how much money they'll require.)
FlexScore, my Finovite favorite, is fun to use and free. The site calculates a personal finance score for you based on how well you're managing your money (it takes about 15 minutes for you to enter your information). Then it shows you how to raise the number, with the goal of reaching a perfect 1,000.
Lower your mortgage rate through refinancing and you might raise your FlexScore 24 points; update your life insurance and it could go up 16 points.
Your score will drop if you make a dumb money move, such as taking the money you save from refinancing and putting it all into one stock. "You'll get dinged for a lack of diversification," says Jeff Burrow, FlexScore's president and co-founder, who is also a financial adviser.