Currently, only 16.4% of U.S. high school students are required to take a personal finance course to graduate. This means most teens and young adults aren’t improving their financial literacy through school.
A survey of parents with children under age 21 showed almost half of the respondents (46%) would grade their personal financial literacy as a C or lower. Clearly, many young adults aren’t getting comprehensive financial advice from their parents either.
When youth can’t necessarily rely on their parents or their schools to learn about finances, they need to teach themselves. Fortunately, there are a variety of financial apps for teens and young adults that can help them manage their money, teach them how to be financially responsible, and make saving for the future easier. Below are some of the best financial apps geared towards young adults.
Best Budgeting Apps for Young Adults
Budgeting is one of the most useful financial skills you can develop. Because young adults may not have substantial funds, they often consider budgeting unnecessary. However, building budgeting skills early on makes it easier to handle money once you make more and gives you insight into where your money goes.
1. You Need A Budget (YNAB)
YNAB determines how much money you have, what your expenses are, and when your expenses need to be paid. It can track regular payments as well as budget for less frequent costs.
YNAB makes managing a budget simple. In addition to keeping track of expenses, it can help you establish goals and plan savings. You can try YNAB for free for 34 days and then it costs $84 per year or $11.99 per month if paid monthly.
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: Free, paid plans at $19.95/mo on Super plan ($14.16/mo when paid annually)
Pocketsmith helps you to control your current spending habits as well as see what your financial future looks like. The app uses your on-going spending and income-earning behaviors. The budgeting app helps you to understand your personal finances by digging into the details around your spending and income.
The app organizes all of this information into an easy-to-understand manner and reasons you will be able to get where you want to go simply by empowering yourself with the knowledge about your financial picture. In short, Pocketsmith believes it can help you get to where you want to go.
Pocketsmith starts by gathering your past financial transactions from linked financial accounts and then builds an understanding of your financial patterns and behavior. Based on this information, Pocketsmith identifies areas to target for improvement.
After the app gathers enough data from your accounts to form a better picture of your financial situation, Pocketsmith allows you to look into your financial future. This can mean 6 months from now or even 10 years later.
The app looks at your current financial behaviors, factors in recommendations it makes and then projects this into the future. This forecast of your financial picture assumes you continue to make financially literate decisions in line with the app’s recommendations and your changed behaviors.
3. Left to Spend
Left to Spend is one of the simplest budgeting apps out there. You establish a spending limit and the app will subtract your expenses. It lets you know how much available spending money is left for the month.
This app is perfect for people just beginning to budget who aren’t ready for more advanced features.
4. Toshl Finance
Toshl Finance allows you to track all of your cards and cash in one place. You can create monthly, weekly, daily, or custom period budgets. Users log and categorize expenses. You can check your budget progress at any point and Toshl will notify you if there are significant changes in your projected budgeting trajectory.
It has a “Left to Spend” feature very similar to the Left to Spend app. If you already use Left to Spend and are ready for more detailed budgeting, this might be a logical shift for you.
Mint is one of the most well-known and comprehensive finance apps. It allows you to see all your money and bills in one place, quickly create budgets, and access unlimited, free credit scores. You’ll be notified if your funds are low, so that you can act accordingly.
Additionally, Mint will make recommendations for bank accounts, credit cards, brokerage accounts, and more, based on your goals and lifestyle. Mint is best for young adults who are ready to take full control of their finances.
Best Allowance Apps for Teens
Allowance apps are ideally used starting at a younger age, but can still be useful for teenagers. The ones I’m mentioning are specifically geared toward teens. With cash, it’s easy to forget how you spent it. Unless you go directly to a bank, it’s difficult to convince yourself to save money in your pocket.
Credit cards can feel unlimited and that leads to overspending. Plus, credit cards are just about spending and teach you nothing about saving. In many ways, the allowance apps below are better than cash or credit cards.
- Available: iOS
- Price: $2.99
With iAllowance, you can set up automatic payments at regular intervals to your teen’s bank account. It’s a win-win where you don’t have to be pulling out cash constantly and your child always gets their money on time.
If your teen is responsible for chores, you can track them through iAllowance and even send push reminders for ones that still need to get done.
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: Free trial, then $5.99/mo
With FamZoo, parents release money into their teen’s accounts and can get them prepaid cards as well. Money can be loaded onto the cards at any time. It works similarly to the teenager having a regular bank account and debit card, but FamZoo makes it so you can’t overdraft and end up with overdraft fees.
Adults are able to monitor the transactions being made. After a free trial, this app costs $5.99 per month, but the price goes down if prepaid.
