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Cheat Sheet

Mint.com For Dummies

From Mint.com For Dummies by Gail A. Perry, CPA, Matt Krantz

Use Mint.com to track spending and control debt; start saving for retirement; and get deals on financial products such as credit cards. First, you need to know basic financial terms to get the most out of the site. Mint.com has many features, but if you want to tackle a specific financial problem, Mint.com can help, too. And if you're worried about putting all your financial information online, choose a strong password to help keep your information secure.

Basic Financial Terms in Mint.com

Mint.com is straightforward and easy to use but the site does require some financial knowledge. Don't worry—using Mint.com doesn't require a degree in finance. Understanding a few basic financial terms will go a long way in helping you get the most out of the site:

  • Account: A financial relationship you have with an institution such as a bank or a lender. Checking, savings, and credit card accounts can all be tracked by Mint.com.

  • Balance: How much money you have, or owe, in an account.

  • Assets: Items of value that you own.

  • Debts: Money you owe to someone else, most likely a financial institution such as a bank.

  • Net income: How much of your income you keep after paying your bills.

  • Ticker symbol: One or more letters used to identify an investment such as a stock or mutual fund.

  • Transaction: A financial event that causes money to go into or out of an account. A transaction can also be a charge placed on a credit card.

  • Alerts: Reminders of important financial events. Mint.com can e-mail alerts to you or send them to your cell phone.

  • APR: Short for annual percentage rate. The fee, or interest rate, you pay to borrow money expressed as a yearly percentage.

  • Budget: Limits you place on spending on types of items or categories (see below) so that you reach your financial goals.

  • Categories: Groupings that organize various expenses or income so you can see patterns. If you spend money at McDonald's, for instance, Mint.com would put that transaction into the Food & Dining category.

  • Credit card issuer: The bank or financial institution that gives you a credit card.

  • Credit score: A numerical value used to forecast how likely you are to pay back your debt.

  • Investments: Financial instruments you buy with the hope that your money will grow in the future.

  • Market value: The current value of any assets, including investments, you own.

  • Net Worth: A measurement of your financial standing: What's left of your assets after you subtract your debts.

  • Price paid: How much you paid to acquire an investment, such as a stock or a mutual fund. The price paid is used to determine your profit and any taxes you might owe when you sell the investment for a profit.

  • S&P 500: Short for Standard & Poor's 500. The S&P 500 is a common stock market index that indicates the direction of stocks. Mint.com compares your portfolio to the S&P 500 to see if you're beating or lagging the stock market.

  • Tag: A grouping used by Mint.com to pull together spending in different categories. You might tag spending in the Travel and Food & Dining categories so you can see how much you spent on a vacation.

Using Mint.com to Solve Common Money Woes

Mint.com helps deal with specific financial problems that happaen for most people at some point. Here are some common financial problems and the Mint.com feature that's designed to help you tackle the problem.

  • Too much debt: The Goals tab contains a Get Out of Debt feature that helps you design a debt-reduction plan.

  • Confused where money is going: The Trends tab helps you see the categories in which you're spending the most and spot areas that are getting out of control.

  • Not saving enough: The Budgets tab helps you set a limit on specific categories and lets you know if you're at risk of exceeding those limits.

  • Investment portfolio too risky: The Allocation tab, which is on the Investments tab, shows you if you've spread your money over different types of investments. Spreading your investments around, or diversification, can help protect your portfolio from downside pain.

  • Not getting enough out of banking relationships: The Ways to Save tab helps you find credit cards, savings accounts, or other financial accounts that will help save you money.

Keeping Personal Data Secure in Mint.com

Mint.com goes to great lengths to keep your financial information safe and sound. Your role in Mint.com security begins with building a strong password. Following are some tips to help create a strong password that will keep your data even more secure.

  • Mix of uppercase and lowercase letters: MiNtExAmPlE

  • Numbers and symbols: Mint!Password101

  • Combination of unrelated words: Taxi!Monkey

  • 14 or more characters: Choose!Strong1Passwords

  • First letters of long sentences: ILMFDIIAGB! Would be based on the phrase, "I Love Mint.com For Dummies. It is a great book!"

  • Frequent changes: Try to change your password every few months. You might consider using a word and adding a date, such as password10/10 for October 2010. And then, 60 days later, change it to password01/11 for January 2011.

  • Numbers other than your Social Security Number or things connected with your e-mail address:If your e-mail address is smarty@dummies.com, don't use smarty or dummies as a password.

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