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Tech Talk: Four Leading Money Management Apps

Mint, FutureAdvisor, Personal Capital, and Acorns

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA

Financial planning online resources make money management both easy and convenient. This month's column looks at four popular sites and mobile applications that cover different investor interests and goals. Mint focuses on general money management, bill paying, and consumer information. FutureAdvisor specializes in retirement and college savings, and offers articles and a 401(k) analysis tool. Personal Capital combines a human touch with technology to offer several money management tools on its website and mobile applications. And finally, Acorns is a mobile application that allows subscribers to invest the spare change from purchases into managed accounts.


Mint, by Intuit, invites users to “be good with your money” by using the free resources at http://www.mint.com to manage their cash flow, budgets, and bills via computer, tablet, or smartphone. In addition to the web platform, mobile applications are available in both iOS and Android formats. The sign-up process begins by entering information about an online bank or credit card account. Users can then add as much or as little of their financial information as they wish to manage on Mint.

The main Mint application allows users to store financial account information in one location, keep track of their spending, create budgets, set up bill reminders, and access their credit score and credit report for free. Mint automatically updates bank, credit card, and retirement account information, and uses that information to make recommendations to find savings and avoid unnecessary fees. The budgeting tool calculates average spending, displays spending patterns, and adjusts the budget to respond to actual changes. The investment feature presents a snapshot of portfolio allocations across all of the user's investment accounts, and compares the portfolio to market benchmarks (https://www.mint.com/how-mint-works).

The Mint Bills tool keeps track of bills and monitors bank account and credit card activity and balances. Users can see their available cash and credit limits before they pay bills, receive reminders to pay bills and schedule bill payments, and receive alerts when account balances are low. Mint Bills will also notify subscribers about unusual or suspicious transactions (https://www.mint.com/how-mint-bills-works).

Users can also take advantage of Mint's consumer information on credit cards, checking accounts and savings accounts, including fees and interest rates. A section on investments groups online providers by investor preference, offering different levels of hands-on (or hands-off) engagement, presents a brief description of each organization, and links to the website. Consumer choice and recommendation information is also available on brokerages, 401(k) rollovers, and establishing an individual retirement account (https://www.mint.com/credit-cards?v=1).


FutureAdvisor is a registered investment advisory firm that offers free investing information on its website at http://www.futureadvisor.com. FutureAdvisor's stated goal is to make investment management available to average investors. It offers a mix of free and commercial services for investing, retirement planning, and college savings. FutureAdvisor also has a free mobile application that allows iPhone users to access their portfolio information and website tools.

The FutureAdvisor service begins with a free analysis of the investor's portfolio, providing analysis and recommendations based on the user's indicated background, goals, and preferences. Investors can monitor their investment statistics and continue to manage their own funds for free, as well as ask advice on investments and 401(k) accounts without charge. It is important to note that college savings advice is completely free on FutureAdvisor, which can create a custom plan, open and manage accounts, and make payments to the educational institution.

The investing library on the website is available to the general public and offers short web articles on a variety of investing topics, such as exchange traded funds (ETFs) and retirement planning.

Another useful feature that can be used without an account is the 401(k) library. Users can search for plans by industry, size, and quality rating, as well as keyword. Based on the user's age and risk tolerance, the website recommends investing options and analyzes the costs. Inside any of the plans' analyses, readers can request a free 16-page special report, “9 Core Retirement Tactics to Help You Retire Sooner,” with important suggestions such as investing idle cash and saving 10–20% of income.

Personal Capital

Personal Capital is a registered investment advisor that emphasizes using technology in combination with human advisors to improve investors' money management experiences and results. The website at http://www.personalcapital.com provides access to an extensive collection of free tools to assist investors with tracking cash flow and net worth, analyzing investment fees, comparing an existing portfolio allocation to an ideal, and planning for retirement.

As an example of the net worth instruments, investors can create a personal capital dashboard that will allow them to see the status of their bank accounts and investment and retirement accounts, as well as credit card and mortgage balances. The personal capital cash flow tool allows users to track and manage spending. Investment resources provide a view of asset allocation, assess risk, and track portfolio performance. The recently launched retirement planning calculator uses an investor's actual financial data from the personal capital dashboard to estimate retirement readiness, calculate projected income, and evaluate spending.

The blog feature on Personal Capital is quite extensive, with posts organized under investing, financial planning, retirement, markets, markets, primers, and company news topics. Many of the articles contain worthwhile content, such as “How America's ‘Rich’ Are Wasting Their Financial Potential.” The article provides a link to the global rich list calculator, which places the median U.S. household income in the top 0.28% of worldwide income, and asks why are high earners living paycheck to paycheck (https://blog.personalcapital.com/financial-planning-2/americas-rich-wasting-financial-potential/).

Mobile applications for Personal Capital Finance are available for free for both iOS and Android tablets and smartphones. Users can view their bank account activity, credit card spending, and investment performance. The mobile app also offers some of the website tools, such as the asset allocation review and portfolio checkup, as well as access to a financial advisor.


In contrast to firms and websites that offer resources for highnet-worth individuals, the “little acorn that could” mobile application's mission is to get more people saving and investing. Acorns (http://www.acorns.com) creates and manages diversified portfolios based on the investor's risk preference: conservative, moderately conservative, moderate, moderately aggressive, and aggressive. The homepage presents an interactive graphic portrayal of the five positions and provides a link to obtain a suggested portfolio.

In a unique feature, Acorns rounds up the cents on a user's debit and credit purchases to the nearest dollar and moves the difference from a checking account into an Acorns investment account. The Acorns funds are invested in a diversified portfolio tailored to the individual investor. Acorns allows unlimited deposits and withdrawals and does not charge commissions. Acorns does charge a monthly fee based on the account balance; however, the service is completely free for students between 18 and 23 (https://www.acorns.com/students/).

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA is the Louis J. and Ramona Rodriguez Distinguished Professor of Accounting at Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Texas. She is a member of The CPA Journal Editorial Board.

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