Laura reviews eight of the best personal finance tools to make sense of your money, stay organized, and achieve your financial goals.
If you want a large online investing platform with low fees, I’m a huge fan of Betterment. They’re a robo-advisor that uses a diversified portfolio of ETFs based on your desired level of risk and your investing goals. You get access to their team of licensed financial experts for advice and support.
Betterment offers regular investing accounts and tax-advantaged retirement accounts. They automatically manage your investments by rebalancing, reinvesting dividends, and handing recurring deposits. The experience on your desktop or mobile device is streamlined and easy to navigate.
The annual cost to use Betterment is 0.25% of your balance, which makes it affordable even when you’re just starting out. Once you have more than $100,000 the fee increases to 0.40%, but you also have unlimited access to their Certified Financial Planners for more personalized advice.
I’ve enjoyed using Betterment for a decade now and am always impressed with their customer service, communications, and affordable fees. The only downside is that they offer a limited menu of investment options. But that works for me because I’m a hands-off investor who prefers using global, diversified funds.
8. Online bill pay
Using your bank account’s online bill pay is one of the most overlooked free personal finance tools. Having all your bills in one place makes the often-dreaded task of paying them much easier.
Your payments are sent electronically or by a paper check, so you can pay any company or individual with a mailing address. Most banking institutions guarantee that your payments will arrive on time and reimburse any late fees if they don’t.
You can create one-time or recurring payments for the entire balance due or send a partial payment. Between your online bill pay and apps such as PayPal or Venmo, there’s no need to carry paper checks anymore.
I have e-bills sent to my USAA bill pay center so I’m notified about due dates, can set up payment dates far in advance, and choose specific accounts to deduct the payment from. Centralizing bills inside your checking account allows you to see where your money is going and make sure you have enough to cover future payments.
How Secure Are Personal Finance Apps?
If you’re reluctant to try a personal finance tool or app because you’re worried about security, here’s what you need to know. Apps typically have read-only access and high-level encryption, which means they can see your financial transactions, but can’t change them.
The exceptions are online bill pay services, which do make requests to move your money. This is one reason why I stick to my bank account’s bill pay instead of authorizing another service to do it.
There’s always a risk to using financial websites or buying something with a credit card. But I don’t believe the risk is high enough that it should stop you from using personal finance tools or online services. In fact, the benefits of using them to manage money, save more, and build wealth far outweigh the downsides.
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