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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Mint.com Can't Handle Fidelity NetBenefit's "Change in Market Value" Transactions

I've been a long time user of Mint.com for personal finance management and expense tracking, however it has never been able to correctly track my investments. I spent some time today digging into the transactions it is pulling from my 401(k) account at Fidelity. I used Fidelity NetBenefit's "Download Transaction History" feature to look at all my transactions and see if I could figure out what Mint.com was getting wrong.

It turns out Fidelity is generating Change in Market Value "Transactions" which are not actually transactions at all. They appear to be an accounting artifact generated whenever my portfolio is-re balanced, or when one fund is exchanged for another. You could think of them as "Realized Gain" Transactions (or "realized loss"). Here's what I mean:

In a normal month with nothing but normal 401(k) contributions, my Fidelity transactions record looks like this:


Mint should be able to handle this just fine. Two paychecks, each one has contributions to four different funds.

However, last month my retirement swapped out two index funds. this is the result:


As you can see, in addition to the transactions for the two normal contributions (in green), we have some transactions associated with the exchange of assets. (Gray, all on the same day). They should be a net-zero lump of transactions. My account value was exactly the same before the swap as it was after the swap. However, you see the lines highlighted in orange cause this day to have a serious non-zero impact on my running total.

What's really going on here is that Fidelity is generating these transactions to document all the gain or loss in that particular fund since I first bought it. It's basically the "realized gain" or "realized loss" now that I am exchanging out of the fund, which in this case may be the change in value over multiple years! When Mint finds these transactions it incorrectly treats them as contributions or deposits. This results in "double counting" your gains and losses, because mint is already monitoring your total account balance.

I'm not sure it will solve all the problems with getting Mint to track my investments, but I'm going to mark these "Change in Market Value" Transactions as duplicates to get Mint to ignore them.