The phrases “millennial” and “personal finance” are seldom used together without making everybody cringe. To say that we’re not the most financially literate folks on the planet is a fair generalization, but that’s not necessarily our fault. In our home economics classes, we didn’t learn things like balancing a budget or the particulars of a Roth IRA account, and the only thing we know about retirement is that a lot of us will literally never be able to do it.
In short, for our generation, personal finance just isn’t something we get excited about.
Truth be told, it really isn’t all that bad. It’s intimidating because we never really take the time to look at that stuff on our own, but once you finally buckle down and start actually looking at your finances – where you spend your money, how much you spend, what you’re investing in and what subscriptions you’re paying for – it becomes a hell of a lot more manageable.
The best part is that there are tons of apps out there right now that’ll help you make the best of your personal finance woes. Here are 10 of the absolute best:
As far as personal finance apps go, Mint is probably the most popular of them all, and for good reason. Made by Intuit, the folks responsible for TurboTax, Mint is a free, all-in-one personal finance app that gives you direct access to literally everything in your financial life: bank accounts, investment portfolios, credit cards and bills.
It then takes that info and gives you a detailed analysis of what you’re spending your money on, as well as allowing you to create budgets that you can actually stick to.
It’s a hell of a lot easier (and less intimidating) than trying to track down every single bill, figure out when it’s due, see what you're spending frivolously on and trying to get your finances on track without wandering around in circles.
Personal Capital bills itself as “The Modern Way to Track and Manage Your Net Worth,” and it’s surprisingly good at what it does.
A ton of interactive cash flow tools that’ll allow you receive up-to-the-minute updates on your spending and budgeting means you can see if you’re spending more than you’re making, as well as put together a follow budget, monitor credit balances, sort out your investments (it even offers built-in intelligent investment tools that help identify good opportunities) and keep everything on track.
What I enjoy most about Personal Capital is that you can speak to an actual financial advisor about your spending and put together a plan that’ll work for you: your lifestyle, your budget and your growth.
YNAB stands for You Need a Budget, and this particular app is excellent if you’re trying to do exactly that. YNAB allows you to put together an expense report on all the transactions you're making.
You can sync it with the desktop app to make sure all your devices stay up to date, and it’s so accurate that its geo-aware transaction systems will have your profile updated with a transaction before you even leave the store.
This app is particularly good for creators trying to log expense write-offs for tax season, and also for couples who want to keep track of shared finances.
Partners can share spending info up to the minute in order to see who’s spending what on what. It sounds weird, but if you’re in a committed relationship and share a bank account, you understand how important that is. Either way, YNAB does its job well.
Zero-based budgeting is a concept that typically applies to businesses and corporate entities, but when applied to personal finances, it makes budgeting brutal – but so, so worth it.
Essentially, a zero-based budget allocates every single dollar in your account toward something. So, if you’re trying to save $250 a month, you have to have a reason why.
Where is that $250 going, and how is it helping you? That’s exactly the premise EveryDollar operates on, and it works. EveryDollar makes it simple to manage every single dollar that comes into (and out of) your life.
Before you can formulate a proper budget, you need to sort out your expenses. While a lot of apps try to be a be-all-and-end-all solution to personal finance (and manage to become convoluted and difficult to navigate along the way), Wally’s goal is to simply get you going in the right direction.
It’s great because you can save receipts in real time, export your data to a convenient Excel spreadsheet and even back your data up to the cloud. It’ll allow you to see exactly where your money is going, how it’s affecting your net worth and what steps you need to take to get everything in order.
The app probably sounds a little insignificant, but its whole point is to draw attention to an aspect of personal finance we all tend to skip out on.
Acorns is hands-down my favorite app on this list because it’s just that clever. Essentially, it’s an app that takes every transaction you make and rounds it to the nearest dollar, which it then invests for you.
So, for instance, if you buy a cup of coffee for $2.70, Acorns will take that last 30 cents and toss it into an automated investment account for you. While it sounds like no big deal, those 30-cent transactions add up, especially if you take your card everywhere.
Aside from being an awesome mini savings account service, it spreads that extra chump change none of us ever care about across over 7,000 ETF stocks and bonds, so you’re not just getting a few pennies saved every time you spend a little money, you’re also getting a service that makes that money work for you.
The service itself costs a dollar a month to use, but for the price of what you’re actually getting – a diversified portfolio that literally effortlessly makes you money – it’s more than a fair price to pay.
Even if you have all the tools to start expensing and budgeting, a lot of people are still intimidated by the process because, well, let’s face it: a lot of the time, personal finance isn’t pretty. Linking accounts, observing trends, making considerations and learning where you’re spending money and how you can be doing better isn’t just something you wake up and do one day.
It takes time and patience. Level Money is an app that will help you expense and develop a budget, but what makes it different from a lot of other apps is that its simple and sleek design really does take a lot of the sting out of getting your life together.
Once you’ve synced up all your money, Level Money will tell you in simple terms how much you can afford to spend on the things you need and want. It gives you a plain-as-day dollar amount, but also allows you to adjust that amount for unique spending, surprise purchases and so on.
It also syncs right up to all your bank accounts and credit cards so that you can review your purchases immediately across all your equities.
Personal finance and smart investing go hand in hand. You can do one without the other, but if you’re trying to make the most of making your net wealth grow, you’re going to need to double down on them both. Robinhood is honestly the best stock trading app out there for people looking to invest small amounts of money without incurring a ton of fees and extra charges.
It’s a 100% free app that allows its users to trade without any kind of commissioned fees or hidden costs, while also allowing them to create personalized stock watch lists, access real-time market data, manage their portfolios and learn all about investing without going far out of pocket. There’s honestly nothing out there quite like it.
Another practically hands-free budgeting app, PocketGuard’s value is revealed the moment you plug in your financial data and link your accounts.
It’s all right there, and not only does it display everything for you in color-coded, easy-to-digest terms, but it also provides users with a simple, no-bullshit budget to help them make actionable decisions that’ll have an immediate impact on their spending habits.
It’ll tell you whether you’re spending more money than you’re making (which is actually surprisingly easy to do, by the way), give you impressively detailed insights on where exactly your money is going, allow you to compare this month’s spending with last month’s (and the months before that) to see how your spending is trending, let you know what bills are coming up, and a bunch of other really useful things.
It even has a feature that automatically looks for deals to help you lower your current monthly bills. It couldn’t be easier.
Robo-advising is very quickly changing the way people invest their money and amass personal wealth. Essentially, an incredibly smart and market-savvy robot analyzes data, algorithms and market trends to custom tailor your own portfolio and automatically makes investments for you.
Wealthfront is a super popular app that basically does all that and more, but without any kind of fees or bullshit charges. If you’re putting over $10k in your account with them, you will incur a fee, but nothing like you would with a real human broker.
It’s something like $2.50 for every thousand dollars invested, compared to $15 per thousand (on average) with a human. The app itself is easy and intuitive, and its users continue to report impressive returns. If you’re looking to invest without any of the fuss or headache of playing the game, Wealthfront is about as safe as trusting a robot with your personal wealth can get.