Apps We Love: Financial Planning
By Gail Perry, CPA
Do you trust your money to financial apps? I know many people who find online banking risky and won’t use online investing and planning services, but others have gotten over the hump of trusting online financial services. As these services constantly remind us, they wouldn’t be in business for long if they didn’t have the utmost security.
According to survey results from The Financial Brand published in September, 2019, 41% of U.S. banking customers use at least one financial app, primarily in the areas of personal financial services, budgeting and saving, investment advice including robo-advisors, and lending services. We surveyed members of the CPA Practice Advisor community to find out what financial planning apps they like best.
Samantha Mansfield, director of professional development and community at CPA.com, told us, “Part of financial planning is budgeting, and I really like Every Dollar app. Simple to use, it allows tracking of every dollar spent to give a real record of actual spend. The customization of categories is good, it’s easy to roll your budget from month to month and see totals at any given time.” Every Dollar is created by Dave Ramsey’s company, Ramsey Solutions.
Randy Johnston, executive vice president at K2 Enterprises and CEO of Network Management Group, Inc., recommends Wealthfront. Operated by Wealthfront Advisors LLC and Wealthfront Brokerage LLC, the app provides a high interest savings account you can use to help meet your savings goals. Are you setting aside money for an emergency fund and want the funds to earn a nice return but be very liquid? Wealthfront might be the solution you’re looking for. You can also find planning advice, investment options, and you can open a line of credit at Wealthfront. You can start your savings account with as little as $1. Once your funds reach $500, you can consider opening an investment account.
If you’re looking for a financial planning app that incorporates investment analysis, the ability to create personal financial profiles, comprehensive reports and charts, and tax computations all in one place, Johnston recommends Planmode Financial Planning. Produced by Sawhney Systems, a Princeton, NJ-based company that has been developing financial planning software for more than 30 years, Planmode allows you to set up your own financial goals and then develop a plan to achieve them. “It is an integrated financial planner that incorporates income, expense, and tax integration,” said Johnston.
You can use U-Nest to help save and organize funds for a college education. Also recommended by Johnston, U-Nest allows you to set up a monthly contribution plan, incorporate gifts from friends and family members, and manage a 529 college savings plan.
Do you have a global portfolio? Pushkar Bhoopalam, head of the Tax Practitioners Segment at Thomson Reuters, recommends MoneyControl. “It has all the information required for markets trading in one place: historicals, news, asset trends, industry trends, etc. MoneyControl has helped me invest without the need for a private wealth advisor.” With MoneyControl, you can track the latest updates on global financial markets. A recent upgrade has met with some negative reviews on the user interface, but we expect these issues will be addressed soon. Many reviewers claim this is the best app available for tracking the Indian markets.
Are you just getting started with investing? Stacy Kildal, founder of Kildal Services LLC, and co-creator and host of the QBOShow.com, suggests you try Acorns and Stash. “We’ve been using Acorns and Stash to do ‘spare change’ investing since each came out. We won’t be able to retire with either, but both are no brainer ways to do simple investing,” said Kildal. Featured as an Apple App of the Day this Spring, Acorns lets you set up a monthly investment plan for as little as $1 per month, similar to Stash. You can open an account and begin investing at both Stash and Acorns with as little as $5. Invest in ETFs and stocks, and learn about the funds and how to make investment decisions as you go.
Joshua Lance, CPA, CGMA, managing director of Lance CPA Group, recommends Betterment. “It’s a great app to automatically transfer money to an investment account. Simple easy to use and I really like some of the automatic tax features it has like tax loss harvesting.” Lance also recommends Personal Capital. “I love this app because I can see my whole financial picture at a glance and it’s easy to understand how the financial planning that I have done sets me up for the future.”
Caleb Jenkins, EA, CQP, leader of client accounting services at RLJ Financial Services, Inc., told us, “I use HD Vest eMoney to create goals and plans for my financial future, and I can track my spending and all my investments using this app. It has some really helpful forecasting reports to create accurate goals and plans for the future.”
If you’d like an app that provides a single view of all of your assets and liabilities at a glance, Sandra Wiley, president of Boomer Consulting, Inc., recommends Mint Personal Finance. “It’s still my favorite for aggregating all of my accounts in one easy-to-see location.” Michelle Walsh, vice president of client services at XCM Solutions, LLC agrees. “Mint is very easy to use and allows you to see everything in once place!”