8. Current Digital Wallet App
Current is a digital wallet app with three types of wallets: spending, saving, and a giving wallet. It provides a Visa debit card that allows teenagers to shop in stores or online. The funds come from the parents who can schedule payments in advance.
The debit card provides a sense of autonomy. Parents can set spending limits and block categories of businesses, such as bars.
9. Greenlight App
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: Free 1-month trial, $4.99/mo after
The Greenlight app works similar to Current. Stores can be limited and parents can get alerts when money is spent. Teens who want extra money can request it and include a photo of the purchase they want to make. Teenagers who have jobs can add their own funds to the card as well.
The Greenlight debit card is a good choice for parents looking to teach their kids the importance of saving money and being prudent with their personal finances. This financial product can be an effective learning tool for helping kids to understand why saving should be a priority and how to simplify paying an allowance or tracking chores.
As far as safety concerns with Greenlight, your child would need permission to move money out of the associated account due to built-in safety features. Further, Greenlight encrypts the data and pictures of your child, preventing that information from being accessed by anyone but yourself.
For security and fund protection, each Greenlight card comes with a PIN number (like any debit card) and also has FDIC insurance coverage.
Greenlight works like a prepaid debit card, allowing you to transfer money onto the card for your child to pay for expenses at approved locations. You can choose how much money to load onto the card and it will be cleared to make approved purchases so long as a money balance backs up the card.
Finally, your child may use the Greenlight card at any ATM which accepts Mastercard, Visa, Interlink or Maestro cards. However, most ATMs charge withdrawal fees and these fees will be charged per withdrawal.
Consider Greenlight’s debit card if you want to have control over what your kids buy and also teach them about responsible spending.
Best Savings and Debt Apps for Teens & Young Adults
According to the 2018 Planning & Progress Study by Northwestern Mutual, Americans are twice as likely to have accumulated between $5,000 to $25,000 in debt, rather than in personal savings. Saving money can be challenging at any age.
The more money you save, the less likely you are to go into debt. Unfortunately, even the most diligent savers run into debt when they have major expenses to pay, such as college tuition. The following apps strive to help teens and young adults save money and/or get themselves out of debt as quickly as possible.
10. Acorns Spend
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: Acorns Invest: $1/mo, Acorns Later: $2/mo, Acorns Spend: $3/mo
Acorns is an investing app geared toward millennials by offering its “round ups,” or when the app rounds up purchases made on linked debit and credit cards to the nearest dollar, investing the difference on your behalf.
For example, if you purchase a coffee for $2.60 on a linked credit card, Acorns automatically rounds this charge up to $3.00 and invests the $0.40 difference in selected investments.
Users have seen an average of $30/month invested this way and makes the service one of the best investments for young adults who are looking to get started with saving and investing, especially if they have a .edu email address or are under the age of 24 because Acorns is free.
Now, Acorns has launched a new service called Acorns Spend. This Acorns Spend checking account and debit card saves, earns and invests for you.
It also comes with $250,000 of FDIC insurance coverage to protect you against the bank account from losing money should Acorns or banking partners go out of business. The Acorns Spend also service incorporates the Acorns Invest and Acorns Later products as part of the service.
Acorns makes money through its monthly account service fees, and interchange fees from use of its Acorns Premium (Acorns Spend) product
Acorns Spend Benefits:
- Save money with no account fees
- •Earn more with up to 10% more bonus investments
- Invest instantly with connected investment accounts
11. Meet Tally
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: Free
Tally is an automated debt manager which automatically works on your behalf to lower your credit card payments. By monitoring your linked credit cards and taking stock of your payment history, the debt payoff app develops a better understanding of whether you would be best-served by consolidating your high credit card debt into a loan from Tally.
Tally aims to help you pay off your credit card debt sooner and for less than you would paying off the debt alone. Essentially, Tally’s debt consolidation product helps to make it easier for you to stay on top of your credit card balances and pay them off faster.
You link your credit cards to the Tally app and have it keep track of your due dates, minimum payments and APRs for each card. Based on what Tally finds, the app’s algorithm calculates the best payment strategy for handling your credit cards every month.
As an additional feature of the app, Tally offers late fee protection to prevent overdraft fees or penalty fees. If you remain in good standing with Tally, you won’t need to confront a late fee on a linked credit card again.
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: Free, $1.99 per payment sent to lender
Similar to Tally, for those focused on paying off debt faster, Qoins automates that effort for you. Where Qoins differs, however, is not by offering a line of credit to bring down your interest rate, but by putting extra money toward your debt. Qoins supports this additional payment feature for a wide variety of lenders and account types.
Specifically, it offers three ways to put extra money towards debt.
