Money money money

 Well now we all know that I'm passionate about learning to work better with money. To handle what little there is of it a bit better, to budget wisely, save as much as possible and understand the way credit works and more often than not doesn't work.

I've made it a hobby as much as a passion to understand how the banking systems work in SA, where the credit pitfalls are and how to invest wisely as possible with a reasonable return.

One of the things I've always struggled with is finding a way to keep track of and make sense of it all. To date I've tried quicken, mymoney, microsoft money blah blah blah blah. I've looked at little products that the banks promote here and there - with no luck.

So here's the rub. What I'm after (and I believe everyone should be) is a simple to use product that's secure, web based and shows me what I have, where it is and what it's worth. A straight forward way to keep track of my assets and personal value. At the same time it's nice to have the ability to spot any shortfalls in my planning - such as insurances, or perhaps retirement investing etc.

Recently while fraustratedly banging away on my keyboard I came across www.22seven.co.za A really nifty website that I've never heard of. It claimed to link your bank accounts, home loan, car loans, dischem card, fanatics points, clicks club card and pretty much anything else you can think of. In all it seemed a bit too good to be true really - all for free? AND of course it could interface to your bank account directly to bring in your statement and categorise your spending.

Well being the doubting Thomas that I am, I did a few hours research and found it to actually be a very well thought of little app (yes there's a mobile version too) that has highly secure access to all the banks and much more. After verifying the sites security certificate I decided to take a leap and see what it could do.

Now I have to tell you - it's pretty darn awesome in terms of simplicity and functions. One can see that there's low functionality but clearly more on the way. I quickly added in a few assets just to get the hang of it and then took a leap and added my FNB accounts to the www.22seven.co.za profile.

Within a while it had brought in the last months transactions and in five minutes flat I had an overview by category of what I'd been spending where for the month so far - pretty scary when I realised exactly how much I waste by shopping "on the fly" at woolies and spar over the weekend.

I'm even able to track what I spend on smoking because I buy my cigarettes from the same tobacco shop and can categorise those transactions (terrifying!).

Personally, I'm not a total budget watcher, but it is pretty neat to see where it all goes. It identified my insurance payments immediately as well as a few others that were pretty keen.

Within an hour or so of tinkering, 22seven had calculated my nett worth according to what I'd told it and taking any short term debts into account - and lo and behold the figures pretty much matched to my cumbersome spreadsheet.

I now have it neatly tracking all my accounts at different banks and no I don't have any Edgars etc. accounts but I'm sure if I did, they'd be there too in just as much detail to show me how much I'd wasted on them.

Time for the final leap (clearly where they fund the program) I know for ages already my retirement savings are terrible and I just don't want to phone a broker and be pestered or get sold things I don't want or understand. I want simplicity. Put in a sum of money by debit order once a month, let it grow and enjoy compound interest and basically set it and forget it. It took less than 5 minutes to sign up for exactly what I wanted in the marketplace at about a third of the brokerage commission I would normally have paid. It was dead easy.

I have to say, if you have debt and want to get out of it - you HAVE to positively get yourself on 22seven now. It's going to save you money, show you where you can save and highlight what everything costs you - fearsome stuff but you have to do it anyway because it's the only reliable way out of debt - honest information.(or the lottery!)

If you have assets and a little savings - you double need this! It'll show you where you need to increase to reduce your long term risk, show you what's earning you money and what's costing you money.

Best of all, the support was from REAL people, none of this press 1 press 3, jump on your desk bullshit. Just straight through to a real person that was friendly helpful and enthusiastic. (I hope they keep it that way).

Nope. I don't normally promote products/ websites etc. In fact I never do unless I'm totally sold on what they're doing - this one is going to grow to a market leader in SA and a winner. Watch it closely as they expand functionality to include insurance quotes and probably a fair bit more.

In time I'd love to see insurance policies being drawn in for comparisons and updates on whether I have enough cover or not. I'd really like to pull in my earnings from salary or salaries and other bits and pieces to get a proper view of income and expenditure. I'd also like to see some access to my medical aid to compare it against other players in the market.

In a nutshell - an overview of my financial life -the good the bad and the ugly. But for now - this is the closest and most user friendly I've found. A definite win for Old Mutual who seem to be behind the wheels (or investing) in it.

Right now for the money conscious or money savvy person out there- this is an absolute MUST have if ever you want a taste of financial independence.