Not too long ago, staying on top of one's finances was a tedious task that typically involved lots of tapping on a calculator or entering figures into a clunky accounting spreadsheet. "One of the biggest problems when it comes to organizing our money is a lot of people see the amount of time it takes as a barrier," says Mary Beth Storjohann, founder and CEO of Workable Wealth, a San Diego financial planning firm. But times have changed. Thanks to mobile apps, keeping track of personal finances has never been easier. "At the touch of your finger, you can see what your spending is or view your credit score," Storjohann says.
With that in mind, the following are five mobile apps that can help you clarify your current overall financial picture, easily monitor your money each day, and help grow your overall net worth.
Before you can invest your cash, you first need to understand how much money you actually have. Mint has been around since 2006 and is owned by Intuit, of TurboTax and Quicken fame. Most people have a dizzying array of financial accounts (bank accounts, credit cards, retirement accounts, loans, mortgage, and on and on), and Mint saves time and effort by centralizing all these various strands of your financial life in one place, so you can see where money is coming in and where it's going out. Using the app is simple: You authorize it to access your various online accounts and then it provides an easy-to-use interface to keep tabs on everything right on your phone. Mint is also great for creating, and sticking to, budgets. [Free, iOS/Android; mint.com]
Acorns might be as close to making money in your sleep as you can get. How it works: Connect your debit or credit card to the app, and when you make a purchase, it rounds up the total to the next nearest dollar and then invests that extra money into six exchange-traded funds (ETFs) picked by the team behind Acorns. You get to choose how risky or conservative you want your portfolio to be. You can also add money to your account on top of the rounded-up card purchases by setting up recurring deposits or by depositing a lump sum. Obviously, playing the market with relatively tiny sums gathered from what amounts to pocket change isn't going to turn you into a Wall Street kingpin overnight. "The pitfall to Acorns is that some people will sign up for it and think, 'Oh, I'm investing my money, that's great,'" Storjohann says. "But if you're investing 75 cents a day, that's probably not going to get you set up for anything long term." Although, Storjohann says, it is a start. "I think it's great as a supplement to a steady investing plan, a little extra thing you can do." The app is free, but Acorns charges $1 per month for account balances under $5,000 and 0.25 percent per year for those worth $5,000 more. [Free, iOS/Android; acorns.com]
For the savvy investor, or one ready to up his game, Personal Capital has distinct advantages. As with Mint, you give Personal Capital access to your accounts. "Personal Capital then syncs everything in one area so you can track it all and analyze your portfolio and your asset classes," Storjohann says. Beyond tracking your net worth, Personal Capital can help you uncover ways you're leaking money, such as hidden broker fees, as well as analyze and improve your portfolio allocations via its Investment Checkup tool. There's also the opportunity to consult with an actual human financial advisor via email, phone, or FaceTime. [Free, iOS/Android; personalcapital.com]
Staying on top of your credit is a must, as a poor credit score means higher interest rates for loans or a mortgage, and could even result in being denied new lines of credit. Credit Karma crunches your score and serves it up to you free, so you have access to the same basic info as the people who make decisions about your creditworthiness — and thus your financial future. The app also provides free credit reports and monitors those reports, alerting you to changes like credit inquiries and delinquencies that could alter your credit score. At Credit Karma's website you can browse personalized recommendations for credit cards and loans. [Free, iOS/Android/Windows; creditkarma.com]
iBillionaire tracks the investments of those in the business world like George Soros, Warren Buffett, and Carl Icahn. Plus, you can actually invest your own cash in the iBillionaire Index ETF, an exchange traded fund that invests in U.S. equities in which billionaires have stashed their own money. iBillionaire gathers all of its info from publicly available SEC filings, but the app saves you the trouble of tracking those down and making sense of them in the bigger picture. Along with a steady stream of intel about the market plays of the investing elite, iBillionaire allows you to compare your portfolio to theirs, highlights a hand-picked daily "billionaire stock," and lets you open your own investment account and invest in the iBillionaire Index ETF, an exchange traded fund that seeks returns that top the S&P 500. [Free, iOS/Android; ibillionaire.com]