One-stop online resource offers information and tools to take control of finances
Somewhere between a smart relative and a financial planner is Bills.com (“Simple money help”), a free one-stop online resource created for people to get answers to everyday money questions, ranging from managing debt and establishing a budget to finding mortgage and insurance rates.
Bills.com makes personal finance and money management accessible. The site's key features include a user-friendly archive of information, case studies, and expert advice, tools and calculators such as My Savings Machine and Debt Coach, and Ask Bill, that allows users to email questions to the site’s personal finance experts or browse the database for answers to previously published consumer questions. Another feature, Bills IQ is a financial health check that asks questions about attitudes, behaviors and knowledge of credit, debt, budget, and wealth issues.
The site was launched in 2006. Since the 2008 economic meltdown, it has steadily evolved, said Bills.com co-founder and CEO Brad Stroh. "We certainly saw changes in consumers and their needs. For example, traffic for our most recent Quarterly Mortgage Report doubled, due largely to interest in refinancing to lock in low rates. Over this time period, we've also seen a surge in consumers really struggling with more serious financial problems such as payday loan traps, foreclosure, and bad credit issues."
Bills.com is committed to innovation in helping consumers with their money needs and concerns. It relaunched its service early last year with a new user interface and improved interaction to better manage its editorial content and resources. The site’s refinance calculator and Debt Coach tool were both launched in the past year.
The site’s philosophy on personal finance is that people need to take responsibility for managing their bottom line, Stroh said. Raising awareness and providing the tools and advice to take a more pro-active role allows people to avoid the common mistake of making budgeting generalizations or assumptions that are not rooted in hard numbers. "We are also wired to deal with (immediate) problems and frequently fail to take a long enough view of our financial future. As a result, too many people choose financial products based on monthly payment and not a balanced perspective that can meet their ultimate financial goals."
One of the biggest “don’ts” the site cautions against is the pursuit of the easiest or cheapest money. Two common mistakes are choosing a credit card that hypes its low interest, but hides subsequent rate increase, or taking out an auto loan that has low monthly payments but is extended over 60 months and carries a higher overall interest.
Bills.com promotes effective budgeting, saving, and making educated decisions about financial issues. Building on a foundation of knowledge and information, the site encourages action, such as establishing a savings strategy. "Customers need to realize they are the owners of their own wallet," Stroh said. "They must be responsible for managing their bottom line."
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.