Technology changes everything, oftentimes for the better. These days if you don’t have a smartphone, you’re losing. These devices open so many doors of opportunity. With the right know-how, anyone can start an online business or communicate internationally. With all this technology in the palm of our hands, managing money, particularly for Millennials, has never been easier. There are countless apps in both the iOS App Store and Google Play Store which perform many of the same functions. However, after trying many, these are the ones which remain on my iPhone home screen.
Top Money Management Apps
I first came across Mint, an application for iOS and Android, a few years ago. Initially, I deleted the app promptly as its features were limited and not very user-friendly. However, since being purchased by InTuit, the money management interface boasts many practical features for Millennials and Baby-Boomers alike.
The application enables users to connect all their financial accounts, credit cards, car/house/rent payments, investment accounts, etc. Users have the ability to view daily, weekly, and monthly trends in spending. Mint automatically categorizes purchases the second you swipe your card, or click “buy now”. You can also pay your credit card bills within the app, a super-nice feature for those who possess multiple cards. Additionally, there is a free, automatic credit score checker function built right into the Mint Dashboard. Lastly, if your account experiences a large deposit or withdrawal, Mint notifies you through push notifications, an easy and passive way to keep an eye on your accounts at all times.
Probably Mint’s biggest competitor is Clarity. I recently downloaded (iOS only) the app because it has a few features that Mint has not yet added. Firstly, Clarity is extremely visually appealing. The user interface is superbly simple and easy to navigate and comprehend, even more so than Mint. Secondly, the app allows users to view and cancel unwanted subscription services like Netflix and Spotify from within the app. Lastly, Clarity has an optional, built-in bank account feature that allows users to set aside any amount of money on a weekly or monthly basis. This is particularly useful for me as it seems that if I have the money, I am going to spend it on something. With Clarity, I am now depositing $20 every Monday into a separate (not my personal) savings account (fully insured and secured). This is the easiest and most painless way I have found to save $80/month. However, Clarity does not yet allow some car/house/rent payments to be integrated within the app. Additionally, unlike Mint, users are currently unable to pay their bills from within the app interface.
Top Investing Apps
There are now also numerous applications available that make investing your disposable income easier than ever. You can invest with as little as $5. The first and best I found is Robinhood. This was the first app of its kind and I downloaded it a few days after it debuted. The free Robinhood app allows transaction-free trading on most all publicly-trade stocks. You connect the app to your personal bank account (completely secured) to enable funding and withdrawals. The whole process takes only a few minutes. You may be asking how Robinhood makes money if it doesn’t charge for transactions? Well, the app collects interest on the money sitting in Robinhood accounts, much like traditional bank accounts. This allows Robinhood to offer its users free trading.
Since Robinhood’s inception and success, many applications like it have popped up. However, these apps lack customer service and solid infrastructure. I would be a bit skeptical about connecting bank accounts to these other, less supported apps. Apps like eTrade and Scottrade are good, reliable options as well. However, like normal investing, these companies will charge transaction fees.
Robinhood is a great option if you are looking to get into investing, or even day trading, with little money. A friend of mine used Robinhood to day trade low value, volatile stocks and earned over $600 in profit in the first month. Although this isn’t unheard of, it takes a lot of daily attention and involves high risk. With low-value stocks, you can risk losing 90% or more of your initial investment. Trade with caution and be smart. I currently own a few different, medium-value stocks and keep tabs on them in the Robinhood app. It is rather addicting once you get into it.
I have also heard good things about an application called Acorns. The app automatically (if you choose) rounds your purchases to the nearest dollar and invests the spare change. So, if you buy a pack of gum for $1.52, Acorns will round the purchase to $2 and invest the $.48. This is commission free as well and your account is automatically managed through Acorns user-friendly platform. This is a great way to create a “passive”/subconscious investment account and get a jump on investing. Withdraw earnings anytime through the app. Although I do not currently use Acorns, I have in the past and it works just as advertised.
Lastly, I use a free financial advising/investing app called WiseBanyan – “The World’s First Free Financial Advisor”. Although it doesn’t have as much popularity as Mint or Robinhood, It has been mentioned in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and NBC News. I think it is gaining substantial momentum. The app sports an extremely ergonomic user interface and easy-to-understand setup. You must first “apply” for an account by entering your email. After you are approved, connect your bank account, complete WiseBanyan’s investing profile, and you’re on your way. You can set various “milestones” such as saving for a rainy day, a certain event, or just plain, old wealth growth. WiseBanyan makes money from a la carte services which clients have the option to partake in or not. WiseBanyan provides extreme value for free and gives clients the option to pay if they need more; an absolutely exquisite business model.
I invested a few thousand dollars in WiseBanyan and have already experienced returns up to 5%, way better than letting that money sit in a savings account for a .1% return. There is honestly no downside to using the app.
In conclusion, I want to say that I was not paid or influenced by these companies or apps to write this article. I simply wanted to share the financial apps I use to try and keep my finances in check on a daily basis. All the apps listed are completely free and offer immense value for anyone willing to give them a try. With all these options available, there is honestly no reason to suck at managing personal finances anymore, especially for college students.