Smart phones have become increasingly more useful over the past five years. They may even be able to replace a financial adviser. Many companies are already hoping that consumers will replace their in-person advisers with mobile apps and online portals that connect them with experts. This is displayed by the number of companies intending to present this year at Finovate, a special series of conferences designed to highlight financial applications. Over 200 companies will be displaying the technology that consumers may soon use to choose investments and find new ways to save money.
The success of Mint.com, a financial management service that launched about five years ago, is driving many investor to pump millions into application creation. The free service collects bank data from thousands of sources, aggregating various accounts into one dashboard accessible from a smart phone or computer. Saving and investment advice is integrated. Intuit purchased Mint in 2009 because it targeted their financial software suites like Quicken.
New applications and services will go a step farther than Mint. They plan to combine information on financial behaviors with budgeting to help you stick to a plan. HelloWallet, an app that was released in 2011, shows your spending habits compared to other users in your age range and with similar income. The slight feeling of competitiveness has increased savings for most of the users, according to the company behind the software.
Some users and experts are concerned about the safety of these apps. They usually require you to send in the login name and password to each bank account you link. This requires high levels of security surrounding the software. Rudder, a mimic of Mint, shut down in 2010 after sending the private details of nearly 1000 customers to the public. Other financial advisers criticize the speedy decision making that these apps encourage. They warn that consumers may get generalized information from these programs that causes their investments to drop rather than grow.
The automation offered by online financial services does take a lot of the work out of budgeting. For example, HelloWallet categorizes spending based on the retailer. It can recognize a clothing purchase and separate it from a grocery store run. It compares this to your budget, showing where you have overspent recently. You can also tag purchases that you feel remorseful over, creating a trigger to remind you the next time you overspend in a similar fashion.
Stickk.com, a service that plans to release a smart phone app by 2013, penalizes users for going over their budgets. About one third of users have chosen to pay a small fee when a budget category is exceeded. These fees are transferred to friends or sent to a charity. SigFig is primarily concerned with investments. It tracks the expenses related to hundreds of different mutual funds and recommends a swap when you could save on fees. Many brokers dislike the service because it also makes recommendations for brokers with lower fees.
You can connect to real human advisers through your iPhone as well. Personal Capital combines automatic recommendations with the help of a staff financial adviser. You only pay 0.95% for handling up to $250,000 in assets. This cost is slightly lower than what you will find with a more traditional adviser.
Michele Golden can be an outspoken and also driven blogger along with photographer via Vermont. She is currently studying to become an independent broker dealer that can help those with financial problems.