Why All Real Estate Investors Should Measure Their Progress on Mint.com

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Being “rich” is a lot more conceptual than you think.

If your vision of wealth is Scrooge McDuck swimming through a sea of gold coins, think again. (You probably grew up in the ‘80s like me.)

Your wealth isn’t a suitcase full of cash, a huge diamond you wear around your neck, or a hidden vault behind a bland painting in your office. For most of us, our wealth exists as a bunch of ones and zeroes, on dozens of ledgers and accounts stored on servers across the world.

Even your real estate wealth is a conceptual calculus — present market value minus liens.

Consider all your disparate financial cogs: checking accounts, savings accounts, real estate investments, mortgages, retirement accounts, credit card balances, vehicles, vehicle debts, student loans, securities portfolios, 529 college savings plans — get the idea? Accounts all over the place, falling in either the plus column or the minus column on your net worth ledger. Ones and zeroes on servers.

Which is where Mint.com enters stage left, a deus ex machina to bring order to the chaos and provide a neat, tidy resolution.

Mint’s First Trick: All Your Accounts on One Page

This is more valuable than it sounds. The tricks to come are undoubtedly more exciting, but it’s important to get a few things straight before we get to them.

At one glance, you can review every single one of your accounts — every balance, every bank, every lender, every piece of property. Mint pulls a neat trick where it electronically ties into each of your accounts, so it can pull balance and payment information in real time.

This top-level view of your financial life is invaluable. It’s worth reiterating: your entire financial life on one page. You can see where your finances are strong and weak, where you’re weighted too heavily in one asset class and too light in another.

Mint will also send you notifications and alerts if you want them — big payments coming up, unexpected expenses, areas where you’ve spent more than usual recently.

It’s like the central nervous system for your finances.

As a nice bonus, Mint.com is owned by Intuit, the same company that owns Quickbooks. The simple data exchange makes doing your taxes that much easier.

mint-software

Mint’s Second Trick: Psychologically Making the Intangible Real

It’s such a simple thing, but to me it’s the most powerful reason to use Mint.com.

How many times have you had an extra few hundred dollars in your checking account and tried to decide what to do with it? You could buy yourself a new set of clothes — or you could invest the money and increase your wealth.

Related: The Foolproof Monthly Budget: How to Save Up Money to Buy Investment Properties

The clothes are right there in the shop window, calling to you. They’re tangible and real. But your net worth? That’s an awfully vague concept.

Not anymore. Not when you can see it rise before your very eyes. You can either watch the money disappear from your net worth as you blow it on that new set of clothes, or you can see it go into an investment account to start earning money for you.

Watching your net worth grow every month, watching it tick upward toward your magic number for your retirement or other major goal (more on goals later) makes it real. You’re rewarded for good financial decisions by seeing your wealth build in real time.

Even your real estate investments’ equity becomes crystal clear on Mint’s dashboard.

Mint’s Third Trick: Tracking Real Estate Equity

You probably guessed that Mint can track your mortgages’ principal balances in real time. Every month, it will display the new (lower) balance — which in and of itself is pretty gratifying.

But it gets better. Once you save your investment properties’ addresses to your account, Mint will pull the current Zillow estimated value (Zestimate) and display it too.

So you can watch, week in, week out, as your properties appreciate in value and pay down their mortgage debts — like a live stock ticker for your real estate equity and wealth.

Pretty cool, eh?

Good credit also matters more to real estate investors than the average bear. Fortunately, Mint will also help you keep an eye on your credit over time, helping you to make adjustments if you stray toward the dark side.

mint-com

Related: 9 Must-Read New Books to Help With Your Personal Finances

Mint’s Fourth Trick: Building Budgets, Setting Goals

Everyone needs a budget, whether they make $20,000 or $20 million in a year. If it takes money to make money, then the more money you save, the faster you start earning more money.

Mint will help you construct a budget custom tailored to your income and expenses. It will also help you spot expenses that you can likely trim to help you save and invest more money each month.

To help motivate you and clarify timeframes, Mint also has a goals feature, where you can select from common goals (like buying a property or saving for retirement) for guidance and budget calculators. Over time, they’ll track your progress toward your goal and send you notifications if you falter off course.

Structure helps us maintain discipline, which is why these centralized services work so well to keep us on track.

Onward & Upward

Mint has plenty of other tricks up its sleeve, which have less to do with real estate investing but are nice features nonetheless. They can track the individual performance of each stock, bond, ETF, and mutual fund in your portfolio. They display trends in your spending to help keep you informed about where your financial leaks are.

That which gets measured gets done, as the saying goes. If the primary goal in your professional life is building wealth, shouldn’t you be measuring it and checking your progress every week? It’s hard to know your progress if you don’t know where you are right now or a way to measure improvement. It’s not about tracking one or two accounts, but seeing the complete picture.

To come full circle back to ‘80s cartoon references, “Knowing is half the battle.”

How do you measure progress on your mission to build wealth? Had success (or problems) with Mint.com? Use a different service you like more?

Tell us about your road to riches!

*Author’s Note: I am in no way affiliated with Mint.com.

About Author

Brian Davis

Brian is a real estate investor and landlord with 15 rental properties, who writes fascinating articles for SparkRental.com. His rental management is almost completely automated by now, allowing him to travel the world frequently (if not always in style).