- “Round ups” – Similar to Acorns’ “Round Ups,” Qoins will round up purchases you make to the nearest dollar and submit an extra payment each time you reach $5 and sets it aside.
- Percentage of Paycheck Direct Deposit. This method takes a specific percentage of your paycheck and has this automatically taken out before it hits your bank account.
- “Smart Savings” – For the most aggressive at paying off their debt. For this method, Qoins analyzes your spending and puts aside small amounts every few days.
When you sign up for Qoins, your first payment is free and then you pay a flat fee of $1.99 per payment to your lender.
13. Savings Spree
This gamified app emphasizes the concept of how small purchases add up in the long run. It demonstrates the opposite effect as well by letting you see how small, consistent savings can accumulate to be a significant amount over time.
While this app might be more appropriate for younger teens than older teens and young adults, it’s a lesson worth remembering at any age.
The mobile app Mvelopes allows you to set up virtual envelopes to place money in for short and long-term savings goals. It gives your money a purpose. You aren’t just saving money in general, but towards specific goals, such as:
- Your dream wedding
- A buying or leasing a car
- Loan repayment
- A down payment for a house
This simple concept can make saving money much easier as you see yourself getting closer and closer to your goals.
- Available: Website
- Price: Free
The online app Unbury.Me is free and very useful towards understanding your debt. You enter data, such as your student loan balances. The program will create a graph with information on your outstanding balance, how much interest you will pay, when you can expect the loan to be paid off, and more.
You can then change the settings for hypothetical scenarios. For example, you can see the difference between how much money you would save if you paid off your highest interest loan first versus your lowest interest loan.
16. Debt Payoff Planner
The Debt Payoff Planner mobile app works similarly to Unbury.Me. You enter your debts and monthly payment budget. The app will figure out the best payment plan strategy and how long it will take to be completely out of debt.
You’ll be able to see a payoff scenario where you only pay the minimum amounts compared to one where you pay more than the minimum every month.
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: Beginner: $1/mo, Growth: $3/mo, Stash+: $9/mo
Stash Online Banking is a mobile-friendly checking account1 from Stash, a leading low-cost all-in-one financial platform for hands-off investors. With no hidden banking fees2, no minimum deposit or balance requirements3, and no in-network ATM fees4, Stash Online Banking is a strong choice for consumers who prefer to do their banking and investing in the all through the same platform7 Plus, you’ll earn Stock-Back Rewards® at places like Walmart and Amazon when you make qualified purchases with your debit card5.
In order for kids to use Stash Invest, they will need a custodial account if they are under the age of 18. Stash uses custodial accounts (UGMA/UTMA) for you to invest for your children or other kids in your life. When a child reaches the majority (age 18+), they can use the money saved in their Stash account to pay for education and other opportunities.
As you contribute money to your Stash account, these amounts can be used to purchase fractional shares of companies, meaning you can buy $1 worth of Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), or other companies you think will help you to build wealth and perform well over time.
Stash has app users invest money in individual stocks or bonds, or ETFs which choose bundles of stocks, bonds or index funds automatically based on active or passive investing decisions. Stash Growth and Stash+ offer you the ability to contribute to tax-advantaged investments like Traditional and Roth individual retirement accounts (IRAs).
To proceed with growing your investments, you will start by answering some simple questions to understand your investment preferences, risk profile and financial objectives. Based on these answers, Stash makes recommendations for you. If you are a young adult, you may want to use Stash to invest money with regular automatic transfers or even “round up” purchases you make on a linked debit card like with Acorns.
Stash also offers great financial education resources to improve your financial literacy. It covers numerous topics like investing, managing and planning money.
The specifics on Stash:
- Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: There’s no minimum opening deposit and no minimum daily balance requirement, but you do need to open a Stash Invest account to use your Stash Online Banking account3.
- Account Opening Bonus: None at the moment, but check back for the latest offers.
- Yield: None, but you’ll earn Stock-Back® rewards on every eligible debit card purchase.
- Rewards and Incentives: Earn Stock-Back® rewards on every eligible debit card purchase. Earn 0.125% Stock-Back rewards on everyday purchases and up to 5% Stock-Back rewards on purchases with certain merchants offering Stock-Back bonuses5. Plus, get paid up to two days early6 and enjoy access to thousands of fee-free ATMs4.
- Possible Fees: Fees for use of third-party ATMs4.
Teens and young adults who want to take charge of their financial futures can get basic financial assistance through some of today’s best financial apps. Whether someone is in the stage of trying out a debit card, needing to start budgeting for expenses, or already deep into debt, there are apps that can help. Finances can be complicated, but you can learn the basics one app at a time.
Previously published on Youngandtheinvested.com.
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