For many Americans, the past few weeks have brought some major financial changes. While some are just trying to stay afloat, others are already looking ahead and searching for ways that they can be more prepared the next time around. For this latter group, a tool that could help them assess their current money situation and offer some tailored advice would probably be useful — and that’s basically what Savology is offering.
Savology is a free website that allows users to plan their financial futures and receive personalized recommendations. So how does it work? Let’s take a look at what the process of joining Savology is like and what you’ll find once your financial plan is created.
Obtaining Your Free Financial Plan with Savology
To get started with Savology, you’ll first be asked to fill out a multi-part questionnaire that will help the service better understand your current financial standing. Since Savology is free, you won’t need to enter any credit card information to take this quiz nor will you provide any sensitive financial information, such as banking account numbers. Instead, you’ll be asked generic questions about your money.
Savology’s questionaire is broken into five sections:
- Personal profile
- Spending and debt
- Risk management
For the “Personal profile” section, you’ll be asked some basic questions such as your first name (last name isn’t required), age, zip code, marital status, number of dependents, etc. Then, for Savings, it will ask you about your income, savings habits, what types of accounts you have, their estimated balances, and more. Similiarly the “Spending and debt” portion inquires about assets you may have, liabilities you hold, your current rent, and about any credit cards you may have.
Moving on to the “Risk Management” section, this is where Savology will attempt to understand the various types of insurances and other policies you have in addition to any legal documents you may have prepared such as wills, trusts, etc. Finally the “Outlook” portion broadly covers yours current health (as in “how do you feel about your health?” — not specifics), what age you wish to retire at, and more. One funny note for those chasing financial independence: an error message on Savology says they currently only support retirement ages between 50 and 80.
Although five sections may sound like a lot, the entire process can be done in about 10 minutes… assuming you have your data on hand. Still, as long as you have a rough estimate of things like your checking, savings, and investment balances, you should be able to complete the survey in a short amount of time. Also worth noting is that you can always update your answers after you’ve set-up an account, so don’t feel like you need to get too detailed and exact right away.
One of my favorite aspects of Savology’s questionnaire is that it offered some interesting stats in between sections. For example, after the Personal profile portion, it noted how my state’s tax burden compares to others. Meanwhile, after the Saving and Spending sections, it made me feel good by sharing how I was ahead of my peers in certain regards. By the way, in some cases it offered more generic tidbits, so I doubt it would feel the need to point out how behind you are if that is indeed the case.
Once you complete the entire questionnaire, that’s when you’ll be asked to set up a free account. Again, this is free — you’ll just need to provide your e-mail address and create a password (or you can login via Google). After your account is created, you’ll be able to look at some of the recommendations and advice Savology has for you.
Exploring Your Savology Dashboard
When you log into your Dashboard, the first section you’ll see includes your Action Items. These are tailored recommendations about what your next financial steps should be. While your top three items will show in the Dashboard, you can view more by navigating to the Action Items tab in the left column of the site.
In my case, since my wife and I are already on track as far as savings, my Action Items include things like creating a will and taking out a term life insurance policy. However, since we currently rent, it also recommends saving up for a down payment on a house.
By default, you can view five Action Items. However, you can unlock more by using Savology Stars (more on those later). Additionally, as you complete steps, you can update your profile in order for Action Items to fall off of your to-do list.
In addition to providing you with specific next steps via Action Items, Savology also provides you with a Report Card looking at your current financial standing. To arrive at a grade, the site gives you a score out of 100. However, beyond your overall grade, Savology also grades you in nine areas:
- Emergency funds
- Estate planning
- Net Worth
The catch is that, in order to see specifics on why you received the grade you did in a given category, you’ll need to cash in 50 Savology Stars — which I promise I’ll explain in a bit.
While the Report Card section won’t provide you much detail by default regarding your finances, Financial Plan will lay out the numbers and help you better comprehend your current money standing. In the Savings & Income tab, you can view your current Savings Rate as well as how much you’ll need to save up in order to have a fully-funded emergency fund. Meanwhile the Assets & Liabilities tab will help you track your net worth and debt to income ratio while also informing you what “affordable” rent means in your situation. As for Risk, this is where you can view an estate planning checklist and get an idea for how much term life insurance you and your spouse would need. Finally the Retirement tab looks at whether or not you’re on track to properly replace your income when you retire.
For an even deeper understanding of financial topics, Savolgy is creating educational materials that can be found in the Modules tab. Currently the modules include one on credit scores, one on preparing a guardianship nomination, and a financial literacy quiz. They also list several others covering such topics as auto insurance, net worth analysis, taxes, and more coming soon. If one of these upcoming items does look interesting to you, you can also request to be notified when it becomes available.
Something important to note here is that some of the modules seems as though they will be paid features. This is the case with the Prepare Guardianship Nomination feature that is selling for $10 (although it lists a normal price of $50). At this time it’s unclear to me how many of these modules will be tied in with paid services from other providers but I guess we’ll see.
Speaking of providers, Savolgy works with a number of partners across many verticals. Considering that the service itself is free, I would presume that these referrals also make up a big part of Savolgy’s monetization model. In any case, you can view a full list of these partners by visiting the Providers tab. That said, you’ll likely encounter them in other places throughout Savolgy, such as in your Action Items, modules, and elsewhere.
The good news is that these providers represent some very well-known and respected brands. This includes the likes of Ally, Credit Karma, Policygenius, and more. Also, I will say that, so far, it seems that Savology has done a nice job of integrating these referrals organically and refrained from letting ads overrun their site.
Okay, finally — what are Savology Stars?! They’re basically a points system that Savology uses to encourage you to interact more with their offerings. As I mentioned earlier, they can be used to unlock additional Action Items or details on your Report Card categories.
Savology Stars are free and can be earned through a few different methods. For one, completing an Action Item will result in you receiving up to 90 Stars. Similarly, you can also get up to 90 Stars upon finishing some Modules. Lastly, you can also score 100 Savology Stars by encouraging friends to try Savology and using your link to create their financial plan.
My Thoughts on Savology
Having explored the Savology site for myself, there’s definitely a lot to like about the platform. Starting at the top, I appreciate that users don’t need to provide personal details in order to take the quiz nor pay anything to use the vast majority of the service as it stands now. Plus, I think Savology does a nice job of putting each financial concept in context, explaining its importance, and giving users a better frame of reference for how they’re doing in a given area. Also, I commend the service for not going overboard with cheap referrals and keeping their suggestions relevant to their audience.
As for criticism, I really only have nitpicks at this point. For one, I do find the Savelogy Stars component to be a bit gimmicky and silly. Although I could see how they’d lead to people completing other tasks in order to dive deeper into their finances, I could also imagine some just walking away instead. To their credit, though, at least these are free, with no option to purchase them — something I think is key in this case. My only other nitpick would be that the site could use some more graphical elements or color schemes to liven things up just a bit.
Overall, I think Savology could be a great place for people interested in learning more about their money to start. Moreover, I see a lot of potential for the platform as it hopefully adds more resources, insights, and partners. Personally, I look forward to seeing how this free service grows in the coming months and years.
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Also published on Medium.