21 Comments

  1. John Bierly

    I’ve looked at this but where it falls down is the lack of ability to connect with the private money that most experienced RE investors use at some level. Also, if you have other investments available to accredited investors these typically lack a web interface as well. Building wealth through real estate with conforming mortgages and paper investments traded by big banks/brokers is not the end game that most serious investors should aspire to, so for me it’s still the excel spreadsheet to put together a financial statement.

    • Brian Davis

      It’s true that a web interface is required for live tracking of principal balances. I manually enter my mortgage balances with private lenders, and just adjust them once every six months or so. Still a lot easier than an Excel spreadsheet, but I do love spreadsheets too.

  2. Mike McKinzie

    I do the same thing in Excel, albeit, it requires a LOT more work. Every bank account has it’s own tab. Every debt has it’s own tab. One tab is TOTAL debt. I have tabs for people that owe me money, tabs for real estate values and since my daughter is getting married next year, she has her own tab for that too. Household budget has it’s own tab. Health Care costs has it’s own tab. I use Excel to divide my Real Estate investments on two different tabs, one is monthly and one is per property. I make one entry on the tab for that property and that number shoots over to 4-6 other tabs. But your point is EXCEPTIONALLY CORRECT, keep track of all your finances!!!

    • Brian Davis

      Congratulations on your daughter getting married!
      That sounds like a helluva spreadsheet (or series of spreadsheets). I love spreadsheets too, but it’s nice having everything interconnected on one page. Ultimately though the most important thing is to track your wealth actively, and preferably on a weekly basis. As long as real estate investors have a system, it will help keep their eyes on the prize and their priorities focused.

    • Brian Davis

      Pretty understandable skepticism, in today’s world. On the one hand, I trust Intuit, they’re an old brand who’s built a lot of credibility. On the other hand, even the large, secure companies can be hacked. But I do know they use bank-level security, so theoretically it’s no riskier than logging into your bank’s online banking platform.

      • James Mc Ree

        There is one significantly larger risk. Your bank account gets hacked and 1 account (or set of accounts) at that bank is exposed. Your Mint.com account gets hacked and your entire financial portfolio is at risk! That is an order of magnitude different.

        No one ever expects their institutions to be hacked. What if Mint.com is hacked? It could be an inside job. The convenience is great. I haven’t used one of these services in years solely because of this fear. It takes me a little longer to do the accounting when I feel the rare urge to compute my wealth and I sleep better at night knowing my credentials aren’t out there somewhere.

        I use a spreadsheet and update it 2-3 times per year at most. It would be great if I could get the automated update feature in an Excel workbook.

  3. Chris Billington

    Thank you for this Brian. I was in the initial stages of setting up something similar with personal capital, but wasn’t sure that site tied in investment properties well. I like the one page/see all idea though with mint along with the zillow info. I didn’t realize mint could do that. Appreciate the info!

    • Pat Tibbetts

      Personal Capital does indeed track the Zestimate value of all real estate you plug into it. The one downside I’ve discovered is, Personal Capital is a wealth management and financial advisory firm, so they assign a human advisor to your account. The paid service is optional, but you can expect to receive sales calls periodically (especially if you’re a relatively high net worth prospect).

  4. Jerry W.

    Brian,
    Nice article. I know the saying about not improving something if you don’t measure it, but I have so little time I have not tried it. At this point what I did was go and look up the principal I was paying on all my loans combined each month and realized I was gaining over $3K a month in just equity pay down. Each month that amount of equity pay down goes up until I pay off a mortgage. Since I am getting closer to retirement from my day job I am goi9ng to start trying to snowball off the debt I have in an attempt to pay a bunch of loans off.

  5. James Letchford

    Brian — Thanks for the article. I’ve been a huge fan of Mint.com for several years. It helps my family and I stay on track, financially.

    Here’s my question to you: I’m in the middle of my first deal. (Buy and hold property.) Being that a lot of investors/entrepreneurs see their investments as a business, what are your thoughts on opening a specific Mint.com for your business accounts and not tieing them to your personal accounts? Would this help get a better picture to the health of your business?

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Brian Davis

      Thanks James!
      If you’re the only owner of the business, I would tie the business assets and liabilities in with your personal Mint.com. The business, and its assets and liabilities, are part of your financial picture. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t open a separate business bank account – something you should definitely do if you decide to hold your property in an LLC or other entity name. Just because you legally hold the assets in separate entities and accounts, doesn’t mean you can’t view them all simultaneously on Mint.

  6. pavel yurevich

    Great article, thank you, Brian! I dealt with Mint in the past, but it had an issue with connecting one of my major credit cards to my account, so I dropped it. It’s great to know that they are developing, and actually added tracking real estate value to the features list! I will definitely give Mint another shot.

  7. Julie Marquez

    I love Mint.com and when I started year ago (before real estate), it helped me get my life and finances in order. By seeing all my accounts, my transactions, budgets, and goals on one page (I have multiple checking, savings, and credit cards, so having it all in one place was super helpful too). I’ve never had an issues with security yet. With the program, I was able to educate myself and get myself in order to save for my first property.

    I hear that Personal Capital is a little more powerful, but I don’t really want to switch over when I have so much history in Mint. It doesn’t work very strongly for business or accounting software, but for individuals, it is great! And I highly recommend it for step #3 in Josh and Brandon’s podcast #200 (20 steps) to get your life and personal finances in order.

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