San Francisco is partnering with a new online financial guidance service that will provide residents with free or inexpensive information on everything from investing to improving credit ratings.

At a news conference Tuesday morning at City Hall, Mayor Gavin Newsom said he was “exuberant” about San Francisco becoming the first city in the country to partner with HelloWallet to help residents gain more control of their finances.

“It has the potential to make a real difference in people’s lives,” Newsom said.

The service helps customers come up with financial plans, manage their money and shop for financial services and products.

“It’s a kind of financial source of support that people pay an average of $150 an hour for,” Newsom said.

Newsom said the service is independent of banks and other financial institutions and services.

“The banks are enjoying financial illiteracy,” said Newsom.

“To me, if you want to get serious about poverty eradication, you’ve got to get serious about financial literacy,” he said.

Matt Fellowes, HelloWallet founder and CEO and a former fellow at the Brookings Institution, said San Francisco is the appropriate place to focus on because credit card companies began mailing residents free credit cards in the 1950s.

“And that really just transformed the culture in this country,” Fellowes said.

“We want to give access to that instruction manual that (residents) never received back in the 50s,” he said.

The group is offering a free subscription to a low-income family for every five other families that subscribe.

Paid subscriptions run from $3.20 to $4 per month, Fellowes said.

Those interested can visit the site at www.hellowallet.com. San Francisco residents will be offered the discounted rates after entering their zip codes.

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  • Matt Baume

    I looked at the site, and I’m not clear on how it’s any different from Mint.com, which is free.

  • Geraldine

    Hi Matt, full disclaimer – I work for HelloWallet. But thanks for checking us out! I would say that our main differentiator is that we focus on financial guidance rather than money management/organization. Have you checked out the “My Plan” portion of the site and the Wallet Grower? Another thing is that we’re completely independent from banks and don’t accept any advertising/referral fees. I’d love your feedback if you’re interested in sharing – geraldine@hellowallet.com. Cheers, enjoy the weekend!