These Financial Pros Told Us the Surprisingly Simple Finance Tools They Use Personally
Managing your money doesn’t have to be a complicated mystery. There are many great personal finance tools and apps available now that can help you track your spending, budget more effectively, save money, and otherwise get the most out of your money. We talked with some personal finance experts to get their recommendations for the best personal finance tools and apps. Here are some of their top picks:
Wallet Budget Tracker
“I like this app because it let’s me keep a detailed track of my budget right out of my cell phone,” Alex says. “You can tally up all of your transactions and keep track of your expenses, savings and income wherever you are as long as you have your phone with you. Wallet Budget Tracker is intuitive and easy to use for every day budgeting and spending. As a business owner this app has been a great asset for managing my expenses.”
“As one of the more established investment apps, Betterment focuses more on financial advice that stretches far beyond the stock market,” Michael says. “They have no initial cost and a very good 0.35% annual fee for account balances below $10,000. If you’re looking to start Individual, IRA, Roth IRA & rollover 401(k) accounts, Betterment will have personal advice just for you. Betterment also offers auto-investing options, and will automatically re-balance your portfolio for you.”
If you prefer to manage your own investment portfolio by buying and selling individual stocks, Michael Banks also recommends Robinhood as a great low-cost trading platform to trade stocks online without the fees of a traditional brokerage.
“For the DIY financier who doesn’t need advice but rather a cheap trading platform, you may consider Robin Hood,” Michael says. “With no initial costs and/or fees it may be an option for certain people. While it might sound too good to be true, the premise is simple. Robinhood is able to offer their no-fee trading platform by making money off interest if the money in accounts (customers are not charged), moving orders through certain platforms, as well as when clients borrow to trade. Robinhood is an interesting option for those ready to dive into the world of stock trading.”
Savelist is a shopping app that helps you save money by keeping track of products that you want to buy, and then getting notifications when the product’s price drops or when the product is back in stock. The Savelist app for Android or iOS lets you save every item you like in one place, organize your list of desired products and prioritize which ones you want to buy. Savelist product lists get synced across your devices, you can shop more efficiently in-store or online.
Not Just For Retirement Calculator
Ilene Davis, CFP(R), MBA, is a financial advisor who recommends a tool that she created called the Not Just For Retirement Calculator. It helps people figure out the answers to questions like “how much do I need to save for retirement,” “how much can I spend in retirement without running out of money,” and more.
“While it’s a little self-serving of me to recommend this because it is a tool I created and patented, I use it regularly in my work as a financial advisor. The current version, which is in process of being updated with some new options and design, can be seen, and tried, at www.njfrcalculator.com,” Ilene says. “This calculator can be used for a variety of personal finance calculations. If you check the Instructions tab, you can see some typical examples of how it can be used. The reason I like it, besides that I designed it, is that I designed it because it enabled me to provide better service to clients, or for clients to do their own calculations. Often an investor thinks a financial advisor is trying to get them to invest more because they make more in commissions, but the sad fact is that something like 30% of Americans over 55 have NO money saved for retirement, and the median amount is around $200,000. Since many Americans don’t know the formulas they need to use to do these calculations, this calculator makes it quick and easy even for a financial novice.”
“MoneyLion is changing the way people manage their finances, by offering users a complete 360-degree view of their financial lives,” Emma says. “MoneyLion users can connect multiple bank accounts to the app, get their credit score and get personalized, data-driven recommendations to optimize their finances based on their spending, saving and borrowing behaviors.”
MoneyLion is unique because it “nudges” users in two ways to make better financial decisions:
- The app offers personalized, right-sized loans in the app when a user’s account balance is getting low – this helps people to smooth over their financial bumps and avoid NSF fees, which have cost its users $84 million since 2013.
- It offers users rewards for exhibiting good financial behaviors, including gift cards.
“By pushing personalized recommendations and rewards directly to the user via notifications, MoneyLion is there at the point of pain (low balance) and reward (good behavioral changes) to help people improve their financial health overall,” Emma says.
Many people might have Flexible Spending Accounts as one of their benefits at work, but don’t know how to get the most out of these accounts. How do you know which items are safe to buy with FSA dollars? Ansi Vallens with Signals & Strategies recommends a site called FSAStore that helps people get the most out of their FSA accounts.
“Flexible Spending Accounts enable people to set aside pre-tax dollars for services and goods, and the potential savings are sizable,” Ansi says. “However, knowing what goods and services are eligible, calculating the set aside, keeping track of expenditures and watching deadlines is extremely tedious, so much so that lots of families don’t find FSAs to be worth the trouble. Until now that is. FSAStore has developed a very-easy-to-use tool to cash in on these very-difficult-to-manage benefits. Check it out at FSAStore.com. The site has been experiencing 100% growth over the past 6 years and is CPA approved! FSAStore started as a Columbia University project on entrepreneurship and now has become the go-to site for insurance company third-party administrators when it comes to info on Flexible Spending Accounts.”
What other personal finance tools do you use to save money, budget better or otherwise manage your financial life? Let us know in the comments!