Financial planning at your fingertips

MGN Online

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Financial planning is getting a make-lift. Now there are many personal finance apps out there that can make paying bills and balancing accounts as easy as texting your friends.

Ashley Bona found herself in a boatload of financial trouble when she graduated from college with $70,000 in student loans and no clue on how to manage them.

Ashley found a high-tech way to fix that. She uses a couple of different mobile apps that break her spending down into categories and alert her to overspending.

Personal financial management apps like the ones Ashley uses pull data daily from your banks, credit cards or even your 401ks. Some apps feature a snapshot of your financial standing with graphs and charts highlighting what bills need to be paid, where you spent that last $50, and how that savings plan is coming along.

“It takes a lot of the headache out… for consumers and gives you that good picture of what your money looks like without the tedious effort associated with balancing your checkbook and comparing all of your statements from all of your different online applications,” said Aite Group Financial Services research director Julie Conroy.

Some apps can help you avoid overdraft and late fees. Others may alert you of opportunities to pay down a balance quicker.

“There are a lot of different things that you can get out of this. The question is what is it that you want? what are your greatest needs and then just go out there and find the app for it” said Javelin Strategy & Research director Mark Schwanhausser.

No matter what app you choose, checking your accounts regularly will not only keep you updated on your cash flow but alert you to any fraudulent behavior that you can immediately report to your financial institution.

“The safety that’s involved with mobile banking and digital monitoring is far superior to waiting for the statement to come to the mailbox and looking at it 30 days down the line,” said Schwanhausser.

As with any time that you download an app and share personal data like financial information and passwords you must be careful and wary of the bad guys.

“All personal financial management applications were not created equal… so you do kind of have to know who you are trusting your personal data with,” said Conroy.

Ashley Bona uses as her go-to personal-finance app but there are plenty others to consider, according to our experts.

And here’s a tip about apps: download them directly from the financial management website rather than an app store. Sometimes the bad guys post fake ones.

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