My Financial Relationship

I have begun a relationship with someone else… but my husband knows and is ok with it. Don’t worry, there is no infidelity here. Her name is Sarah and she is my LearnVest certified financial planner™.

What is LearnVest? It is an ingenious financial tool to keep yourself on track with monthly and annual expenses, debt, savings and goals. The process is simple – complete a financial profile, meet over telephone with your financial planner and then receive your custom 6-step program. For a small monthly fee, Sarah and I can do unlimited emails and questions (24/7) and she always answers back within a day.

We decided to try out LearnVest since we’re trying to tackle monthly expenses, paying off debt and increase our savings – all while having two of my husband’s children move in with us this year. The increased costs of two teenagers really adds up and we weren’t pinpointing the expenses accurately. LearnVest’s strategy focuses around the 50/20/30 idea – 50% of income should go towards essential expenses, 20% towards financial priorities and 30% towards lifestyle choices.

How does the budget work?

The essential expenses 50% category includes my home, utilities, insurance (life, car, home, etc.), childcare, transportation and anything else that is essential to live. Many of these are fixed costs – I know my monthly mortgage cost, my annual life insurance and how much my son’s tuition charges.

The financial priorities 20% category is two-pronged: paying off debt and saving for retirement and college accounts. Since I am on track for retirement and my two sons’ college accounts, my goal here is to put as much as possible towards paying down debt. It’s a nasty little monster and I can’t wait until we part ways for good!


For the lifestyle choices 30% category, I have a weekly flex spending number. LearnVest calculates this individually, based on the other inputs. This number is for groceries, school expenses, shopping, entertainment, etc. – really anything else. With LearnVest’s help, I now have two separate checking accounts – one for my monthly fixed expenses and one for my flex spending. Every week I transfer that spending number to my flex spending account and it’s helped me to not overspend.

There is also a non-monthly expense number that’s been calculated. This number includes anything that is a one-time yearly fee (or that “pop-up” fee), such as Sirius XM, vet visits, car maintenance and home maintenance. My next goal is to set up another checking account and transfer money monthly just for these expenses.

Have you used LearnVest or another budgeting tool? What successes or difficulties have you encountered with getting your life in check?

Jennifer Helton Holt

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