If you’d like to earn more on your savings and investments, meet your financial goals, keep track of your money better and avoid late payments on your bills, listen up.
I just learned about six new apps and websites to help you do just that at the annual Finovate conference in New York City on Tuesday. It’s the extravaganza (1,450 attendees) where “fintech” developers pitch and demo their newest personal finance products (think of it as a money-geek mashup of an Apple product launch and Shark Tank).
Robo-Advisers March On
A few are the latest examples of the “robo-adviser” trend. Robo-adviser sites invest your money but offer little or no advice from humans. They “are gaining traction, because there’s growing consumer interest in low-cost solutions,” said Grant Easterbrook, a sharp analyst of personal-finance related startups at Corporate Insight. Financial-services behemoths such as Vanguard, Charles Schwab and Fidelity have either begun competing with robo-adviser startups like Betterment and Wealthfront or soon will.
(MORE: Is a Robo-Adviser Right for You?)
Here’s my guide to six new money-management tools that you might want to load onto your smartphone or visit online, plus an update on two I’ve written about:
SAVE AND INVEST BETTER
MaxMyInterest (maxmyinterest.com) can brighten your day and load up your wallet if you're sick of earning next to nothing on your savings. (The national average for money market and savings accounts: a puny 0.48 percent.) Once a month, the site moves your spare cash into FDIC-insured online savings accounts paying 0.60 to 0.80 percent more than the national average. Although that may not sound like much, it could put a few hundred dollars in your pocket each year. What Max does is “nothing you couldn’t do yourself, but doing so is tedious and most people won’t be disciplined enough,” MaxMyInterest founder and CEO Gary Zimmerman told me.
iQuantifi (iquantifi.com) is a robo-adviser that’s different from most. “They’re relatively unique because they try to combine automated financial planning with investing,” said Easterbrook. iQuantifi aims to help you reach your financial goals by offering personalized advice without interacting with a live person — for $9.95 a month.
(MORE: Retirement Calculators Can Be Bad For Your Wealth)
First, you plug in how much you have in your savings and investment accounts and select your goals and their timelines. Then, iQuantifi shows you how much you’ll need to save to reach the goals and where to put your money to do so; it recommends 50 mutual funds and Exchange-Traded Funds, or ETFs. You’ll also be told whether you can afford, say, an SUV, based on your income and expenses and — through its “Cashfinder” feature — how reducing certain expenses could help you attain a goal.
At Finovate, founder and CEO Tom White pitched iQuantifi for Millennials and young families. Since they often don’t have enough assets to interest financial planners, “human advisers are not an option for them,” White told me. Plus, he added “they’re very comfortable with technology.”
But I think this robo-adviser could be equally helpful for people in their 40s, 50s and 60s with goals such as retirement, paying for college or buying a car or a vacation home. One caveat: iQuantifi won’t actually invest your money, so you’ll need to take that step to reach your goals.
Blooom (blooom.com), yes with three “o”s, is a robo-adviser for your 401(k) money. Its target audience: employees who can’t figure out which of their plans’ funds to invest in. Blooom not only makes that decision, it invests their money for them. Cost: $10 a month, or $1 a month for balances under $5,000.
This kind of tool could be extremely useful, especially for midlifers who need to get serious about retirement. “America’s wealth is locked in their 401(k)s and they don’t have any idea what to do with it,” said Easterbrook. “The market there is huge.”
Blooom co-founder Chris Costello started the company after learning that 100 percent of his sister’s 401(k) was sitting in a money-market fund. “She’s a smart woman. It wasn’t that she was scared of the stock market. She was confused by the complexity of the choices,” said Costello. With Blooom, he told me, “we want to fix as many 401(k)s as possible.”
(MORE: 4 Great New Tools to Manage Your Money)
Here’s how Blooom works: You enter your 401(k) login info (so Blooom can see your plan’s fund options) and the year that you expect to retire. Then Blooom runs its algorithm for your “ideal allocation,” invests accordingly — it favors low-cost index funds — and rebalances your portfolio every 90 days.
Unlike other 401(k) investing services, such as one offered by Financial Engines, Blooom will take you on no matter where you work or which investment firm offers your account choices.
IBillionaire (ibillionaire.me) wants you to invest like Warren Buffett, George Soros and Carl Icahn. Sounds tempting, no?
It’s an ETF — the Direxion iBillionaire Index ETF — comprised of the 30 U.S. stocks that those billionaire investors and seven others have allocated the most funds. iBillionaire CEO and co-founder Raul Moreno calls it “getting hedge-fund like returns without the hedge fund fees.”
You’ll also get electronic alerts each time one of the billionaires has bought or sold a stock, based on Securities and Exchange Commission filings. According to Moreno, if this new index (which he says amassed $38 million in the past 30 days) had been around for the past five years, it would’ve doubled the S&P 500’s annualized return.
GET ORGANIZED AND PAY BILLS
Finovera (finovera.com) and MoneyStream (moneystream.com) are free digital file cabinet newbies with a similar goal: to help you organize your finances better and avoid ever forgetting to pay a bill on time.
“We make three promises to users,” said MoneyStream CEO Mike Bertrand. “You’ll never be late on a bill, you’ll never be over the limit on your account balance and you’ll be able to see and do everything from one place.”
Both services send alerts about your upcoming bills and analyze your spending, telling you when a bill seems higher than normal. MoneyStream also projects your cash flow based on your upcoming bills and, if you want, will let you know about deals that could lower your bills.
Updates on Two Money-Management Tools
Finally, I want to update you on two personal-finance tools I’ve written about.
In April, I discussed eXscan, a monitoring service for signs of elder financial exploitation that alerts customers (and their families) when purchases seem unusual; cost $4.99 a month. The company has changed its name to EverSafe (eversafe.com) and now charges $9.99 a month. But the higher fee for the “basic alert” also includes daily monitoring of up to five financial accounts as well as monitoring of a credit report from one credit bureau. Soon, prospective EverSafe customers will also be able to instead select the $24.99-a-month “full alert,” with daily monitoring of an unlimited number of accounts and monitoring of credit reports from all three major credit bureaus.
After last year’s Finovate, I recommended FlexScore (flexscore.com), a free site that calculates a personal finance score for you based on how well you’re managing your money. FlexScore now has a mobile app, with a fun Quickscore feature that instantly shows you your score and how it compares with your peers. So you can keep up with the Joneses anytime anywhere, if you're so inclined.
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