People will discuss anything and everything online, so why not confessions of silly money mistakes, mountains of college debt, or a credit card balance that your husband doesn't know about?
Geezeo.com is combining social networking with free, online Web tools. Users can access their accounts through their cell phones using text messaging, and talk about money issues in discussion groups.
Some even use Geezeo's online confessional. One woman said she's $30,000 in debt and her husband has no idea. Another said he overpaid his credit card bill by $500. A 28-year-old said she's got $300,000 in savings that she keeps secret. A Boston University student said his budget is telling him that, "One more night out might be one more too many."
"It comes from the whole MySpace generation. Once people become comfortable being social online, it extends into other areas, such as personal finance," Ryan Williams told the Washington Post. Williams is co-founder of NetworthIQ, which allows people to publicly keep track of their assets.
Peter Glyman, who co-founded Geezeo about a year ago, said people in their 20s and 30s are "detached from their money" because they are so accustomed to using debit and credit cards. "They're not balancing a checkbook, which in some ways forces people to look more closely at their finances. It creates a problem for the consumer in that they're becoming further removed, but it allowed products like ours to get them closer." The goal of Geezeo is to help users make smarter financial decisions.
Wesabe.com is another personal finance site that encourages sharing among members. Buxfer.com and BillMonk.com help keep running tallies of shared expenses among college roommates, friends, or family members. Networth IQ allows users to go public with their general net-worth statistics so they can make comparisons.
Jim Bruene, editor of Online Banking Report, expects 2 million households to use these sites by the end of next year, with 16 million using them in 10 years, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Geezeo just got a big boost from TheStreet.com, which invested $1.2 million for a 13 percent stake in the company, which is based in Framingham, Mass.
Discussion groups cover financial goals, such as paying off credit cards, buying a house, accumulating an emergency fund, buying a car, or reducing student loans. Tools make it easy to track where your money is going because Geezeo "tags" transactions and puts them into categories.
Financial planners like the openness, but urge caution.
"What I always tell people before you take someone else's advice: Make sure you know what qualifies them to give you the advice," said Karen Schaeffer, president of Schaeffer Financial of Rockville, MD.