Smartphones can be used for a lot more than playing games and checking up on social media. With more than 1.5 million apps in Apple’s App Store and Google Play, consumers have access to tens of thousands of personal finance programs on their phones, tablets and laptops designed to help them save, invest, budget, and track their finances across all of their accounts. Many of these apps make healthy financial habits a bit easier to stick with and may help increase assets under management for financial advisors.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some popular apps that financial advisors may want to recommend to their clients to improve their financial life. (For related reading, see: 6 Best Personal Finance Apps.)
Saving and Investing
There are many different mobile apps designed to help consumers save money and invest in their future.
Digit helps consumers save money without them having to think too much about it. After analyzing a user's spending habits, the app automatically removes $5 to $50 from an attached checking account and puts it aside in a Digit savings account. A no-overdraft guarantee ensures that the company never takes out more than the customer can afford. The savings account can then be accessed for emergencies, vacations or other purposes with no attached fees.
Acorns is a mobile-driven financial services company that automatically invests spare change from everyday purchases into a diversified portfolio created with the help of Nobel Prize-winning economist Harry Markowitz. With a $1 monthly fee for accounts under $5,000, savers should contribute at least $100 per month to keep fees down. They may then look to a traditional financial advisor to manage larger amounts of wealth they've already accrued. (For related reading, see: 5 Tips for Diversifying Your Portfolio.)
Building a Budget
Budgeting is among the most difficult tasks for those that aren’t financially inclined, but apps can help make the process easier than ever.
Mint is probably the most popular budgeting app for mobile phones and the web. After connecting bank accounts, clients can automatically import transactions and see where they are spending money each month. These amounts can then be used to determine how much to budget for each month moving forward and then can be compared to income levels to see how sustainable spending is over different lengths of time.
YouNeedABudget helps savers create a budget with far less hassle than other services. Rather than trying to estimate expenses, the app encourages users to give every dollar a job when it’s earned. Larger expenses can be broken down into monthly goals that are much easier to budget for. And, accruing money over time helps break a paycheck-to-paycheck cycle and makes planning for the future a bit easier. (For related reading, see: Top 5 Apps for Stock Traders.)
Tracking expenses isn’t all that common among individuals, but small business owners should be logging most expenses for tax purposes.
Shoeboxed is among the most popular receipt and expense trackers that lets users categorize transactions and track their spending over time. Unlike most budgeting software, Shoeboxed also enables consumers to store images of receipts for tax purposes. These receipts may be necessary in the event of an audit in order to justify expenditures; the IRS requires records to be kept for a length of time to justify business expenses.
Billy takes a different approach to tracking expenses for individual consumers. By connecting with a bank account, the app creates a list of active subscriptions—monthly bill payments, Apple iTunes costs, etc.—to make sure that there's nothing active that shouldn't be. These kind of subscriptions can become extremely costly over time and have a big impact on a consumer’s overall budget. Managing these fixed costs can help cut down on monthly expenses and free up money for investing.
The Bottom Line
There are a growing number of apps for both Apple iPhone and Google Android aimed at improving consumer finances. Financial advisors may want to recommend some of these apps to their clients in order to improve their financial wellbeing and perhaps free up capital to invest in stocks and bonds. (For related reading, see: 5 Best iPhone Personal Budgeting Apps for 2016 and Top 6 Apps for Financial News.)