New York Times columnist Michelle Slatalla's adjustable rate mortgage is coming due and she's worried.
In addition to the usual financial concerns, there's the added burden of being her family's chief financial officer. She's afraid if they can't get decent terms when the loan adjusts, she'll be to blame.
I know how she feels. When we bought our Florida home I lobbied for a balloon mortgage. Our loan amount under the standards of the day was big enough to be classified as a jumbo mortgage; the balloon was a way to get us a better rate.
The hubby is, like Slatalla's spouse, a 30-year fixed kind of guy, but he agreed to the relatively risky loan. And I, as the titular CFO for the hubby and myself, worried about the loan from the moment we closed until we were able to refinance four years later.
Luckily for us, the mortgage rates were moving in the right direction. Also, by the time we redid our loan, the housing market had shifted and our mortgage amount was no longer jumbo, so we were able to get a conventional 30-year loan that was lower than our original terms.
Online money minting: But for folks like Slatalla who are having to refi now, things aren't so favorable. So to figure out how to make the most of her money during this time of ARM uncertainty, she signed up at the financial management site Mint.com.
It pulls together your bank and other financial account information, along with credit card data, and provides you with reports of your financial life, e.g., which categories consume what percentage of your cash.
Here, from its Web site, is part of Mint's pitch:
"Mint constantly searches through thousands of offers from hundreds of providers to find the best deals on everything from bank accounts to credit cards; cable, phone and Internet plans, and more. Mint’s suggestions are 'unique to you' as they are based on your individual spending patterns."
It's free, but you do have to hand over read-only account access to Mint.
So how does the company survive? Those "just for you" referrals.
The site doesn't elaborate on whether it gets a cut if you follow through on its suggestions or if its money comes simply from fees paid by recommended companies.
Despite some qualms about security, Slatalla reports a generally positive experience with Mint. You can read her account in her Nov. 22 Cyberfamilias column, A MapQuest for Our Money.
Even if, like me, you're still not comfortable letting Mint sort through your finances, you still might find the site useful. Its blog section, Mint.edu, has a collection of money management tips and stories.